Remember the days when you proudly gave your baby a pacifier? You knew it would help soothe him/her and satisfy the sucking need. It was comfortable, carefree, and convenient. At the time you weren’t worried about the day you’d have to take the pacifier away, you were just glad you had the pacifier to soothe your crying baby.
But now you’ve reached the day where you and your baby have to say goodbye to the pacifier. Perhaps you have already tried and were unsuccessful because your child is hooked. Or maybe you are ahead of the game and preparing for the day you will have to take the beloved item away. Either way, today we have seven weaning tips we think can help you out.
1. Timing is Everything
It is crucial to pick the right time to wean off the pacifier to set your child up for success. If there are any new changes in your baby’s life, now is not the right time. For example, if you have just started taking your baby to daycare, the pacifier will be helpful to make it a smooth transition. Taking away the pacifier (the one thing that has always been soothing, familiar, and comfortable) will only make the time at daycare more difficult. Another example of a new change in your baby’s life would be if you have just moved into a new home, or even moved the child into a new room in the same house. Their surroundings are suddenly different, and the familiar soothing from the pacifier is probably needed. Choose a time when everyday life is the same, and the only new change would be removing the pacifier.
Some suggest starting the weaning process after six months old when the need to suck is less strong. Others believe it is perfectly okay to use up to a year old. However, all agree to wean off of the pacifier by age two. Pacifier use after two years of age can begin to create dental issues, such as slanted teeth. Problems with the alignment of the teeth and proper growth of the mouth can also occur. Using a pacifier beyond the age of four can create long-term dental issues as the adult teeth begin to form.
If your child is almost two and you are worried about dental issues, have no fear because any alignment problem with the teeth will usually self-correct within six months of not using a pacifier.
2. Get Everyone on the Same Page
It is essential that all the adults in your child’s life are on the same page with you to avoid confusing your little one. This may be tricky if some disagree with when you choose to wean; in that case, it may be necessary to sit down and explain your vision. Hopefully, everyone will respect your decision.
3. Find Alternative Ways to Soothe
Don’t forget the main reason you gave a pacifier to your baby, in the beginning, was probably to soothe. Since you will be taking away something that is so comforting to your child, it is a good idea to find an alternative soothing technique. This doesn’t necessarily mean replacing the pacifier with another item, but it could mean that. Replacements could be a blanket, a stuffed animal, something with a satin edge, or something that smells like you. Movements such as rocking or swinging your baby or massages could also be soothing.
4. Slowly Wean
No one knows your child as you do, so if you think you need to remove the pacifier slowly to get the best results, then do it slowly. You could start by offering the pacifier only before naps or bed. Be consistent and do not give in throughout the day. After several weeks, remove the nap time pacifier and only offer it before bed. If your child fusses before the nap, find a different way to soothe. It will be hard to stick to it, but consistency is essential to reach your goal. Once your child is able to nap without a pacifier, begin weaning from bedtime. Start by offering the pacifier as you lay your child to sleep but then take it away once he/she has fallen asleep or spits it out. After this has been conquered, you can finally take it away before bed and stop offering it altogether.
Another way to wean slowly would be to make a rule that the pacifier does not leave the house. After the child gets used to not having the pacifier in public, you would then make the rule that the pacifier does not leave the crib, meaning it would only be used for sleep. Finally, you would remove the pacifier altogether.
5. Just Do It
If the above approach sounds too lengthy and you think your child may be hooked on the pacifier, you may just need to go cold turkey. Prolonging its removal may make it harder for your child to say goodbye. Again, consistency is crucial. Try distracting your child to avoid giving him/her time to think about their desired pacifier.
6. Reason with Your Child
If your child is old enough, you could explain that he/she is a big kid now. Explain that they don’t need a pacifier anymore and celebrate! You could even incorporate the Three-Day Plan, created by author Mark L. Brenner. In his book Pacifiers, Blankets, Bottles & Thumbs: What Every Parent Should Know About Stopping and Starting, Brenner says to begin by talking about how your child is getting older. Tell him/her that in three days it will be time for her to say goodbye to her pacifiers. Encourage your child by saying that you know he/she can do it and that you’ll work on it together. The author suggests keeping the conversation to 30 seconds and being confident. It should not sound like you are asking your child for permission.
On the second day, you repeat the 30-second conversation, continuing to sound confident, and making sure to state that the change will be happening tomorrow. Finally, on Day 3, you would remind your child it is time to give up the pacifiers. You can make a fun game out of collecting all of the pacifiers in the house. Be strong and stick to your plan, even if a tantrum arises. This plan can be helpful because children are like adults in their desire to prepare themselves physically, psychologically, and emotionally for change.
7. Be Strong
Whether you choose to wean slowly, completely remove it, or implement the three-day plan; make sure to expect and plan for some rough moments. Your child is used to relying on the pacifier, and it will take time for him/her to learn to self-soothe. Do not give in, as hard as it may be. If you respond to a tantrum by giving the pacifier, it only teaches the child to repeat the unwanted behavior in the future.
Give yourself time to master this weaning process and encourage yourself for any success you do have. You have a tough job, and the road ahead is only going to get rougher. Stick to the plan and know that in the end, you are helping your child.
For more information, check out our Top 10 Baby Pacifiers of 2018.