Weaning the Paci
Ah the pacifier, yet another subject of judgment and ridicule in the parenting world. First you’re judged (and confused) on when to start giving it to a newborn to avoid ruining a latch, and then you’re judged on how long and how often your child is allowed to have it. Pediatricians and pediatric dentists will often advise to get rid of it at a year (along with the bottle) as the best age so there is no interference with talking. That sounds great unless you have a child that has become very attached and reliant on their paci in order to fall asleep or reduce their anxiety. So now you have a toddler or preschool aged child and you’re at a loss of how to get that pacifier out of your child’s mouth. I’m here to tell you that you have options.
First let’s remember why we start using the pacifier to begin with…to soothe! Newborn babies have a strong urge to suck, and sucking makes them extremely tired, effectively calming them down and relieving any sort of anxiety. So of course it is one amazing tool to use instead of mama always having to be around. Once babies get older they are more capable of using something else to calm themselves down and no longer NEED a pacifier, but how do we get there?
Option 1 is to simply go “cold turkey” and take all pacifiers away at once. Keep in mind that you are taking away an item that brings your child comfort, joy, and above all else reduces their anxiety. So even though you don’t want your child walking around with a pacifier in their mouth, you also want them to be able to soothe if something goes wrong. So give them something else to soothe with instead. If they’re old enough, let them choose what that will be. Maybe it’s a lovey, security blanket, self-talk, stuffed animal, or whatever. The replacement item can be anything, as long as there is something to replace the pacifier with.
Option 2 is to go gradual. So if your child has the pacifier pretty much whenever they want, you will need to pick and choose where it’s appropriate and gradually narrow the options. Kids are resilient and often times just telling them “pacifiers are just for at home” works wonders. You can have a bowl by the front door that they drop it in on their way out the door. Next step is keeping it in their room, then their bed/crib, until they’re no longer allowed anywhere.
Option 3 is to add a little bit of magic. This option is very appealing for children 2 and over (or whenever you feel your child would understand). I’ve seen parents tell their child that the “Pacifier/Binky Fairy” is coming. They gather all the pacifiers in their home, place them in a special spot, and overnight the fairy comes and replaces the pacifiers with a toy or special treat (sometimes leaving some glitter dust behind for you Pinterest moms). I have also seen parents bury the pacifiers in the backyard and overnight flowers bloom in their place. Another option is using the pacifiers as currency to purchase a new to, or some parents turn in the pacifiers at the doctor’s office for new babies to use now that he/she is big boy/girl.
There are a lot of different books out there about giving up the pacifier if that tickles your child’s fancy. No matter which route you choose, please have the realistic expectation that it will take them a few days to adjust. Don’t spring it on them and definitely don’t cave and purchase any new pacifiers! Remember this is often their security object so they need something else to replace that. The older they are the more preparation they will need. Perhaps their favorite doll also gets a visit from the Binky Fairy and turns out they are just fine (role play is ridiculously effective for toddlers!).