Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Owen's Paci

There are lots of different schools of thought on parenting, and it does seem like some people out there are absolutely confident about their own parenting techniques, but I surely am not one of them. However, in regards to this one specific thing --- Owen’s paci --- I actually feel really sure that our approach is the right approach. It is funny how I can feel so unsure so much of the time in the grand universe of all-things-parenting-related, but then every once in a while there will be some tiny molecule in the grand universe about which I feel 100% certain that I'm doing the right thing. The decision making about Owen's paci is one of those things. When we first met our baby boy Owen he was eight months old and had not one possession in the world to call his own. He had never had a shirt of his own, or a shoe on his foot, let alone a toy, or something so completely frivolous as a pacifier. Bottles and formula were sparse in the orphanage. Pacifiers were nonexistent. During our eight months of waiting for the boys to come home I did a lot of reading. Baby books are all over the map about pretty much everything, but in regards to pacifiers they were actually totally consistent. All of the baby books I read said the same thing -- if a baby begins using a pacifier in his first three months then he has a good chance of getting "hooked" on it; but if a baby hasn't had a pacifier before age 3 months then he'll never take to one. Given that Kyle and Owen were way past that 3 month mark we never even considered bringing a pacifier to Haiti with us. However, I knew after our first night in the hotel with the boys that Owen should have been a pacifier baby. I even remember saying that to Braydon in Haiti: "Man, if only they had pacifiers in Haiti! This baby would have really liked one!" Owen loved to suck on the bottle. When the formula ran out he would scream. For sure, this was partly because he had been starving. It is a very normal behavior for infants coming from such situations. But my gut told me, right from the start, that Owen also really liked to suck. And for whatever reason -- unlike Kyle who sucked his thumb round the clock (and still does) -- Owen just never got any satisfaction out of the thumb. We got the boys home, and started getting settled in. During my parents' very first visit to meet the boys (we had only been home for a few days), my mother had the same feeling I did -- that Owen should have had a pacifier. I told her about all the books I'd read but she went out to the store and bought a pacifier anyway. I remember saying, "Mom, he won't take it!!!" But then I watched as my mom put the pacifier into my baby's mouth, and then we all watched as he sucked on it contentedly. It was as if he was just a few days old. And that was a good thing. It is good for a baby who has been deprived to get to go back (even if only figuratively), and “re-do” some of those early stages and phases. Our baby Owen loved the paci. Soon he couldn't sleep without the paci. We were never big on using the paci all day long, but when he needed soothing, or when he needed sleep, the paci did the trick for our boy. Kyle never showed any interest. And interestingly, Kyle never seemed to care that Owen had this possession that he did not. He seemed genuinely happy for his brother to have found some contentment. Even now Kyle will often find Owen's paci for him and put it in his mouth at bedtime or naptime. Owen's paci is Owen's special thing. Even though Owen is about to turn three, he still shows almost no signs of giving up the pacifier. And this is something I feel good about: We made the decision long ago that we're letting him keep it until he decides he's ready to be done with it. And we’re sticking to that. I did ask our pediatrician about Owen’s paci at Owen’s two-year-old-check-up. We’re fortunate to have found a pediatrician with a specialty in orphanage/adoption medicine, and she fully understands the scope of our situation. She told me that in her opinion we were making the right decision to let Owen keep the pacifier as long as he wants. Her theory is that because he hadn’t had enough sucking satisfaction as an infant, he is keeping the pacifier longer than usual (of course, as she pointed out – plenty of kids suck their thumbs far into childhood!). I asked her about what all the books say – that using a pacifier past age two is bad because of the damage it can do to the teeth. She said, “Well, what do you think?” I said, “Well, I think I’d rather deal with mega orthodontist bills in a few years than mega psychiatrist bills!” (not that letting him keep the paci will necessarily avoid and/or pave the road to either). But our pediatrician looked me in the eye and said, “I agree.” Interestingly, at daycare Owen stopped using his paci around age 18 months. When he naps there (5 days a week!), he has no paci. But at home, he still wants his paci to sleep. Just a few nights ago Owen told me he doesn't want the pacifier clip on his pacifier anymore. I'm not sure if I'm reading too far into it or not-- but I feel like this is his first step toward giving up the pacifier. I asked him last night if he wants to try going to bed without his paci. He said, “That sounds like a good idea!” But then when bedtime came, he changed his mind: “Mommy, I want my paci,” he said to me. “I need it Mommy.” And I said, “O.k., my baby, here’s your paci.” And he snuggled up tight with his paci in his mouth.


Anonymous said...

I agree. He should have his paci and Kyle should have his thumb until they are ready to let them go. You are a great mom.

Patricia said...

I love this post. You're a great parent!

Malia'sMama said...

This post made me tear up... you are soooo right about their never having had something that is "just theirs". I applaud you for trusting your instincts with Owen and never trying to shame him on the issue, as I know soooo many parents do, to get him to give it up!

Renee said...

What amazing insite...i have learned so much today from reading your blog. Especially about the hair care and i now have more confidence and excitement about my son's hair (hopefully he will be home soon and i can start playing with it!!) His birth mom didn't want his hair cut, he is almost 4.