Weaning your toddler off the pacifier
You know that feeling of desperation that sweeps over you when you misplace your phone? That's probably kind of how your baby feels about her pacifier. Unfortunately, the use of pacifiers by children older than 2 years old can start to have negative effects, including dental problems and an increased difficulty in self-soothing.
Even keeping in mind how traumatizing it can be to give up a beloved object, you may have started to feel that it's time to come up with a game plan to help your baby begin a pacifier-free life. Many families are sucessful just going cold turkey (that is, getting rid of the pacifier without any preparation or warning). If that seems too hard, though, or like a strategy that won't mesh well with your toddler's temprament, here are some tips for other strategies for weaning away from pacifier use.
Drop some not-so-subtle hints
A little preparation can go a long way. The idea here is to frame the loss of a pacifier as a part of growing up, and to give your baby advanced notice so that she isn't so surprised by the loss of her comfort object.
- How to do this: Remind your baby of all the things she can do now that she isn't a baby anymore. Try to drive home the fact that using pacifiers is something that younger children do, and that as your baby matures, she will grow old enough to stop using a pacifier.
Start limiting pacifiers around the house
The key to successful negotiation is knowing what the other side wants. In this case, that's the pacifier. Let your baby have the pacifier but limit it to specific times and situations.
- How to do this: Maybe the pacifier is only allowed when your baby needs soothing, or only at naptime or bedtime. You could even set a rule that your baby can only have it when she is sitting in her bed; a lot of parents find this takes the fun out of the pacifier pretty quickly for a toddler.
Set a deadline for the pacifier's last day
If you've decided it's time for your baby to let the pacifier go start by telling her that, in one week, her pacifier will go away, and in place of the pacifier, your baby gets to pick out a special big-kid toy.
- How to do this: Try to make it exciting. Tell your baby and have a countdown to the big day. Each day, remind your baby how many days are left, and how many days until she can pick out the special toy.
Make the jump
If your baby is game, go around the house together and gather up all the leftover pacifiers. Once they're collected, tell your baby that the pacifiers are going to a new baby. It's time to send them off and your baby will get to pick out her new toy.
- How to do this: This depends on your toddler, but you can throw the pacifiers out at home, or throw them away at the toy store when your baby goes to pick out her new toy. Other parents have their toddler put their pacifiers in a paper bag, leave the bag outside of their door, and let the 'pacifier fairy' take away the pacifiers overnight. There are all kinds of ways you can do this, but try to make it fun and light-hearted.
Prepare for a little fallout
This varies by toddler, but be prepared for at least a few nights of your baby crying and asking for a pacifier. Just remember that even if your baby is upset, that doesn't mean that she won't get used to life without the pacifier. A few rough nights is worth breaking the habit when you know your toddler is ready for life without her favorite comfort object.
- How to do this: Understand that if your baby cries or is upset, she is just adjusting to this new stage. Give her a little extra love and remind her why the pacifier is gone and how great it is that her toy is here now, instead.
Weaning is worth it in the long run
A lot of parents dread the pacifier-weaning stage of toddlerhood. If your baby and her toddler are closer than PB&J, you might be dreading this stage, too. But if you follow the steps above, you might be pleasantly surprised by how quickly your baby adjusts to this new pacifier-free lifestyle. If things are a little rocky at first, you can be sure that your baby will only need a few days to get used to things, and once these days have passed, she will start to develop new and better ways to de-stress. All toddlers have to give up the pacifier eventually, but you can make the process a little more positive for your baby.
- Mayo Clinic Staff. "Pacifier do's and don'ts" MayoClinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, Sep 25 2014. Web.
- "How to Wean Your Baby from a Pacifier." DeltaDental. Delta Dental Plans Association, 2017. Web.
- Sumi Sexton, MD, et al. "Risks and Benefits of Pacifiers." Am Fam Physician. 79(8):681-685. Web. Apr 2009.
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