Cold Comfort: celebrating no-more-binky with a comforting recipe

02.24.11: Leo's 33rd Month

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Our pediatrician always told us to lose the binky (Leo’s pacifier) by age two. We never even asked why, because, he was like, not going to get so big for ages, and we only let him have his binky for sleep and, well, we let it slide. Then I was at his two and a half year appointment, telling the pediatrician we hadn’t quite gotten around to that. She just gave me a withering look, and I renewed the commitment to lose the binky and went home to discuss with Aaron. We could see it had affected Leo’s front teeth. We knew he did fine when he was told he was too big to nap with a binky at school. We knew it wasn’t helping his ear pressure issues. So why the hesitation?

Oh, there was always something. Transitions, stress, travel, sleep issues, big boy bed. Wimpy parents who like to sleep can point to many good reasons to put off pacifier weaning. We even declared we wouldn’t let the bink follow us into 2011, but then, well, we wanted to have a nice winter holiday.

Finally, I re-read former fellow mom blogger Dana’s post about needing to get rid of Charlie’s binky, and the comment below it about the “cut” method, wherein you remove a little piece of the pacifier daily until there’s nothing left to suck on. It always seemed cruel and strange, but finally I proposed the idea to Aaron. We decided to start puncturing Leo’s binky each day with a clean sewing needle. God, I feel like someone out of a V.C. Andrews novel admitting this for some reason, and I felt truly insane doing it surreptitiously while Leo was at school. But yeah, that’s what we did.

I think we made a total of 7 secret, evil holes in our son’s beloved, comforting binky. We may not have done it quite as regularly as intended. And I don’t know how well it was working, really. Maybe it made the binky experience less satisfying for Leo. Not sure. In any case, we were dragging our feet and might still be except that before long the formerly sterile silicone binky began to harbor weird icky mouth juices. I tried to clean and boil the thing, but it just seemed to stay yucky. That did it. I chucked the binky. When Leo fell asleep without asking for it that first night, Aaron and I were shocked.

Of course, the next night, Leo asked for his binky. “Honey, your binky broke and I had to throw it out,” I told him. He crumpled. “You had your binky since you were a baby,” I continued, and he was all ears. “And now that you’re so big, it’s too old, and it got yucky. Didn’t you notice it must have started to taste funny?” I asked. “It tasted like chocolate!” Leo wailed. “Well, now that you’re so big, you don’t need it,” I concluded. He sniffed and seemed to see my point. And he has been sleeping fine without it ever since. When he noticed a binky in a friend’s bed I saw him take note, and when we got home he told me his friend was still a baby with a binky. And that was that. What on earth were we so afraid of?

I think actually that Leo’s newly rational (okay, semi-rational) phase is a big part of this, and part of me wonders whether it would have been as hard as we’d feared if we’d made the break earlier like our pediatrician suggested. We’ll never know, but I’m left feeling like whenever possible, it’s best for parents to make the call about when to introduce big changes like this. I feel this way about sleep, about potty training, anything that has such a big influence on home life and demands maturity/readiness from a child. We’re all proud that Leo has left his binky days behind. And if we ever have another child, I plan to give that kid its binky as much as it wants, no more rationing it for sleepytime. It’s a big, cold world out there, and we can all use all the comfort we can get.

Recipe: Wholegrain Macaroni and Cheese with Cauliflower and Ham

Zoe Singer is a freelance food writer and cookbook editor and co-author of The Flexitarian Table. Food Editor and blogger for The Faster Times, she tries not to eat for two now that her son is a toddler.