Whatever you choose to call it – paci, binky, plug – the pacifier is wonderful at helping babies learn to self soothe. But as helpful as it is in thwarting tantrums and buffering bedtimes, there comes a point when it has to go.
Many doctors, including my sons’ pediatrician and dentist, recommend weaning toddlers off the pacifier around age two, if not before, to avoid speech and dental problems. But any parent who has ever tried knows this is easier said than done.
Though we haven’t perfected the art, my husband and I have found a successful system for breaking binky without engaging in the weaning wars. By following these steps, you can help your little one ditch the habit peacefully as well.
Step 1: Reduce your child’s pacifier use each day. Instead of offering her the pacifier every time she appears tired or cranky, make it a point to offer it only a certain number of times per day. Fair warning: You may be tempted to cave when your child’s frustration kicks in, but resist the urge. This will help her learn to handle exhaustion and difficult emotions on her own, eventually making the need for a pacifier obsolete.
Step 2: Offer your child the pacifier at nap and bedtime only. Once your child is used to getting the pacifier only occasionally, limit his use of it to nap and bedtime only. Just like in step one, your child may exhibit increased frustration at losing his pacifier, but this phase should pass relatively quickly when he realizes it’s not gone forever — not yet, at least.
Step 3: Offer your child the pacifier at night only. It’s important not to take the pacifier away completely until your child has learned she can sleep just fine without it. Start small with nap time, making it a point to be available to reassure and comfort her if she has difficulty falling asleep at first. Once she’s able to self soothe and fall asleep without it, it’s time to tackle the last step.
Step 4: Take the pacifier away at night, too. This is perhaps scarier for parents than it is for children. Be careful not to make a big deal of taking away your child’s pacifier at bedtime. Simply put him to bed just as you would put him down for a nap, and just like at nap time, be present to reassure and comfort him if necessary. Eventually, he won’t need your reassurance to get to sleep, and that pacifier attachment will be a thing of the past.
Remember, children are different, so some steps may take longer than others. You may even find you have to go back and repeat a step before attempting to go forward again. Ultimately, though, all children will learn they don’t need a pacifier to cope, and you will learn that breaking baby habits doesn’t have to be painful.[/nextpage]