When I was pregnant, whether or not to give my daughter a pacifier was something I thought about often. I did my research, weighed the pros and cons, and ultimately decided before I gave birth. But, immediately after she was born, a nurse gave her a pacifier to suck on, and that was that. Since then, my daughter has taken to and loved her binkies.
Overall, pacifiers are a positive part of babyhood. Not only do they provide comfort to babies, but studies have also shown that pacifiers reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Pacifiers can also help relieve pain for infants who may have to undergo surgery. In day-to-day life, a pacifier can be a lifeline to new parents. Many parents use them to soothe babies fussing in a public setting. Some swear they help babies who are having issues falling and staying asleep.
But, as babies leave the infant stage and become toddlers, the negatives of pacifier use begin to outweigh the positives. No matter how much your child loves their binky, it may be time to say goodbye. Here are some tips for getting rid of the pacifier.
7 Tips for Ditching the Pacifier
1. Choose the Right Time
If you ask a room full of moms of when to get rid of the pacifier, you may get a different answer from every one of them. But medical professionals will often tell you to begin weaning around your child’s first birthday, with an ultimate stop around 3.
“Parents should be gradually weaning from the pacifier starting at 12 months,” says Danielle Levens, a Speech Language Pathologist. “Some children who use a pacifier too long may develop an open mouth posture which then can lead to speech production errors.”
In addition to physical issues, pacifier use beyond a certain age also becomes a lot more emotional. The older a child gets, the more likely they are to develop a deep attachment to their binky. This makes it even harder to drop it. Some children between the ages of 2 and 4 may drop the binky easily or even independently. But most will need parental involvement to truly break the habit.
2. Use a Gradual Approach
Before my daughter turned one, we took away “daytime binkies.” We only offered them for naptime and bedtime (and especially fussy car rides). When she reaches 18 months, we plan to cut them out for those as well. After speaking with a few moms, this gradual approach also worked for them.
“Around 15 months, we started only allowing a paci during car rides, naps, and bedtime,” says Carly Nicole Esquerra. “We got rid of the pacifier completely, and it was rough for three days and nights, but then she was great!”
3. Cut the Ends
A common approach to weaning off the pacifier is to cut the ends off. Your child still has the idea of the pacifier but no longer has the actual soothing mechanism. Many moms I spoke with said this worked for them. Others said it only frustrated their child more. FridaBaby has recently released a product that mimics the idea of cutting the tip, but with a more gradual process.
4. Offer a Lovey or Stuffed Animal
Many children, my own included, hold on to their pacifiers while they sleep. If this is the case with your child, offering a lovey or stuffed animal at naptime and bedtime may be a good alternative to the binky.
“Cold turkey is what worked for us. But we also encouraged a lovey at that point, and that seemed to help too,” says Kiley Goldstein, who stopped using the pacifier for her son around 13 months.
5. Use Books
If your child is older, around 2 or 3, a great idea is to use books to help explain why they can no longer have a pacifier.
“We read books leading up to it about not having a pacifier,” says Dani Lessman, whose daughter stopped using her binky at 2.5-years-old. “One night, she was ready, and we stuck with it and never looked back.” Some great books for this are Pacifiers Are Not Forever by Elizabeth Verdick and Bye-Bye Binky by Maria van Lieshout.
6. Get Creative
Older children may also be receptive to more creative methods for getting rid of the pacifier. Explain to them that pacifiers are for babies, and they are a big boy or girl now. One mom mentioned using the “Paci Fairy,” who came to take all the pacifiers away to give them to new babies. Others have said that Santa takes the pacifiers, replacing them with a brand new toy on Christmas day. Have your child help you box them up and put them in the mailbox to say goodbye. Or they can put them under their pillow with a surprise for them from the Paci Fairy. While your child may still have a rough transition at nighttime, it will be a good thing to go back to every time they get upset.
7. Go Cold Turkey
The vast majority of moms said to simply cut them out cold turkey. “Just take it away,” says Erin Monroe, whose two daughters got rid of the pacifier at two-years-old. “I expected it to be a bigger deal than it was, but they asked for it maybe two days and then moved on.”
Erin Minshew’s daughter cut the paci habit at 14 months. For the Minshews, it was easier to decide as a family that they were all ready to get rid of the pacifier together. “I feel like it helped that we were ready as a family to deal with it if it wasn’t pleasant,” she says. “Once they were gone, she was fine.”
Taking away a child’s source of comfort can be a stressful time. But remember that kids are more resilient than we give them credit for. Every child must eventually get rid of the pacifier. It’s better to do it sooner rather than later!
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