Breaking the Pacifier Habit

Pacifiers can be a soothing comfort for fussy babies as well as save your sanity. There are several benefits to offering baby a pacifier and the American Academy of Pediatrics even recommends it at nap time and bed time to reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS. However, babies can easily become attached to their paci, which makes it difficult when the time comes for them to give it up. Here are some helpful tips on breaking the pacifier habit from experts as well as parents!

baby with pacifier

When to Start Breaking the Habit

Some parents are lucky to have babies who don’t take a pacifier and never have to endure the struggle of taking it away. This is especially true for babies that are breastfed. The SIDS risk decreases after 6 months of age and there is less need of a pacifier. In fact, prolonged use of a pacifier can lead to a higher risk of ear infections. The sooner you start weaning your baby the easier it will become. Once they are toddlers they are far more resistant to having their beloved binky taken away.

Some parents will use a pacifier as a teething remedy by putting it in the freezer. Teething typically starts at around 6 months, which can make it a difficult time to start weaning from the pacifier. Limit baby’s pacifier use to just nap time and bed time to begin weaning and try other methods for teething relief. Prolonged use of pacifiers can also cause problems later on with baby’s permanent teeth so you should strive to kick  the habit for good before the age of 2.

Tips for Weaning from the Pacifier

These are some methods experts suggest on weaning from the pacifier that have proven to be quite effective.

sleeping with pacifierTake it away early – when you decide it’s time to give the pacifier the boot, some experts suggest simply taking it away altogether. Baby may object at first, but the sooner you start the easier it is on both of you and younger babies won’t remember having had a need for it. If your child is older, a more positive approach will help rather than simply saying they can no longer have it – something along the lines of ‘giving their pacifiers away to another baby who needs them’.

Consistency is key – Choose the right time to take the pacifier away when you can remain consistent with it. Sudden changes like moving or a new sibling arriving can be stressful to a young toddler, in which case the pacifier is a soothing method to help them adjust. You don’t want to go back and forth, so choose a time that’s right when you can take away the pacifier and not give in to letting them have it. Once you’ve started weaning stick to it and be sure everyone who cares for your baby does too. If your child goes to daycare or a sitter do not pack the pacifier in the bag. It is best to get rid of all pacifiers once weaning is well established or put them away out of sight if you plan on using them again for another baby.

Read a book – Reading books is great for children to learn and relate to and it’s never too early to begin reading to them. There are books for nearly every topic you can imagine and that goes for children’s books as well. There are several options among books about ditching the pacifier. A good one I’d recommend is “Bye-Bye, Binky” by Brigitte Weninger. You can find others by going to your local library or search Amazon for pacifier weaning books.

What Worked for Other Parents

I recently asked parents on a forum how they chose to take the pacifier away. Here are some of the top popular methods they claim worked well for their babies:

The Binky Fairy – you may be familiar with this one, but this goes along with the ‘give it away’ approach that is a gentle way of going cold-turkey. I’ve heard different variations of this from tying the pacifiers to a bunch of helium-filled balloons and sending them off to the binky fairy or putting all the pacifiers in a bag and leaving them for the fairy to come and bring a new toy in exchange. In many cases the parents talked to their child about it ahead of time (like weeks in advance) to prepare them for the day and encouraged their kids to willingly give up their pacifiers.

Put something on it to deter sucking – some parents recommend dipping the pacifier in something that would definitely deter their child from sucking on it such as lemon juice or another unpleasant flavor. Just be sure whatever you use is safe for your child to ingest. I’ve heard many say they have also tried this tactic with thumb-sucking as well.

Lose it – whether intentional or accidental, simply ‘losing’ baby’s pacifier has been found to be an effective way for children to drop the habit. If it’s lost then it’s lost. If you decide to do this intentionally, be sure you ‘lose’ all of the pacifiers around the house. If you accidentally lose it, use it to your advantage and don’t turn back. This means don’t go out and buy a new one. Most children have been able to adapt well without it once it was gone for good.

If all else fails, simply let nature take its course. Most children will give up the pacifier on their own time and taking it away early when they aren’t ready may lead to another self-soothing behavior that you’ll eventually have to break such as thumb-sucking. It may be necessary to take it away if they are having problems such as frequent ear infections or concerns with speech and language development. As always, seek the advice from your child’s pediatrician if you have concerns and for further suggestions on breaking the pacifier habit.

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