Peaceful Ways to Help Give Up the Pacifier
The pacifier can be a useful tool to help parents soothe their newborns through the early months, but what happens when the pacifier sticks around past the baby phase?
Many parents feel desperate to break the habit but struggle with finding the best, least disruptive way of doing so. Taking away a pacifier can be especially challenging during the toddler years where everything gets a little more difficult. Here are some peaceful ways to help your child make the transition to giving up their pacifier once and for all.
Think about and observe patterns
When is your little one most likely to want their paci? At naptime? In the car? During drop-offs? By understanding your little one’s patterns, you can work in some thoughtful distractions to help them along. Start slowly by working on one use case at a time. It will be normal for your child to feel some separation anxiety during this time so offering something in their binky’s place can be helpful. Try taking your little one to the store and helping them pick out a Lovey Security Blanket as an alternate method for being soothed. This same replacement can be applied to the other times when they may yearn for their pacifier as well.
Talk to your child to help them understand
You’ll notice that your child can often understand a variety of commands such as “yes,” “no,” “all done,” and “more” by about one year of age. The reason they know and understand these commands is because they hear these terms often and consistently. The same is true when making the transition to permanently get rid of their binky. Explain that part of getting bigger means doing without some of the things they were used to as babies. Telling your little one to say, “goodbye” to their pacifiers when not in use is a good, simple way to show them that they are going away and help them further develop their language skills.
Don’t offer up the pacifier
While making the transition, see how often your child actually communicates for their paci. You may be surprised to find that you’re offering it more often out of habit. Part of the challenge will be interpreting your child’s unique needs and getting creative about trying other methods instead. If there is one thing about children, it’s that they love to imitate others. For some children trying a book like, “No More Pacifier Duck”, which tells the story of a little duck who is getting too big for his pacifier and decides he doesn’t need it anymore.
“Let your baby guide your decision. If she takes to it right away, fine. But if she resists, don’t force it. You can try again another time or just respect her preference and let it go.”
— BabyCenter, Pacifiers: Pros, cons, and smart ways to use them
Communication and consistency are key
Children are brilliant little masterminds, which means you’ll have to communicate this transition all child care providers. If everyone is on the same page and practicing minimizing binky use, it will increase your chances of saying “bye-bye” to the pacifier for good. There can be no “if mom says no, ask grandma” deals happening. Let everyone know how important this decision is and if you need reinforcement, cite dental hygiene, self-soothing, and potential ear troubles as reasoning. You can even take just a binky or two to each person caring for your child to set some limitations.
Weaning means weaning
Part of what helps keep the transition of letting go of the pacifier peaceful is to understand that weaning is just that, weaning. According to Merriam-Webster, “to wean” means “to detach from a source of dependence.” This doesn’t mean an “all-or-nothing” approach. Start slowly and know that some days will be easier than others. Making too much of an abrupt change could lend the behavioral impact to be higher and can unnecessarily cause distress to both you and your child. Tantrums all around? Let’s avoid those where we can. Also, hold confidence that you are not alone. Many parents before you and many parents after you will experience this stage with their children. Won’t it be fun when you can be on the giving end of the advice that worked for you?!
Create anticipation with a final ritual
You’ll know when your child is getting close to going without their binky. They will start communicating for it less, go
prolonged periods without it, and take interest in the distractions you’ve created. As part of the communication process, some parents have created rites of passage where their child knowingly and voluntarily gives up their pacifiers during an anticipated event, like the “Pacifier Fairy.” She comes at night for all remaining binkies in exchange for a desired toy. Some children go to the store and get a much-wanted game in exchange for their pile of pacifiers. Isn’t this bribery at its finest? Hey, sometimes it’s necessary, right? No matter what you decide is the final prize for saying a final goodbye to all pacifiers, make it count, make it a positive experience and make it fun.
Understandably, transitioning your child from using a dummy to going without one can be both frustrating and tough. Stick with it, but be flexible and patient. Be patient with yourself, patient with your little one, and patient with the process. The parenting road is long and it can be hard so relish in the good days and work through the tough days.
P.S. Your little one isn’t the only one who can be on the receiving end of a gift when the binky is gone for good. Don’t forget to treat yourself, too. You’ve worked hard so how about a day date, a fancy cup of coffee, or even an hour-long massage? There is no doubt that you have earned it!
I hope I’m leaving you with some peaceful ways to help you take care of your little one and yourself during this transition. Continued luck in your journey and know it is not for the faint of heart.