How & When to Give Up the Pacifier
If you’re feeling that pressure, take a moment…for a little reassurance.
First, remember that in traditional cultures, toddlers often suck at the breast until 4 years of age.
Second, some kids have a strong genetic drive—on one or both sides of the family—to fall in love with a soothing object (binky, thumb, teddy or security blanket), that’s why removing the paci often leads to more thumb sucking. (Pacis are better than thumbs because sucking on fingers can seriously distort the palate and teeth, leading to the need for uncomfortable—and expensive—braces later.)
Third, it may sound silly to say this, but your tyke’s pacifier may become one of his deepest, closest friends.
And fourth, nobody ever goes to college using a pacifier.
However, if you’re tired of picking up the binky your tot keeps tossing out of the crib, or if he’s getting ear infections (from the paci), or if you’re just ready to wean it, here’s how to do the job:
- Use patience-stretching and magic breathing every day to help him learn to calm his worries and delay his desires—without sucking.
- Encourage him to use other loveys like a blankie, teddy or one of your silky scarves. (“Honey, I’ll find your paci in a second. Hold teddy while Mommy is getting it for you.”)
- Gossip to his stuffed animals about how he went all morning without the paci.
- Tell fairy tales about a bunny who said goodbye to his paci but had a magic teddy that made him feel happy every time he hugged it.
- Limit pacifier use to certain situations like sleep or stressful times when your tot needs calming.
- Establish a couple of “paci-free” times during the day. Start with 30 minutes—after a nap is a good time. I recommend you use a timer so your child doesn’t keep bugging you to have it. (“Sweetie, I know you want your binky…right now!...but we have to wait for Mr. Dinger to ring and tell us you can have it. Remember, that’s the rule! Hey, do you want to play with your cars or read a book while we’re waiting for that crazy old Mr. Dinger to ring?”)
- Don’t say you’re giving the paci to another baby. That may create jealousy every time he sees a baby with another paci! (One parent told his 3-year-old that he was sending it to Santa’s workshop to make it into a new playground for little kids!)
- Discuss together when to give the binky away. You might choose a special day, like his birthday (I prefer the fourth).
- Make sure there’s something in it for him! Your tot will have an easier time separating from his old friend if he gets something in exchange (like a great big-boy toy that you shop for together!).
- Put fun stickers around the “bye-bye paci, hello (put in the name of the special gift)” day on a calendar. Give him a red pen to cross off each day as you count down to the day.