Barbara Cohen, IBCLC

International Board Certified Lactation Consultant

He's Using Me Like a Pacifier!

He’s using me like a pacifier!

I hear this complaint often and I find it perplexing.

I wonder how this is not unlike saying, “She’s using me like a bed!” when a baby is sleeping on mom’s chest after a satisfying feeding?

Or, “He’s using me like a stroller!” as dad walks a fussy baby around the house in an effort to soothe him?

How about, “She’s using me like a bottle!” as she take a nice leisurely feeding at the breast, and perhaps another little snack 20 minutes later?

Babies don’t “use” their parents, or anyone for that matter. They express needs and we meet them. They don’t take advantage of us or exploit us or manipulate us. All they know is what they need and how to communicate that need to the adults who care for them. No wants, only needs, deep primal needs.

A pacifier is a substitute for a breast, a bassinet a poor stand-in for a warm body with a familiar heartbeat, a stroller just a surrogate for a strong pair of loving arms (with or without a wrap or carrier) and a bottle just a proxy vessel that holds and delivers milk when mom’s breasts are not available.

In fact, if we think back to long ago, long before Buy Buy Baby was ever conceived and brands like Graco, Dr. Brown’s and Nuk ever entered our parental lexicon, babies were enjoying warm human bodies to meet all of their needs.

Babies haven’t changed much over millions of years but we’ve changed the way we respond to them quite drastically. Sometimes, we’ll throw every substitute we can find on Amazon at them when all they really need is human contact. In the 4th trimester, human bodies (mom, dad, grandma and even the baby nurse) have the amazing power to meet all of baby’s deepest needs in just the way that babies come into the world expecting their needs to be met.

It may not be practical in our 21st century world to never use a substitute for human contact, but let’s not ever think that our babies are “using” us. That’s pretty harsh behavior to pin on a tiny human who only recently arrived on this planet.

And when baby breastfeeds do we ever complain, “She’s using me like a breast pump!”?