I know there are people who are against binkies. There are those eager to yank away every last pacifier believing that they hinder children’s social, dental, or language development. I, however, am passionately pro-binky. I will never push them on others, but I will protect my family’s right to bear binkies. I did not decide whether or not to give my daughter, Mia, a binky when she was born. I was in a post-partum, sleep-deprived haze when the nurses said that she loved to suck and gave her one. Mia was happy. I was happy. There was no going back.
My husband and I brought Mia home from the hospital, and our affection for the binky deepened as our amount of sleep lessened. We called it The Snooze because we popped it back in her mouth and got another good eight minutes of sleep before she spit it out and cried again. We averaged three Snoozes before she angrily demanded milk.
The pediatrician told me that the best time to wean Mia off the binky was between six and nine months. I nodded at him and smiled amiably. Oh yes, of course, six months. In my head I thought, Never. I am never giving this up. At six months, the binky had multiplied. We had one in the house and one in the car. And then those two binkies had procreated, resulting in a good ten binkies. We kept a handful of binkies in her crib. That way, when one inevitably fell on the floor in the middle of the night, we did not have to run and search for it in the dark. She could just roll onto another one and pop it into her mouth. She placed one binky in her mouth as she lovingly held another in each hand. She rotated through the pile of binkies, gathering them around her and then switching which one was in her mouth and in her hand. She lay in a nest of binkies.
I listened to her make little Maggie Simpson noises around the house. I loved interpreting her binky language. The more she focused on playing with something, the louder she sucked, the binky moving in and out of her mouth, almost falling out and then getting sucked back in with a vengeance. We could tell when she was ready to get out of her crib in the morning. She woke up and played, chatting to herself. When she was done, she threw each of her binkies one by one onto the floor. Each one clattered as it fell, the handle clicking against the button. When she had thrown the final binky, she was ready to greet us.
When Mia turned one, we limited her binkies to the crib, which worked extremely well because she then loved to go to bed. We prefaced bedtime with, “Want to go see the binkies?” and she ran toward the stairs, ready for sleep. When she was tired, she was an addict who needed a quick fix. She often toddled into her room, reached into her crib for a binky, gave a few long sucks, and threw it back into the crib. She was then eager to play.
Mia began to walk and then to run. She spoke in complete sentences. She dressed herself. She slept in a big girl bed. And yet, when she stretched out at night, she still lay in a pile of binkies. My husband and I talked about how to get rid of the binkies. At this point, we could not ask our pediatrician because, in parental embarrassment, we had let him assume months before that the binkies were long gone. We surveyed friends and neighbors. They advised snipping the nipples off the binkies, throwing the binkies out, letting Mia throw out the binkies “to give her the power,” and encouraging her to send the binkies to babies who needed them. We did not have the heart for any of these tactics. She loved these guys. In addition, we were expecting our second child. How could we take away her binkies when we were about to add a sibling to the mix? I could discipline her, give her timeouts, take away toys, but I could not take away the binkies. I felt as though I would be taking away her pet.
We hoped to get Mia to voluntarily surrender her binkies to the newly-introduced Binky Fairy, talking about her any chance we got. We explained to Mia that she could leave her binkies for The Binky Fairy and the fairy would bring her a beanbag chair. “Mmmmm. Can I get a beanbag and keep my binkies?” At this point, Mia was three and a half. We were getting desperate. We told her that The Binky Fairy had heard she liked the Patriots and wanted to bring her a Patriots shirt as well as a beanbag. She briefly considered this offer, looking down and furrowing her brow. She then lifted up her head and replied, “No. I love my binkies,” and smiled knowingly.
And then, just when we had given up, Mia made up her mind. The day we brought home our newborn son from the hospital, Mia announced, “I am giving my binkies to JJ” She got out of her bed, walked to his bassinet, and placed her binkies next to him. That night, The Binky Fairy came in all her splendor. She was so proud of Mia. She gave her a purple beanbag chair, which The Fairy had optimistically ordered a year before, and a Tom Brady jersey.
Now the binky love continues. JJ loves his binkies as much as Mia did. He has binkies everywhere. They are the loose change of our house. Wherever you find lost pennies and dimes, you find binkies: in pockets, in the wash, behind the couch, under the cushions, and in the car. Some people have candy dishes; we have binky bowls.
Post-binky, Mia has a beautiful smile and an effervescent personality, just as she did during her binky stage. Binkies have given our kids comfort, which in turn has given us parents comfort, too. Everybody has gotten a bit more sleep in the fuzzy days of new parenthood. What can be wrong with that?
It’s been almost three years since I wrote this essay and JJ, too, eventually parted with his binkies on his own volition. Until he was ready, though, there was no amount of cajoling or bribing or finagling that would get him to hand them over. But then one night, he voluntarily put them under his pillow for the Binky Fairy and never looked back.
Now I have one binky from each child in my dresser drawer because sometimes I look back and remember how much we all loved those binkies.
first published in www.baystateparent.com