Pacifier, binky, dummy, soother – no matter what you call it, weaning a child off a pacifier is no easy task. Follow these tips to get rid of the paci for good.
Habits are hard to break. For small children with zero coping mechanisms, something as simple as taking away their pacifier can be devastating. However, at 18 months of age, a child no longer needs a pacifier to satisfy the sucking reflux.
“After four months, the natural urge for nonnutritive sucking has subsided, and babies are now using their mouths for nutritional needs, such as sucking on a bottle or breast, eating solid foods, and perhaps even drinking out of a “sippy” cup,” says author and nanny expert Michelle LaRowe of Nanny to the Rescue! “For this reason, when your child is six months old, you should begin to consider helping him kick the habit.”
After working in a daycare setting for many years, I found that most toddlers hold on to their pacifiers for the wrong reasons. A pacifier often serves as a transitional object – an item that relieves stress in new or challenging situations. Some children drag around blankets or toys, while others cling to pacifiers to create a false sense of security.
Choose the Right Time
If you haven’t started the process of weaning your little one off the pacifier by 18 months, it’s time to start. After six months of age, pacifiers provide little to no benefit and can actually cause problems such as crooked teeth or abnormal bite. Avoid taking away the pacifier in the midst of major life changes like starting at a new daycare.
Go Cold Turkey
Taking away your child’s pacifier only to give it back later on creates mixed signals. When you’re reading to wean your child off the paci, go cold turkey. While you’ll no doubt have a few tough days and a lot of tears, this strategy often works best for toddlers who suck out of habit or comfort.
Cut Off the Tip
If the cold turkey approach isn’t right for your child, try easing into life without pacifiers. Start by cutting off just the very tip of the pacifier. This will reduce your child’s ability to suck without the paci slipping out of the mouth. Continue to cut off small amounts of the rubber. Your child will likely tell you that his binky is broken and that he doesn’t want it anymore, or may just gradually use it less and less.
Call the Pacifier Fairy
Just like the tooth fairy, the pacifier fairy comes into your child’s room at night to take something they no longer need and replaces it with a gift. Tell your toddler that he is too big now for pacifiers and that he must leave his pacifier under his pillow for the pacifier fairy to claim it. If he’s successful, leave a reward under his pillow, like a small toy.
Purposely “Lose” It
When nothing else works, some parents resort to simply “losing” the pacifier. If your child doesn’t have access to it, he can’t use it. In the meantime, distract your child with fun games and activities. Most of the time, a child will forget about it within a few days.
What the Experts Say
“Pacifiers have their time and place but when your child begins to talk it’s a good time to pull the plug. Let your child know it’s difficult to understand her with the pacifier in her mouth. You may want to clip the tip of the pacifier, making it less satisfying to suck.”
– Mommy Guilt, Julie Bort, Aviva Pflock, Devra Renner
“Stop buying new pacifiers, and let your child know that when the final pacifier wears out or disappears, there will be no more.”
– The Mom Book, Stacy M. DeBroff
“Set limits. Slowly decrease the use of the pacifier during waking hours. If at all possible limit the use to sleep times. Keep your child as occupied as possible. When they get bored they will look for it.”
– Sanity Savers: Help for Frazzled Parents, Cheryl Zarra
“The surest way to get rid of the pacifier is to ignore it and wait. Everybody outgrows pacifiers.”
– Best Bets for Babies, Brooke McKamy Beebe
“I advise that parents restrict the pacifier to only sleep times beginning at nine months of age. Then they will never have a toddler walking around with a pacifier in his mouth. Exceptions to restricting the pacifier to only sleep times might be a long trip or an illness where the child needs extra soothing.
– Your Fussy Baby: How to Soothe Your Newborn, Marc Weissbluth, M.D.
Pacifiers are effective at soothing babies, but when it’s time to give them up? Pure catastrophe. Not all strategies work for all parents, so try different ones until you find an approach that works. When you do, it’s bye-bye binky.