The Pacifier Interview

Once upon in 17th century England, a farmer’s wife offered a corn cob to her baby in place of her rather sore nipples. Tada! The pacifier is invented! Their development into the modern day dummy was closely associated to the progress of the teething rings and soothers which included bones. Rubber pacifiers came into popular use at the turn of the century and were highly controversial. Surprisingly, similar disagreements about pacifiers remain today, namely orthodontic, speech and hygienic concern.

(From left) Brian, Krista and James enjoying churros and chocolate in Madrid

Krista Kerr is a New Zealander Montessori Directress whose two boys, James (6 years) and Brian (8 years old) never used a pacifier. Krista and her family lived in London for 2 years when she undertook her AMI Diploma course. This weekend, I attempted to uncover the secret of her child-raising efforts.

Did either of your children use a pacifier?

No, neither. In fact, it wasn’t an intentional choice to use or not to use it. I just didn’t even think about it. I never had very strong opinions about it or thought one way was better than the other.

Did anyone offer you an opinion or well, a pacifier?

Yea, at Brian’s baby shower, I got a bunch of gifts and one of  it was a pack of toiletries with a brush and things and it had a dummy in it. It kind of sat around doing nothing and eventually we tossed it out. 

Well, Krista, many parents use a pacifier for its named purpose, to pacify their child when he is crying or wanting something. What did you offer James or Brian when they cried?

Well, when they cried, they usually wanted something. They didn’t really cry for no reason. So, usually he needed a change, was uncomfortable or needed to be fed.

What about for teething?

When that was happening, I used Rusk or a frozen banana wrapped in a muslin cloth. The boys never had a comfort object which I think people sometimes use it for. Neither of the boys had one.

In the background, James appropriately asked, ‘What is a dummy?’

Did you know many parents, when the boys were babies, who used a dummy?

I was part of a group that met once a month and out of the 8 of them, I’d say maybe 2 of them used a dummy.

Do you have any personal opinions about it?

I definitely don’t think the worst of people who use them. I think, personally, I just don’t see the point.  I just never had a use for it. If they cry, they are telling you something. It is sometimes used as a babysitter?

What about sleeping and meal times? Sometimes babies cry because the pacifier’s fallen out of their mouth or are given the pacifier to help them sit through longer events like family meal times. 

James and Brian weren’t poor sleepers. Whenever Brian did wake up, he was hungry, I’d feed him. And James started sleeping through the night when he was 3 days old. At dinners, well, they would be eating with us. I might offer them a some bit of food to chew on. Or if we were at a barbeque , Brian would have a big of a chop with bones and he would just be chewing on it. If it’s somewhere safe, I would put them on the floor so they could move.

James slept through the night from 3 days old?! Do you think you are just lucky or do you think there is a manner in your approach towards them as a parent that made the early years so simple?

I think it’s a bit of both. David and I are quite relaxed (They are!) so maybe some of that rubbed off on the boys.

Children with comfort objects and pacifiers often have a stigma attached to them, that they are more anxious or insecure, even though there is no evidence that they are. Whether or not these attachments are healthy, ‘normal’ or not, are also not conclusive. – There is little evidence to suggest either. There are suggestions however that sudden removal of these objects can be very unpleasant and not necessarily beneficial.

Krista was a breastfeeding stay-at-home mum when James and Brian were little. Comfort objects sometimes come into existence when parents are away from home. Plenty of stay-at-home mums adopt a pacifier and a good many working mums don’t. But a pacifier, unlike a blanket or a pillow, is not an everyday object. It was bought for a purpose by parents.What is that purpose they were thinking of? Why do the parents who offer a pacifier offer it at all? I will find out this half-term!


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