When it comes to the topic of “self-soothing” options for a baby, there are generally three viewpoints that come up: pacifier, thumb, or nothing. I have known a couple people who don’t encourage any kind of self-soothing; they just let their child cry it out. This is not a very popular view so I’m not going to pursue it any further; for the sake of this post, I will first be comparing pacifier vs. thumb, and then unclipped vs. clipped pacifier.
Some people seem to have a very strong opinion about not giving their child a pacifier, while I don’t really see much of the reverse – no one is strongly against thumb-sucking. The only thing I’m strongly against is unnecessarily losing sleep. Our child was not a good sleeper until about 10 months, so we had to have some way for her to self-soothe if we were going to continue living as functioning human beings. I had several people tell me that pacifiers could be bad for your child (not sure why) and that once you start it will be so hard to break them from it. Well, if I had to choose between breaking my child from a pacifier or her thumb, I’d pick the pacifier every time. You can hide or throw away pacifiers, but you can’t do that with a thumb! The only way I could ever think of to get a child to stop sucking her thumb would be to enforce discipline, but that’s not something I really want to come to. So we chose a pacifier, seeing the absence of several negatives and the presence of several positives.
We registered for some pacifier clips because I had read that they’re helpful for keeping the pacifier from falling to the ground when the child spits it out (which they do all the time). Only after having used a pacifier clip did I realize how many other advantages there are to it! Just like with pacifiers though, some people have arguments against using pacifier clips:
“If my child has the pacifier clipped on, they’ll want to use it all the time.”
I did a little test recently to see if this was true with my child. In fact, the opposite is true! We have usually always used a pacifier clip for our child (now 15 months old), and several times people have commented how she doesn’t really use her pacifier that much. Then, in the last couple weeks, I stopped clipping the pacifiers on and just gave them to her or let them lay around the house. She now wants to have a paci all the time! I think she feels if she spits it out then she won’t have it any more, whereas if she has it clipped on then she can spit it out and still get it back if she wants it.
“If you use a pacifier clip and a child is crawling, their pacifier will drag on the ground.”
I must say this is at least partially true. But how many times does a pacifier get on the ground anyway if you don’t have a clip? Pacifiers get on the ground. The end. Also, babies only crawl for a short period of time, so you can either nix the clip for those couple months or just deal with it dragging. Be sure to get a short enough clip (ours were probably too long for our small baby) so that it doesn’t drag too far behind or get tangled up.
Now that we’ve uncovered the truth about those potential negatives, let’s look at some wonderful advantages to having a pacifier clip:
It doesn’t get lost.
Who wants to pack 5 pacifiers every time you go somewhere? Not me. I know pacifiers are generally cheap, but losing one a week or so can really add up. You might not think this will happen that often, but there are several ways that losing a pacifier can occur. If you are holding your baby in public (or walking with them) and they spit out the pacifier, it drops to the ground and bounces out of sight. Once your child is mobile they will carry their pacifier around to spaces unknown to adults and leave it there. Using a pacifier clip decreases the amount of lost pacifiers significantly.
Your child becomes enabled to be responsible for her own self-soothing.
I try to never give my child her pacifier unless absolutely necessary, or if I know she will absolutely need it (if we’re in church and she’s whining, or she just bonked her head and needs comfort). The rest of the time, using her pacifier to regulate her emotions is her responsibility. Sometimes if she’s upset I’ll remind her about her pacifier, but I don’t ever force it. I think this dispels the idea that all babies use pacifiers all the time. There are some children who never take their pacifiers out, except maybe to eat. I think most parents can agree that a pacifier should be something used if necessary, not a crutch or an extra appendage. Having a pacifier clip gives my child independence, allowing and expecting them to work on regulating their own emotions.
Because my child doesn’t use her pacifier as much, she is freed up to talk more.
I think one of my pet peeves is a child attempting to talk or communicate with their pacifier in their mouth. My child is very chatty and I’m sure part of that is personality but I think another part of it is because she doesn’t use a pacifier as much. Again, having a pacifier clipped to her allows her to use it when necessary, but her norm should be smiling and speaking, not sucking on a pacifier.
I would advocate for using a pacifier over a thumb, because a pacifier is easier to get rid of when the time comes, and I would strongly suggest using a clip over not using a clip! There are so many advantages over disadvantages, and I think it turns out well for both parents and child.
If you are going to purchase a few pacifier clips, as I said before make sure they’re plenty short, depending on the size of your child. Also, be sure to get ones with a plastic clip – we have metal ones and they’re starting to rust. If they’re plastic then you can wash them with the rest of your clothes and they won’t be damaged.