Who Made the Pacifier and Grandma’s Advice on Use of a Pacifier

Who Made the Pacifier and Grandma’s Advice on Use of a Pacifier“Who Made That Pacifier?” by Dashka Slater appeared in the “Who Made That” column in the New York Times Magazine June 20, 2014.  I love this column and the information it provides on every day items we take for granted.  In our day and age, we surely think of a pacifier as something that existed forever.  This Grandma was surprised by what I read:

By the time Christian W. Meinecke applied for a patent for “a new and original Design for a Baby Comforter” in 1901, people had been giving babies soothing objects to suck on for centuries: knotted rags dipped in water or honey, wooden beads or “gum sticks” made of stone, bone or coral. But nothing would ever be quite as popular as the pacifier.

Meinecke was a Manhattan druggist who patented a number of alarming-sounding medical devices, including a “sputum cup and holder” and a “self-retaining rectal tube.” Little about him is known today, other than that he had an ex-wife who was occasionally arrested for making a scene at his Greenwich Street drugstore. His Baby Comforter consisted of an India rubber nipple attached to a disk-shaped shield that kept the nipple from being swallowed by a vigorously sucking infant. Other inventors soon patented variations, which included the addition of a ring that could be used to yank the pacifier from a baby’s mouth, but they all retained the basic nipple-and-shield configuration that persists today. Back then, the rubber nipples were processed with sulfur, which left them foul-smelling. Some were also tinted white, a process that tainted them with lead. The shields were made of bone, ivory or aluminum.

Then Ms. Slater tells us what the pundits said about this new invention:

Critics were soon excoriating the invention even as eager mothers adopted it. An outraged 1909 letter to the editor of The New York Times railed against the “villainous contrivance,” which was said to thicken the tongue and deform the mouth. Other ills attributed to the pacifier included scoliosis, the spread of disease and a lifetime of self-abuse. “Infants who persist in the habit of sucking always become masturbators,” a prominent New York pediatrician asserted in 1908.

How much fun it is to see what ignorance breeds . . . .and continued to breed decades later:

Seems to me that in 60’s and at least early 70’s there was fear that using a pacifier would cause crooked teeth. Despite these warnings, sales of the pacifier continued to grow. Latex and silicone nipples replaced the India rubber ones; plastic substituted for the bone and ivory shields and rings. By the 1940s, one company, Binky Baby Products of New York, had sold so many pacifiers that the brand would become a generic term for the thing itself. (The trademark is now owned by Playtex.)

Still, experts continued to object. Masturbation was no longer the worry – now pediatricians and breast-feeding advocates warned that pacifiers caused “nipple confusion” and would render babies unable to nurse. Recent research has debunked this concern, finding that pacifiers may actually help with breast-feeding, but parents weren’t much deterred by the experts, anyway. More than 75 percent of Western babies now use a pacifier. As one medical historian noted in 1971, “The experience of the ignorant has routed the wisdom of the learned.”

This Grandma, through personal experience, has strong opinions about the use of pacifiers.  I think they are an imperative tool for new parents, who are tired and nervous.  I do believe the experts who say that newborns need extra sucking and good pacifiers help satisfy this need.  I also believe the experts who say that the baby does not need the pacifier by about three months, and that is the time to take it away before it becomes a habit that cannot be broken.  Both children and all four grandchildren had pacifiers and they were taken away at three months.  No problems.  No issues.

The trick with pacifiers is too buy more than you might ever think you need.  With the first baby, when they fall on the floor, they are immediately to be sanitized.  By the second baby in the family, they seem to go back into the baby’s mouth.  Aren’t we hearing now that germs are good?

The one thing that concerns this Grandma is NOT taking the pacifier away when the baby no longer needs it for sucking and soothing.  Yes, this Grandma hates seeing the toddler or preschooler walking around with a binky in his or her mouth.  That is definitely pacifying the parents!





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