The time has come. You’ve been dreading it, but you know you can’t put it off any longer. A part of you wishes “binky” could stay forever (the same part of you that wishes you could freeze time so that your little one would never stop clinging to your knees). The sensible you, however, prevails and gets ready for what could turn into a battle of the wills … pacifier weaning.
One of the longest honor rolls in the universe is the list of parents who swore they’d never give their child a pacifier, but then relented within days of bringing baby home from the hospital.
Any feeling of shame is quickly replaced, however, by a sense of sheer gratitude for a few hours of peace and quiet; some nights of moderate sleep. God bless you little binky … paci … dummy … nuk … chew-chew. (One writer actually lists 172 known pet names for the pacifier.)
Savior of our sanity or not, eventually the little friend has to go, so we’re going to get into the how-to of pacifier weaning. But first let’s just take a minute to go over some of …
The Pros and Cons of Pacifiers
(YES, there are some!)
- They can teach your infant to self-soothe. This is, after all, the main reason parents turn to pacifiers. Otherwise YOU end up playing the role of “binky” … exhausted, but pacing the floor with the baby in your arms.
- There is some evidence that they may actually help reduce the incidence of SIDS up until the age of 6 months (Source: The American Academy of Pediatrics)
- They can be invaluable when traveling. On airplanes, for example. Not only do they provide comfort for your child in an unfamiliar environment, but the action of sucking and swallowing saliva helps to reduce pressure in the ears at take-off and landing.
- They may affect a nursing infant’s ability to suck correctly on the breast. For this reason, you should not introduce a pacifier until breastfeeding is well established.
- Prolonged use can cause dental problems. Although most experts agree that this is unlikely if the pacifier is discontinued by the child’s 2nd birthday. The American Dental Association also points out that a pacifier is an easier habit to break than thumb-sucking.
- They may have some impact on language development skills, if use is continued when the child is ready for speech.
- Some recent studies have shown they present an elevated risk of ear infections. For this reason, always keep pacifiers clean and regularly sterilized.
So, yes there are some concerns to be aware of, but experts generally agree that pacifiers are harmless for infants under the age of 2. And, in spite of the critics, they do offer some real benefits for both parent and child.
Nevertheless, eventually it comes time for “Bye Bye Binky”. Here are our top 10 tips for drama-free pacifier weaning:
1. Don’t Let It Go TOO Long
Your child’s psychological attachment to a pacifier is likely to grow more pronounced when use is prolonged into the toddling years. Their 2nd birthday is probably the latest you’d want to wait to start pacifier weaning.
2. Cold Turkey Does Work for Some
If you’re prepared to put up with some upset and tears, then just make a clean break and remove all the pacifiers at once. Everyone knows that it’s less painful to rip a bandaid off quickly, right? This is the same philosophy. Note: this method WON’T work if you relent at all. If your child discovers they can get binky back by screaming, look out!
3. Only for Bed
Lots of parents remove the pacifier in a couple of stages. During the daytime, you can keep your child active and distracted so they don’t miss their pacifier as much. Then just give it to them to go to sleep at night and for naps. With this strategy, the pacifier stays in the crib. Encourage your little one to lay it down there themselves when you’re getting them up. Congratulate them as they do.
4. Make it Unappealing
Some parents soak their child’s pacifiers in a harmless but bitter solution to discourage them from wanting to put it in their mouth any more. Lemon juice or vinegar are the most common substances used.
5. Nip the Tip
Another popular method is to cut the tip of the pacifier. This changes it’s sucking power, so the child wearies of trying to keep it in their mouth. HOWEVER, a warning needs to be sounded about this – it’s possible for this to result in a choking hazard. Think about it, if your child has teeth they may chew pieces off the pre-cut end.
6. Prepare Your Child in Advance
Set a date to say goodbye to binky, and for a few days leading up to it talk to your little one about what’s going to happen and how it’s all a part of growing bigger. Make them feel it’s a positive milestone.
There are some great children’s books you can get to help with this. Our favorite is “Bye-Bye Binky: Big Kid Power” by Maria van Lieshout (Chronicle Books, 2016).
But there are a few other similar titles. Get one of them and read it with your child each night as you prepare for D-Day.
7. Enlist Elmo’s Help
Here’s a great Sesame Street video freely available right on YouTube. Along with the book idea above, watch it together a few times …
8. Toy Store “Trade In”
Do you know a toy that your child would really love to have? Tell them you’ll take them to get it, but they will have to “trade in” their pacifiers for it. Have them put all their pacifiers in a box, and head to the store. Get the new toy they want and head for the checkout. Most toy store staff will quickly figure out what you’re doing, and will be only too willing to help.
9. The Binky Fairy Box
This is a fun idea. Tell your child about “The Binky Fairy” who comes on a special day to collect children’s pacifiers and leave a gift in their place. Make a decorated box for your child to put their pacifiers in, and then leave them out on the back doorstep at night. In the morning your child will be anxious to run out and see if the Binky Fairy has been! (Don’t forget to replace the box with a special gift.)
Check out these great Binky Fairy printables on Pinterest!
10. Get everyone on board
Whatever method you choose for pacifier weaning, it’s essential to get the whole family on board. It’s no good getting your toddler to give up their pacifier at home, only for them to be given one for their nap at grandma’s house. And it’s not fair to get mad at grandma if she didn’t know! So, just make sure you communicate the plan with everyone.
Those are our 10 tips. We hope they’ve encouraged you that saying bye bye to binky doesn’t have to be too painful.
Have Another Tip to Share About Pacifier Weaning?
We’d love to hear it! Leave a comment below.
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