The Mother who Refused to Give her Baby a Pacifier

The Mother who Refused to Give her Baby a Pacifier

My current stage of life, as a mother of children ranging from 4-21, is complicated. As I’m sure you can imagine.

But over the last few days, I’ve spent some time with young moms with little kids and toddlers and babies. And I’ve been reminded just how hard THAT was.

Being a mother, like me, without any babies is a different universe. Today, there are:
No more diapers.
No more nursing.
No more waking up in the middle of the night.
No more having a baby or toddler who needs to be watched every waking moment.
No more morning sickness.
No more pregnancy nerves.
No more postpartum balagan.

And I see, looking back, just how demanding that was. Draining. Physically and emotionally.

At the time, I tended to compare myself with mothers whose circumstances were more challenging than mine:
That other mother has a baby every year, I only have a baby every 2 years!
That other mother is working in addition to being a mom, all I have to do is be a mom!
That other mother has 12 children, I only have 6!
That other mother has her toddler home with her. I send mine out, so I have every day to do whatever my heart desires (even errands and laundry) until 1:15!

I’d kick myself for having it “so easy,” yet feeling like I was being stretched to my limits.

This week, there was one moment of my time spent with those young mothers that I can’t get out of my head.

This particular mother of 5 young kids has a great deal on her plate. On top of that, she also has a 6-month-old baby to care for.

At one point during our time together, her baby was getting a little kvetchy. I asked the mother, “Should I give her a pacifier?” And this mother, who likes doing everything as natural as possible, said, “No. I don’t give her pacifiers.”

And then this mother picked up her baby and nursed her as she ran around after her other kids.

Watching her, so tired, so overwhelmed, so determined to be the best mom possible, I wished that we mothers would learn to mother, to nurture ourselves, with at least as much devotion as we do our precious children.

* I would like to clarify one important point: I don’t feel strongly either way about pacifiers. Mothers should use a pacifier if they want to, and not use a pacifier if they don’t want. But I felt in this story that this mother’s aspiration to be the most “natural” mother (which she mistakenly equates with being the best mother) was taking a toll on her own emotional and physical wellbeing.


  1. i can totally relate! my youngest is 8, and every once in a while i spend some time with young mothers, and i remember how challenging that is! but i wouldn’t trade those years away for anything. If I hadn’t gone through it myself, I never would have grown into the kind of older mother that KNOWS how important it is to take care of myself!
    (and the kind of older mother that KNOWS that some kids will refuse a pacifier, or bottle, or any attempt to have the child soothe itself….)

    • JewishMom

      definitely! A bunch of my babies refused pacifiers. They just pushed them out with their little tongues.
      In this situation I’m writing about an overwhelmed mother refuses to do something that will make her life easier because she’s turned “natural” ideology into Torah. It’s not that she can’t give her baby a pacifier, she just won’t.

  2. Your stage Chana Jenny is the stage I yearn for. I have a lot of kids BH with the last three very close in age, all little. I have to remind myself all the time to look for the treasures of THIS stage: the bonding of nursing, the cute little ones to laugh with and hug, the laughter we have from their antics, the simple problems that can be solved just by changing a diaper and nursing…

  3. I love the message here-all about self care. About not giving pacifiers, that can be a form of natural birth control. Giving pacifiers ups the chances of getting preganent even while being with baby and nursing full time.

  4. When I was a young girl before bas mitzvah, I read a parable that made such a deep impression on me that I never forgot it.
    A man was walking through the Arabian market. There were many merchants trying to catch the attention of potential customers.The man noticed a potter who was advertising his wares by tapping his clay pots with a small hammer. The man went over to the potter and said to him:”Watch out! You are going to brake those pots if you hit them!”
    The potter replied:”They won’t break. I made each of these with my own hands, and I know exactly how much each one can take. I tap the fragile ones more gently, while the strong ones can take a harder tap.”
    Each of us is given our challenges made to measure by the One Who made us all.

  5. Thank you, Chanie, for explaining briefly but well.
    Thank you, Chana Jenny, for hearing her.

  6. I can really relate to this young mother trying to “do it all” and I suppose losing out in the process. Often I feel MASSIVE pressure all the time to be “natural” in everything, even in things where I know logically it would not be the right choice. I still have people making comments about how it’s bad to have a C-section and how a baby is worse off for life because of it (I had to have one because it was thought to possibly be life-saving for my baby which I know 100% was the right thing to do). I’ve had to consiously silence all those voices and go with what I know is the Torah truth as discussed with our Rav, that the C-section in my case was the right choice. Sometimes a mother’s ego is too great, she wants to feel like the perfect mother and that supercedes doing what is actually the right thing.

    It is interesting how what being ” perfect mother” means also changes according to time and place. In my mother’s generation breastfeeding a baby with teeth was considered strange and even immodest and you had to wean babies on purees only. Now in my generation many women breastfeed until 2y or later and baby-led weaning is the norm.

    Having said this, being natural can often be good also and I have heard pacifiers can damage babies’ dentition if used too long or excessively so maybe this woman prioritises that for a good reason? I suppose we all have to pick our battles. I personally put a lot of emphasis on spending a lot of time outdoors and eating healthy food which I prepare, even at the cost of having less time with family or being more tired because I feel it is so important today, with child obesity rising and so many kids eating such poor diets. But for another person, their family may need her to be more relaxed and present more than they need that healthy food?

    Sorry long comment but just wanted to say, thanks for posting, this is a really important message. Pick your battles and consider your priorities, including rest. Don’t try to be perfect. Very very important.

    • I agree with you, Keren. IMHO expecting to create a perfect environment for your kids to grow up in is not only stressful on the parents but perhaps not even good for the kids.

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