Paci, binky, nubby, soothie, dummie … just a couple of monikers for the beloved pacifier. Think back to the first day you named your child’s pacifier. Chances are you were working hard to train your newborn to keep the pacifier in his mouth (spit, replace, spit, replace… recall?), but now your child is past his first birthday and you are feeling pressure to wean him off of good ole’ “Binky”. How do you tackle this challenge now that your child is so attached?
FIRST: Ask yourself, “Is it really the best time?”
Pediatricians usually recommend that babies stop pacifier use between 12 to 15 months of age to help reduce the child’s risk of developing orthodontic problems or even sooner if your child is prone to middle ear infections. If your pediatrician or pediatric dentist has not expressed any specific concerns, release yourself (and your sweet baby) from the stress of weaning off of the paci right at the textbook time. Weaning off the paci by around a year to year and a half is one of the general recommendations that health professionals offer to parents right along with making sure your kids brush twice a day, floss, eat their veggies and don’t watch TV before the age of 2 years. An Intelligent Nest will take their advice with a grain of salt. If complying is relatively uncomplicated, then jump in with both feet. If your child is not quite ready, grant extra time.
Once you have decided that it is indeed time to ditch the paci, avoid weaning during times of transition, stress or excitement (holidays, traveling, teething, vaccines, etc…). Save weaning for an easy, regular week and expect a bit more resistance from your tot that week. Babies reach for the paci out of routine or when their cortisol levels spike due to stress. Your child will need to build new habits to replace her old method of self-soothing and that takes time, flexibility and patience on both your parts.
SECOND: Select a Plan of Action
The possibilities are endless, but ultimately, select a method that is tailored to your child’s temperament and your parenting style.
1) Disappearing Act- The first rule of magic is learning the art of distraction. If you want to successfully have your child’s paci “disappear” one day, you will need to be prepared to distract him. Start by acknowledging your child’s distress when they ask for the paci. Tell them it is lost and then smoothly move into an exciting statement. “Oh, you look upset about your paci. It is so disappointing that we can’t find it. Let’s walk over here to look. Do you want to go to the park?”
2) Nip the Tip- Snip a hole in the tip of the paci. When your child tries to suck on it, she will not get the same rewarding sensation and will likely declare that her paci is broken. Offer empathy and don’t try to squelch a tantrum. Let the child mourn his broken friend, but help him move on by offering distractions at the right time.
3) Build a Bear- If you live near a Build-a-Bear Factory, tell your child that today is a special day. He gets to take his paci on a special field trip to a big kid store where he can build his own teddy. When it is time to stuff your child’s new bear, ask your child to place the paci in the bear (make sure he does this himself) before they sew it up. Now your child can sleep, play and bring paci wherever he’d like to, but paci will be in his bear instead of his mouth. He can even feel paci through the bear’s fur, just to make sure.
4) Replacement Therapy- When you want to kick a bad habit you often need to replace it with a less troublesome one. Many parents find that a visit from the Paci Fairy who leaves a big kid toy in place of the pacifier is all their child needs to say good-bye to Binky. Whichever route you go (trip to the toy store, fairy visit, etc…), the idea is to provide a “big kid” item in place of the “baby item” (the pacifier) to help symbolize your child’s transition from baby to child. Your child isn’t just getting a new toy, he is getting an invitation to become a big kid.
5) “Easy there big fella”- When in doubt, ease into it. Saying “good-bye” is never easy so give your child time. Start by eliminating pacifiers during certain times of the day. Gradually, eliminate all use expect for bedtime. You may want to use one of the four other suggestions for this final step or just simply do not offer the paci one night. There will be tears so prepare to offer sympathy, but do not give in to the child’s demands once you decide that it is time to say good-bye. If you show confidence about their ability to do without, they will believe in themselves and will eventually resolve to let go and move on to bigger and better things.
THIRD: Give it a Week
Toss the books and articles that declare that your child will give up the pacifier in a certain number of days if you take certain steps. An Intelligent Nest knows that every child and parent is unique and so the way you wean off the pacifier is going to be different and take a different amount of time than the family in your playgroup. Expect to have a difficult week, sleepless nights, crying and extra complaints, but then again your child might surprise you. For some children, giving up the paci can be a non-event and for others it can be the precipice to a downward spiral of anger and anxiety. Keep in mind that situations that don’t involve a pacifier may become more challenging during the weaning week as your child will be struggling for power and control and processing his loss. Give them space, love and a shoulder to cry on, but do not give in. Eventually, your child will learn a new way to self-soothe and one day he’ll look at a pacifier and think, “What is that silly looking thing?”.