Use A Pacifier to Soothe Her to Sleep?

I had dinner with one of my closest friends the other day and we walked out of the restaurant into the blazing, devastating heat and slowly made our way into a Whole Foods at Union Square just to survive. While we walked around the Whole Foods, going down the escalator, wandering through the aisles, then going back up the escalator to start all over again (it was cooler downstairs than up), our conversation soon turned to parenting.

She had just spent a couple of weeks taking care of her new niece and explained one of the challenges her sister was having. Her niece, let’s call her Sara, had been having trouble sleeping through the night, waking up 3, 4, even 5 times a night. Sara’s grandmother was recommending giving her a pacifier so she could learn to soothe herself at night. But Sara’s mother didn’t want to use a pacifier for a number of reasons. And, understandably, she liked being the one that could make her little girl feel better, feel safe enough to go back to sleep. I know I love that feeling as well.

Of course, the problem was Sara and Sara’s mother were exhausted, neither of them getting enough sleep. My friend and I talked about whether my wife and I used pacifiers (which we didn’t) and what my thoughts were. Fortunately, I had one of those moments of insight and understanding. Sara’s grandmother was right that Sara needed to figure out how to soothe herself at night, but it didn’t have to be a pacifier.

When we tried to help our kids sleep through the night, we tried a number of things and finally found some that worked for each of them (because of course, it was different for each). For my girl, she used an Elmo stuffed animal, while my son used a blue woobie (a very small blanket) with satin edges and a little teddy bear in the middle. I explained that we didn’t hit pay dirt right away with both of them, though it was much easier with Lucas than with Dorit. Dorit didn’t like the woobie she had and finally we realized she felt connected to Elmo and that helped.

The truth is it is so much of trial and error. We tried something for a few nights and if it didn’t help we tried something else. If it did and they slept through the night, we didn’t change anything at all until it stopped working…we didn’t change our clothes, we didn’t shower, we changed nothing. We were so relieved when they slept through the night we would do anything to replicate it.

My friend yesterday let me know that they found a woobie for Sara and that both mommy and little girl are sleeping much better. Who knows how long it will last (I hope a LONG time!), but it was a nice reminder that parenting is so much about problem-solving and about trying to hear what our children are telling us in their own special way.

It also was a pleasant reminder that there isn’t a right way to do this parenting thing, only a way that works best for our families.

Sharing His Woobie With Me

By Jeremy G. Schneider, MFT

“Like this, Daddy,” Lucas explained to me.

We were sitting on his bed and our heads were close together, looking at his woobie, a little bear with a small blue blanket attached to it. Then he took his woobie, and folded it over his finger so the satin band that wraps around the edge of his woobie was all that showed. The moment was so intimate, I feel like I need to write in a whisper.

Then he rubbed it against my lips, the way I have seen him do it so many times to himself.

“Feels nice,” I told him.

“Or you could put it here,” and he rubbed it against my forehead.

There’s a certain joy he seemed to feel showing this to me and I think I know why. His showing me what he does with his woobie is his way of showing me how he copes at night, how he deals with the dark when he can’t sleep, but doesn’t want to wake us up.

It is a sense of accomplishment, “Look what I did, Daddy.”

But I am slightly disturbed by the whole experience.

On the one hand, I think it is wonderful that he has taken the tools we’ve tried to give him and adapted them to what he needs. It is not just the woobie that makes him feel better, it is the feel of the satin rubbing against his skin. I also suspect it is not only the feel of the satin that feels good, but that the repetition of rubbing it against his skin that must also help calm him down, to relax him a bit so he can more easily fall back asleep.

On the other hand, Dorit doesn’t have anything like this. She does not have any coping techniques to deal with the night, because she is not scared by it. But he is and seeing him teach me, share with me how he uses his woobie to feel better, gives me a vision of him lying in bed, late at night, in the not so dark, but still too dark of his room, looking up at the ceiling, not wanting to bother us, rubbing his woobie against his lips to try not to feel so scared, hoping he will fall asleep soon.

He is that way because of my genes, because of my family traditions, and I wish I could make it so he never had to deal with it at all. But I have to console myself with the belief that though I can’t remove the anxiety from his life, I have done enough to help him live with it. He does go to sleep at night for the most part without any trouble thanks to his woobie, his Happy Thoughts and All The People That Love him. He sleeps through the night most of the time for the same reasons.

Still, I wish there was more I could do.