Pacifier. Soother. Dummy.
None of these names are particularly attractive, but they are certainly revealing. I call them 'peace plugs' because as harsh as it sounds, they put a plug on it and allow you a bit of peace, quiet and time. Having a toddler shadowing my every move and not depending on the tv as a babysitter (see tv-free childhood) has also made quiet moments hard to come by the past few weeks. And so, the dummy has been a tempting idea. After an excruciating episode in the car (picture baby wailing, a traffic jam, and a mother-turned-wild-animal sobbing her eyes out, begging and screaming at husband to let her pick screaming baby up and place her on breast while driving), I do keep an emergency dummy on hand for when my breast is absolutely not available, but the rest of the time I have been trying my hardest to allow my nipple to be the "pacifier". Dr. Sears recommends avoiding pacifiers, especially the first few months of life for the following reasons: they can cause nipple confusion- as they require a completely different suck than a nipple does; they interrupt the baby's natural way of increasing and maintaining a mother's milk supply- the more you allow your baby to suck, (even when you feel you have not a drop left) the more milk your body will produce; studies have shown that babies who are offered dummies, especially in the early days, tend to be weaned earlier by their mothers.
Most health practitioners say you should "feed" your child no more than 3-hourly, but I am trying not to look at the clock or to time feeds. I am of the firm belief that breastfeeding is so much more complex than a meal. It provides comfort, security, and confidence and is a strong survival instinct that shouldn't be ignored. Offering my breast allows my baby to experience the interconnectedness between us- something we've felt the past nine months together.
You may think I am being dramatic, but offering a dummy feels like a betrayal. As if I am saying to this brand new, desperately needy little soul, "Sorry, I don't have time for you right now. Take this instead."
And so, you can find me on the bench at the supermarket with a baby on my breast having a comfort suck and a toddler in the pram, or on the footpath around the corner breast out, offering a little snack, or walking around half naked in my home with a little one latched on while I am preparing lunch, or in more tender moments, lying side-by-side in bed.
Sometimes I'd like to put a plug in it, especially when feeding feels like it's interfering with my relationship with North. But then I think that perhaps he'll remember not that I wasn't there, but that I was a supportive mama to his sister, just as I was to him. I hope I am teaching him what it is to be present and showing him that my children's voices are always heard and respected.
ADDED NOTE: As with all my posts, this is not meant to be a judgement on the many mothers who choose to offer a dummy to their children. I do understand that sometimes a dummy can be a very comforting thing for a very sucky baby/toddler, especially if their mother is unable to breastfeed for a multitude of reasons. As with everything to do with parenting, it is a personal choice, and I truly believe every mother offers the very best she can give to her children.
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