Everything you need for baby and nothing you don't
I had no idea: I guess I thought all babies maybe sucked their thumbs. Or they all took pacifiers. I don’t know… My little cousins, who were babies when I was about ten, sucked their thumbs and that seemed like a good sample size.
In case you are as clueless on this one as I was – which is fine, by the way, ’cause it’s not that big a deal – here’s the down low. Not all babies suck their thumbs. If they don’t pick it up by four months old, they probably won’t. You can encourage them, by bringing their hand to their mouth and helping them oppose that handy thumb, but if they don’t naturally do more than suck on their fist once in a while, you’re out of luck on the always-have-it-with-them soothing thing.
Similarly, all babies will not take a pacifier. Some just don’t like them. That’s it. No reason. No forcing them. They would just rather tough out their crying jag without soft rubber to suck on.
If you sucked your thumb or were super-attached to your binky, you may still remember the drama of stopping the habit. So why bother introducing either to your darling baby? Because babies cry. And until they’re at least four months old, they have no self-soothing skills or even the capacity to learn them (which is why you won’t be trying sleep training until then either). Eating is soothing, being held is soothing, and being warm and dry is soothing, but sometimes all of those options aren’t immediately available (because you’re driving right then, for instance), or the crying jag has gotten a little out of hand. This is where a pacifier is a godsend. I gladly handed off the aptly-named Soothie as needed, well aware that at some future point we would be facing down getting her to stop using it. That was fine with me. Every stage has its needs and challenges.
(Some sleep training books and consultants say that getting your baby off the pacifier is an essential component of sleep training, but it didn’t work for us and, honestly, it seems counterintuitive to me to try to get a baby to sleep on her own at the same time as taking away the thing that calms her down so she can sleep. Astrid still has pacifiers in her crib, a breathable bumper tucked down by the mattress keeps them from falling out when she rolls around, and she sleeps just fine. I’m not saying that all babies are the same or that the sleep consultants are wrong, it’s just what worked for us. You do what works for you too.)
There are a number of pacifiers on the market. We picked the Soothie because it came well-recommended and says it’s used in hospitals. I have no idea if that’s true – we weren’t given any – but Astrid liked it and we were done. Nuk, Avent and Gerber all make them as well – with some claims that, for older, um, suckers, the flattened (vs. round) shape is less detrimental to their teeth. If you’re not adamantly anti-pacifier or are convinced your little one will suck his/her thumb like a pro, I’d get a two-pack of whichever pacifier appeals to you and see how it goes. If Juniorette rejects that one, you might try a couple others with a slightly different shape or hardness before throwing in the towel, but don’t get ahead of yourself: just buy a couple before she arrives and leave it there. Once you know which she likes or if she wants one at all, you’ll order another dozen from Amazon!