Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Unexploited Resource

Soothers. Some people love them, some hate them. I'm neutral. But the thing about a soother (or pacifier, if you prefer) is that it's supposed to soothe. Seems simple enough, I know. "Why are you telling us this, Mary?" you're all asking. "I mean, we know you're smart about babies and all, but hey, we're not stupid." You all think I'm stating the embarrassingly obvious, but I'm telling you, too many people miss the soother potential. Completely. You see, it's a soothe-er. Now, is it just me, or is there something perverse about a child who cries around the "soother" plugged into her mouth? It doesn't muffle the shrieks. (Though it does help ensure they're nicely lubricated. So you can have your eardrums pierced and your face sprayed at the same time. Yum.) It is perverse! It is! AND it shows that the squalling soother-sucker's parents have missed the immense training potential of the thing. Why have a soother, if it's not soothing? Example 1: We're taking a walk. Anna gets fretful. Perhaps she's hungry, but since she's eaten her snack, it'll have to wait till we're home. Perhaps she's needing a clean diaper - which, given that it's 4C degrees out here, will have to wait till we're home. Perhaps she just wants to get out and move around - this will have to wait till we're home. You see the predicament. Whatever's bugging her will have to WAIT TILL WE'RE HOME. We try chatting to her, giving her a toy, singing songs, bouncing the stroller as we proceed. Nope. The protests only increase. Grunts to whining to wails. Screeches are only seconds away. All of this around the "soother", still held tight in her little pink drool-slicked mouth. Soooo... If it's not soothing, why is it there? I reach down and take it away. Pop. NOW we have screeches. I wait a beat or two. "You want it back, Anna?" "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!!!" (I'm not translating this, as it's undoubtedly very rude.) "When you're quiet. You can have it when you're quiet." She's 13 months old. She's not going to understand this, most likely. I know that. I'm training her in a concept: quiet=soother; shrieking=no soother. I hold the soother in front of her face. She leans towards it. "AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" "When you're quiet. A soother is for quiet babies." Her mouth is open, she's fixed on the soother. I tap it to her lip. Her concentration on the sooss is such that the howls abate a bit. She's not quiet, but it's a volume reduction. That'll do for now. I pop it back in. The howls instantly lurch back to previous volume. POP. Soother out. "Anna. When you're quiet." I hold it in front of her. She leans in, I tap the lip, she quiets a bit, I tap again, she quiets some more. I give it back. She's whimpering, but it's quiet. Example two, ten days of training later: Anna has been put down for a nap. She's gotten pretty good about napping, but this day, for whatever reason, it's an issue. Before I reach the door, the howls are rattling the windows, but she's still lying down. "Do I need to take the soos?" My hand hovers warningly close to its handle. Anna subsides. "Thank you." I give her a kiss. "Goodnight, sweetie." I tell you, a soother is a powerful incentive. Moms and dads? Your child has a soother? Work that thing! ~~~~~~~~~~~~ © 2006, Mary P


Blogger jen said...

this is so completely written for me that i cannot stand it. i think you may have been peeking in my windows last night.

Great suggestions...thank you.

11/07/2006 04:34:00 p.m.  
Blogger Mamacita Tina said...

Darn, Laurel's fingers totally took over and we lost all hope of using a pacifier.

11/07/2006 04:53:00 p.m.  
Blogger Z said...

'Course, in Britain we don't call them soothers or pacifiers. They are dummies and I suppose we think of them as a substitute for what the baby really wants. I'd never thought of one as a training tool......

11/07/2006 06:12:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Si said...

Soother, Pacifier??

Its a diddy :-)

11/07/2006 07:04:00 p.m.  
Blogger stefanierj said...

Oh you are SO BRILLIANT. I LOVE you.

11/07/2006 07:12:00 p.m.  
Blogger Candace said...

We did the same thing with Cbristopher. He didn't get to keep the bink if he cried with it in his mouth.

11/07/2006 07:15:00 p.m.  
Blogger Jacqueline said...

We called it a nuk (pronounced to rhyme with "look").

11/07/2006 10:48:00 p.m.  
Blogger Kristen said...

Oh yeah, the "paci" (in our case) was some powerful currency. Unfortunately we over-used it...but that's another post for another day, I'm sure. :-)

11/07/2006 10:55:00 p.m.  
Blogger Lady M said...

Totally filing this away for future reference.

Q calls it his "pup."

11/08/2006 12:45:00 a.m.  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love that you speak to children even if they don't understand. I have people ask me all the time why I talk to them like their adults and can understand everything. I say it's because it's helpful for them to hear proper English being spoken.

11/08/2006 01:27:00 a.m.  
Anonymous Jennifer said...

