When I see a child over the age of 2 with a pacifier clipped
to her outfit, her mouth plugged up with a piece of plastic, I think, "Man, that
If your child is walking and talking, and also has a
drool-covered binky hanging from the lapel of his Gap button-down, there's
something wrong. And I'm not just talking about aesthetics, though I can
imagine that no adult would want to look back at their baby pictures to see
themselves as a growing child with his mouth stopped up.
Last week, Melissa Joan Hart posted a picture of her 2-year-old son on Instagram, asleep with a pacifier in his mouth. The point of
the posting was to show how cute her kid looked, asleep like a little man with
his hand down his pants. But when some of the actor's followers questioned why
a 2-year-old was still sucking on a paci, MJH came out fighting, saying, "If they have the guts to say it to my face, I think I
have the guts to punch 'em."
Instead of threatening violence, the "Melissa and Joey" star should instead be thanking the commentators who made inflammatory
remarks such as: "Why does he still have a pacifier?"
When our kids are babies, we all employ certain tools to help soothe them.
Why, indeed! When our kids are babies, we
all employ certain tools to help soothe them. But as they grow up, these tools
need to fall aside. The idea of a preschooler wearing a pacifier is just as
ridiculous as the thought of putting my crying 3-year-olds in the baby swing or
vibrating bouncy seats that used to do the trick when they were infants. It's
easier in the short-term to get them to just stop crying. But damaging in the
long-term, when they don't know how to self-soothe because they haven't had to
"I've learned I just have to be me,"
says Hart, in response to the so-called haters. These days, we're all quick to
say that a mother knows what's best for her child and that we shouldn't judge. But
consider this: perhaps there's actually merit in people seeing something that's
unhealthy for a child and—gasp—speaking up.
In an article for the New York Times, Dr. Abhinav Sinha, director of the pediatric dental clinic
at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center says that the pacifier
habit should end before the second birthday, but children should be coaxed to
"give it up even earlier—the sooner the better."
Among the problems
he sees caused directly by sucking a binky: adverse effects on the structures
of the oral cavity, including an anterior open bite, "where the front teeth do
not touch when the jaw is closed"; posterior crossbite, "when the upper back
teeth are tucked inside the lower back teeth due to the constant sucking habit"; and overjet, "a marked horizontal projection of the upper teeth beyond the
Yes, parents can make bad choices—even celebrity ones.
He goes on to
say that if a pacifier is used, it should be removed immediately once the child
is asleep. Studies have shown, he says that "increased pacifier use is
associated with more ear infections and more speech and language problems."
to get behind a mother and reassure her in her bad decisions that only she
knows what's best for her child. When there is sound medical evidence to the contrary,
doing that is just nonsensical—just as most of us wouldn't tell a Christian
Scientist it's OK not to get your dying kid treatment for cancer.
Of course using
a paci past the first year isn't the same as not treating cancer. But it makes
the child look ridiculous, all due to a bad choice on the part of the parent. Yes,
parents can make bad choices—even celebrity ones. If Melissa Joan Hart doesn't
want people weighing in, there is a very simple solution: keep her children off
social media and out of the spotlight.
If even one
mama decides that today's the day to go out to the backyard and bury the binky
so that a pacifier tree can grow for all the new babies that need them, then some
good will have come from this "controversy." And who knows, Clarissa's mistake may
just save some poor tike with a spitty giraffe hanging out of his mouth from
becoming an adult with the Billy Crystal "white man's overbite."