Steve Grunwell

Open-source contributor, speaker, and coffee snob

A Pacifying Plush Puppy

As you may have heard, my wife and I had our first child, Emily one month ago today. The last month has been full of ups and downs, sleepless nights and unthinkable joy. The diapers and spit up are manageable, but the sleep has been the hardest.

Imagine this: you’re holding your newborn in your arms, gently patting her back until she drifts off to sleep. After ten or twenty minutes, she finally dozes off, and you slowly creep over to her crib to put her down. As soon as her head touches the mattress, she stirs, letting out a howl. Quickly, you reach for the pacifier to try to soothe this beast with whom cannot be reasoned, and the peaceful bliss of infant slumber resumes. You stumble back to the plush nursery armchair, hopeful to get at least a few minutes of peace before you head off to bed, when the gentle suckling of the pacifier stops; you brace yourself for what comes next: the blood-curdling scream of the child when she realizes the pacifier has fallen out of her mouth.

“Shit,” you start to yell, quickly catching yourself lest it wake the baby more, “if you didn’t spit it out we wouldn’t have this problem and we could all get some sleep!” Sadly, babies can’t be reasoned with, so your argument is one-sided, technically correct, yet futile.

You try to prop the pacifier up so it can’t roll away; a stuffed animal, a teething toy, anything that can keep that pacifier from rolling away without posing a choking and/or suffocation hazard for this helpless little mini-me. The warnings of the hospital, your pediatrician, and society echo in your head: “remember the ABCs (Alone, on their back, in their crib)!”, but are being eclipsed by a primitive need for the sleep you so sorely lack.

Finally, you give in to your baby’s demands. You scoop her up out of the crib, return to the armchair with her in your arms, and tell yourself “tomorrow, we’ll try this again tomorrow.”

Finding a better way

If I could just keep the pacifier within her reach, I’m certain I could get longer stretches of sleep. I don’t want to force it on her (our plan is to phase the pacifier out by six months of age anyway), but I need a way to keep the pacifier in place if she drops it without putting Emily at risk.

At first I thought of a sew-on pacifier holder, designed to complement the handle on the back of a Soothie™. However, investing in a setup to make molds for a silicone pacifier clip didn’t seem like the best way to go. Kim did some searching and found the WubbaNub, which is basically a stuffed animal with a pacifier sewn on, which is great except for the fact that the pacifier can’t easily be removed. That means sanitizing the pacifier becomes a whole big ordeal; I’d rather get rid of my problems, not trade them for new ones.

Green stuffed dogThe next logical step was a stuffed animal like the WubbaNub with a removable pacifier. The grip should be firm enough to keep the pacifier from rolling away but not introduce a choking or pinching hazard for the baby. I picked up a cheap stuffed dog in the baby aisle at Meijer and got to work.

My first thought was to use 3M Command Fridge Hooks inside the dog’s head to hold the pacifier in place. After trimming and reshaping one (pro-tip: boiling water and wooden splints can be a huge help here), I made an incision along the seam on the dog’s neck and pushed the plastic clip into the dogs head. Unfortunately, the clip didn’t put enough pressure on the pacifier handle with a layer of fabric in the way, so I needed a new idea.

When digging through desk drawers to find a binder clip (which, in hindsight would have been a bad idea), I found a few wooden clothespins. The hinged design means that inserting a pacifier would be a two-handed operation that would require motor skills infants wouldn’t possess, and even if somehow it fell out of the animal there would be less of a choking hazard than a small plastic clip.

I positioned a single clothespin in the dog’s head, sewed up the neck, and so far the Pacifying Plush Puppy is holding the pacifier like a champ. The now built-in clothespin also makes drying out the toy on a clothesline after washing a snap!

Pacifying Plush Puppy hanging from a clothesline

All told, making your own Pacifying Plush Puppy takes about ten minutes, with only minimal sewing skills. It could be done with almost any stuffed animal and hopefully will be enough to keep the pacifier from rolling away and causing a ruckus.

Assuming the toy dries thoroughly, tonight will be the first attempt at using the puppy. Wish us luck!

A pacifying plush puppy, holding a pacifier

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