It’s Not All Mary Poppins

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.


“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

November 7, 2006 Posted by | parenting, soothers and pacifiers | 18 Comments