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 Baby feels about their 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 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 Baby advanced notice so that they isn&;t so surprised by the loss of their comfort object.

  • How to do this: Remind Baby of all the things they can do now that they isn&;t a baby anymore. Try to drive home the fact that using pacifiers is something that younger children do, and that as Baby matures, they 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 Baby have the pacifier but limit it to specific times and situations.

  • How to do this: Maybe the pacifier is only allowed when Baby needs soothing, or only at naptime or bedtime. You could even set a rule that Baby can only have it when they are sitting in their 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 Baby to let the pacifier go start by telling them that, in one week, their pacifier will go away, and in place of the pacifier, Baby gets to pick out a special big-kid toy.

  • How to do this: Try to make it exciting. Tell Baby and have a countdown to the big day. Each day, remind Baby how many days are left, and how many days until they can pick out the special toy.

Make the jump

If Baby is game, go around the house together and gather up all the leftover pacifiers. Once they’re collected, tell Baby that the pacifiers are going to a new baby. It’s time to send them off and Baby will get to pick out their 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 Baby goes to pick out their 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 Baby crying and asking for a pacifier. Just remember that even if Baby is upset, that doesn’t mean that they 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 their favorite comfort object.

  • How to do this: Understand that if Baby cries or is upset, they are just adjusting to this new stage. Give them a little extra love and remind them why the pacifier is gone and how great it is that their 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 Baby and their 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 Baby adjusts to this new pacifier-free lifestyle. If things are a little rocky at first, you can be sure that Baby will only need a few days to get used to things, and once these days have passed, they 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 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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