When 5-month-old Joe Dalton cried and fussed in his car seat because he’d dropped his pacifier, his mother did more than wish for a solution.
She invented one.
Joe’s mother, Laura Dalton of Des Peres, worked with a longtime friend to develop a new product called the Friendly Pacifier, a combination stuffed animal and blanket with a detachable pacifier.
The Friendly Pacifier makes it easier for babies to hold and retrieve themselves, Dalton said. The plush toy and blanket become a “lovey” they can use even after they are weaned from the pacifier.
It worked for little Joe, who used to throw such a fuss when he lost his pacifier in the car that Dalton would have to pull off the road.
“He was our first product tester. It was easier for him to grab and hold this and bring it up to his mouth,” Dalton said. “It also was a distraction because he could play with it, too.”
Dalton and her friend, Susan Godfrey, of Scottsdale, AZ, came up with the idea in 2009 and launched their own company called First Friends the next year. Now their Friendly Pacifier is sold in stores and online through Amazon. They retail between $10 and $15.
Dalton and Godfrey were high school friends (Cor Jesu, Class of 1983.) After Godfrey and her family moved to Arizona the two women stayed in touch. Dalton is an attorney; Godfrey worked in toy sales.
Then in the fall of 2009, Godfrey’s mother, Carol Burns, was in St. Louis for a school reunion when she suffered a brain aneurysm. Godfrey hurried to St. Louis to be with her. She would spend days at her mother’s side and go to Dalton’s home at night to sleep.
The friends, both moms, had long conversations as they unwound in the evening. But they returned over and over to one subject – there had to be a better pacifier on the market than the one baby Joe kept dropping.
“We knew we wanted to combine everything that could possibly soothe an infant, all in one product,” Dalton said.
Dalton’s mother, Mary Ann McKean of Kirkwood, helped by sewing the first prototypes of the Friendly Pacifier. The plush white bunny with blue blanket edged in a satiny material was named “Joe Bunny” for Dalton’s son, now 2.
As she recovered from her brain injury, Godfrey’s mother came up with the name for the pink version of the bunny: “Annie” – for aneurysm.
Now there are also lamb, puppy and bear versions of the Friendly Pacifier. Next fall, the women plan to launch First Farm Friends – a pig, a horse and a cow. They also have a gift set rolling out soon that will include a board book about the First Friend characters.
Dalton said the women hoped to continue to grow their company with other products and were always on the lookout for new ideas.
But Joe Bunny and Annie Bunny will always hold a special place in the heart of two moms who were first friends.