Yes, yes! Totally agree! And have taken careful notes on exactly how to work that little bugger so that our little one can stop working us!


11/08/2006 02:16:00 a.m.  
Blogger kimmyk said...

We always called ours a Mammy. [it was the brand] We did just this. Took us almost 2 years to figure it out but by the time the second lovely came around-we were pro's. Luckily for us she didn't want a mammy, but a blankey. Which to this day she is 13 years old and it is folded neatly at the bottom of her bed rail.

11/08/2006 09:01:00 a.m.  
Blogger Mary P. said...

Jen: Now's the time to admit that I only really learned to "work a soother" about four years back, long after my own kids had outgrown soother age. I had a child come into the daycare who was a) VERY distressed to leave his momma; b) VERY non-receptive to any comfort I might have on offer; and c) VERY attached to his sooss.

A winning combination, as I discovered. Anything to Stop.The.Shrieking. Which could go on for HOURS.

He ended up being a terrific kid. Anyone's curious, search the blog for Thomas stories. But those first couple of weeks? Brrr...

MamacitaTina: The advantage of fingers is that she'll never lose them in the night and force you to get up and find them for her. The disadvantage, of course, is that you can't remove them!

Z: As you can see by my comment to Jen, above, I didn't think of its potential as a training tool till quite recently, long after any of my own children were well past that stage.

Si: Now, I'd heard of Z's "dummy", but 'diddy'? Totally new. Is that particular to your family, or it is common in your area of the world?

Stefanierj: Yeah, well, it took me waaaay longer to figure this out than it should have. But thank you!

Candace: Once you stumble onto that correlation, it only makes the most obvious of sense, doesn't it? And oh, how effective it is. :-)

Jacqueline: Nuk, huh? A brand name, so it's like 'kleenex' and 'scotch tape'. It also happens to be a good sound to describe a kid and a soos: "nuk, nuk, nuk, nuk, nuk..." (Though for some reason in this house, it's "nrk, nrk, nrk". Heh.)

Kristen: Kids get some attached to that thing, but hey - hard as it can be to be rid of the thing, it's easer to ditch than a thumb!

LadyM: There's a kid on my street who calls it his "meemee". No idea why.

Anonymous: How will they learn, we say, if you don't speak to them? Acutally, studies have shown that they learn even when adults don't speak directly to them. Pah. I'm not about to stop. I *like* talking to babies.

This is not neglect or abuse, btw: there are just cultures out there where you don't speak to a baby (though of course you play and smile and cuddle and tickle) until they can talk back. It's seen as common sense - and still, their babies learn to speak!

But me, I like talking to them.

Jennifer: I hope it's effective for you.

In my story, Anna caught on that first time with only two repetitions. Of course, it can take quite a few more. At times, I've also just put the soother in my pocket and walked away, and let them go to it for a few minutes before returning to try again. And that first time, you're not aiming for complete silence, just a noticeable reduction in the volume.

Kimmyk: You were quicker on the uptake than me, then! Only one of my three had a soother, but I didn't figure this out until I'd been doing daycare for years.

My son (17) had a stuffed dog - which sits on his bedside table, and my youngest (13) had a blankie - which still goes to bed with her at times of particular need. (Sickness, worry.) I find it very sweet.

11/08/2006 09:29:00 a.m.  
Blogger LoryKC said...

My 1st had one. (I called it a pacifier, dad called it binky and paci).
She gave it up when she quit nursing and needed her blankie instead. (Still has it in her bed at age 8).

My 2nd didn't care for it which was fine with me. However, he didn't have a blankie, either. Still OK...but...when he wakes in the night, etc.--he comes to get ME.
Is it too late to start with the binky/paci/soother at age 5? ;)

11/08/2006 10:24:00 a.m.  
Blogger kittenpie said...

We held off for a couple of months in hopes of getting breastfeeding to go, and then gave it to her about two months. By about a year, though, we had weaned her down to having it for sleeping only. I'm hoping to get to where it's nights only soon, and then maybe "forget" it a couple of times and see waht happens. I'd like to have her off it by age 3, I think, which is in the spring, so I've got time. But that first year - man, it was a lifesaver, especially during the pumping times in combination with the swing!

11/08/2006 02:35:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Lisa said...

When can you begin this and the baby will learn? How young is too young?

11/08/2006 02:40:00 p.m.  
Anonymous Si said...

I am presuming diddy is local to my area as ive heard others say it.

Better than saying "where's the dummy" to which my wife would probably reply "standing right there asking stupid questions"

11/08/2006 07:11:00 p.m.  
Blogger Homestead said...

At that point we refer to it as the "Piss-ifier"... you know... when it pisses them off more than pacifying them....

11/09/2006 02:12:00 p.m.  

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