Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Beware the Binky!

Binky. Nuk. Pacy. Plug. Or, at our house, Pappy.
I actually found a list of 160 pet names for the pacifier on Babycenter.  Children, including our Jr., grow very attached to their pacifier.  It is a source of great soothing and comfort, for babies and momsies.  Before Jr. was  born, I thought we'd try to avoid getting him hooked on the pacifier.  But, when he turned out to be a constant sucker, I soon gave into the lure of that soothing plug.  Many times I have thanked the Lord for the inspired creator of the pacifier.  Without him or her, we would have had a cranky, sleep-fighting baby and possibly a mommy with a nervous breakdown.
Now that Jr. is 18 months old, the "pappy" is still our friend in time of need.  We limit it's daytime use, but during an emotional struggle or at bedtime, the pacifier is extremely soothing and helpful.  I want to go on the record as a momsie who is all in favor of pacifier use. 

But, now there is this troubling research out of the University of Wisconsin-Madison.  You know, Dr. Momsie loves a good research study.  But, some just don't have the results that I can get on board with.  Like this one out of Wisconsin.  I just know there must be some methodological error or confounding variables. 

Ok, I'll tell you about it already.  It all began with research into the emotional life of Botox patients.  Researchers have studied patients receiving injections of Botox to prevent wrinkles by paralyzing their facial muscles.  They found that many people who have had Botox treatments experience a narrower range of emotions and have trouble recognizing emotions in othera through their facial expressions.  The explanation for this is found in basic social learning theory.  We learn by watching others and mimicking them.  It follows, then, that if something impedes you from mimicking an emotion through facial expression (i.e. paralyzed facial muscles), your learning and/or experiencing of that emotion may be impaired.

The UW researchers decided to expand on this Botox study.  They thought, "hmmm, I wonder how this would apply to others who have limited facial movement?"  Such as babies with pacifiers in their mouths.  They conducted three studies.  The first found that six and seven-year-old boys who spent a lot of time when they were babies with pacifiers jabbed in their mouths were less likely to mimic facial expressions of other children on a video.  The second study found that college-aged men who reported that they used a pacifier frequently as a baby did more poorly than other groups on a perspective-taking test (i.e. empathy).  The third study found that college-aged males who scored lowest on a test of emotional intelligence also happened to be those that sucked most on a binky as an infant.  For some reason, the negative impact of pacifier use was not found in females.

The lead researcher, Paula Niedenthal, shared her conclusions, "I'd just be aware of inhibiting any of the body's emotional representational systems," Niedenthal says. "Since a baby is not yet verbal -- and so much is regulated by facial expression -- at least you want parents to be aware of that using something like a pacifier limits their baby's ability to understand and explore emotions. And boys appear to suffer from that limitation."

Hmmm.  What does Dr. Momsie think?  Well, I'm still not sure.  I might just have to read this research a little more carefully. There has to be something amiss.  Yet, it is hard to deny three studies with strangely consistent findings.  Limiting pacifier use during the day is probably worthwhile, but at night babies aren't learning language or emotional reciprocity anyway, so stick that sucker in!  Everything in moderation, right?

Now, I must say, I think Jr. has amazing emotional reciprocity and I see little emotional expressions that emerge from behind the pappy ALL the time.  Really. All. The. Time.  I'm sure of it.  Well, mostly sure . . .

Anyhow, if the participants were in college, they weren't complete losers just because they used a pacifier.  They weren't bums on the street.  Jr. will be just fine.  Our pappy isn't going anywhere.  Except right in his mouth where it belongs!


  1. Hey, we called it a pappy at our house too!! Boy am I glad I have girls...and only one of them was a "pappy" baby. I'd like to know how old these participants were when they're parents weened them off the suckers. By 18 months, we were only using it at naps, bedtime and meltdowns. 2 weeks before her second birthday, I forgot to send it for an overnight stay at the grandparents...and she NEVER asked for it again. I'd just try to ween him off the plug before the diapers :)

  2. Great advice! That will be our goal - get rid of pappy before the diapers!

  3. I found your blog through the Weekend Walk blog hop. I think this is a very interesting concept for a blog. I've not seen another one like it. Psychology has always interested me and I considered a career in it. I chose teaching instead. I've worked with children in some capacity for most of my life and even though I don't have any of my own right now I look forward to following along with your blog and learning more.



Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...