You've dreaded this day for months and now it is finally here. Your little one is not so little anymore and you feel it's time to ditch the small silicone soother (a.k.a the pacifier). Well don't fret. With two binky-loving children of my own, I've learned a thing or two about how, when and why it is necessary to break the habit.
First, let's discuss why and when to lose the pacifier. The name "pacifier" is a good indicator of its function: they pacify. They soothe the fussy baby and aid in lulling the tired little tyrant to sleep. Little wonder why the pacifiers can be both a parent's and baby's best friend. In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics actually encourages pacifier use at nap time and bedtime for the first 12 months to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But after the one-year mark, many pediatricians agree that the pacifier is no longer a necessity and could cause teeth or mouth problems. Dr. William Sears, author of more than 30 books on childcare, warns, "extended pacifier use can, more likely than not, cause dental problems. The extra pressure exerted during sucking can cause dental malalignment (known as an open bite)."
Now that we know why and when we should wean, let's get into the fun stuff: How? How in the world are we going to get this little one to kick the paci habit? How can we as parents break the habit of reaching for the little plug of silence? Let me offer a few tips.
Commit and then stick with it
When I decided to wean my children from their soother, it wasn't a split-second choice out of frustration or because others were pressuring me into it. I committed to it during a time in my life when I knew both me and my little one were ready for the transition. I mentally prepared myself for some tears and tantrums and accepted the fact that it would be an adjustment for both of us. Yes, there would be some hiccups — but I would not be deterred from my goal of breaking the binky habit in the most gentle and natural way possible.
Show empathy for your child
. Remember, this has been your child's faithful companion since birth. Of course he is going to protest losing his source of comfort. Do not make it a power struggle. Instead, empathize and truly feel for their loss. Just because they are little, doesn't mean their feelings aren't just as valid as yours. During the weaning process, give your children extra cuddles along with lots of words of comfort and love. Show them you're not a meanie, you're just helping your child become a "big boy or girl" and will be by his or her side during this tough transition.
Consider limiting pacifier use to nap time and bedtime
Going cold turkey can be hard on your little guy — especially if he isn't old enough to understand why you suddenly won't give him his favorite little comforter. You may discover what I did: my son and daughter actually wanted and looked forward to naps and bedtime because they knew it was binky time.
Avoid weaning when your child is sick or traveling
If your child is fighting off an illness or you know a vacation is on the horizon, don't add more discomfort by trying to take away his source of comfort. Wait until you are in the confines of your home to help ease the transition of life without the pacifier. Trust me, it will prove to be a blessing for both of you.
Distraction, distraction, distraction
Make a master plan of distractions for your child. You know the waterworks are going to flow, so be ready with ways to call her attention away from the beloved binky. I found that popsicles, suckers, games, books, new toys (from the dollar store), walks around the neighborhood and trips to the park were all great ways to derail a massive meltdown.
Try introducing an alternate source of comfort
. My daughter loves being cuddled. I used this to my advantage when weaning her from her pacifier. I let her wrap her arms around my neck and let her fingers get all tangled in my hair when she was really having a hard time. It was a beautiful bonding experience. Other sources of comfort may include offering a favorite blanket, toy or book when tantrums ensue.
Trade it in or give it to the binky fairy
Many parents have had success trading in the pacifier for a new toy that will take its place. Others swear by the binky fairy — who magically comes to take away all binky's from big boys and girls to help out other children who are in need. Either tactic is worth a shot.
Keep things in perspective
Again from Dr. Sears, "[If your daughter] resists to such an extent that she becomes a sadder child, take stock of the situation. She simply may not be ready to give the pacifier up, and that's fine for the short-term." It really is OK to revisit this process in a few weeks or months.
Parting with the pacifier can be a challenge, but remember many have made it through and lived to tell about it. When you feel it's time to wean your little one, remember to commit during a healthy and calm time in your life, empathize, and try to limit their use to naps and bedtime in the beginning. Also, distractions are a must and alternate sources of comfort are always a good idea to ease the transition. And, just to keep things in perspective, know that your child will, in fact, outgrow the need for his pacifier long before he enters high school.