When and how to successfully end the pacifier habit

Any mother would agree with me that a pacifier is among the best ways to soothe a fussy baby. As time goes by, though, you start to think that introducing a pacifier in the first place was not such a great idea.

I mean, you literally see that this rubbery plastic thing gets more attention than you and your (not-so) little one seems to be using it ALL THE TIME. 

How and when to successfully break the pacifier habit is perhaps one of the most often asked questions on Google (and in mommy forums and Facebook groups). It is inevitable that, at some point, your child has to be broken from the pacifier. Whether you are using a gentle weaning process, the cold turkey method, or anything in between, here are some things to consider: 

When is the best time to kick the paci habit?

In order to survive the paci weaning stage with minimal damage for everybody involved, you have to choose your timing well. Age-wise, some experts recommend getting rid of the pacifier before your child reaches their 1st-year milestone. Most dentists recommend limiting binky time after the 2nd year and eventually getting rid of it by age 4 (to avoid dental problems). So, it is really up to you to decide what’s best for your child.

Each child develops at a different pace emotionally and psychologically speaking, though. This means you shouldn’t refer to a certain age as the baba breakup point only because your neighbor’s baby said bye-bye binky when he turned 2, for example.

Read the signs and make sure your child is physically, psychologically, and emotionally prepared for this change. Speaking of changes, you should follow the weaning-potty training-binky weaning sequence if you want your child to say goodbye to one of her favorite comfort objects with as little stress for everyone as possible.

How to wean your baby from the pacifier?

There are different approaches to kicking the baby pacifier habit. Depending on what feels best for you and your baby, you can try one of the following tried-and-true methods, techniques, and tactics:

  1. The Cold Turkey Method

Well, its name says enough. Taking away your pacifier cold turkey means deciding when you no longer want your little one to be dependent on their pacifier and simply informing them about your decision. Note that this method will almost inevitably lead to long sleepless nights during which you will want to welcome your baby’s paci back at least a thousand times. But you should be strong and stand your ground. Otherwise, the next time you try, it will be even harder than the first time.

  1. The Cut-Down Technique

The cut-down technique calls for a more gradual approach and is a gentler weaning process. It is a good technique if you are OK with allowing more time for your child to break the paci habit. The cut-down technique relies on the scientific fact that once the pacifier gets small enough, your little one won’t be able to latch on and will eventually lose interest in it. In other words, it is a process in which the binky gradually loses its soothing powers so the child no longer needs it.

Basically, you have two options: you either have to buy a set of special pacifiers that are designed to help your baby break the binky habit or do it yourself. If you choose to DIY, here’s what to do: after you’ve limited your child’s binky to only one single piece, cut a small piece off its tip every time he wants it. In a few days, there will be so little rubber on it that your child won’t be able to “latch on”, eventually detaching from it mentally, emotionally, and physically. 

  1. The Pacifier Fairy Approach

If you are into these things, you can tell your child all about the Pacifier Fairy. Each pacifier that is sent her way results in a gift that she will give the child in exchange for the paci. Once the last pacifier is gone, the child will (hopefully) understand that it is gone for good. Alternatively, you can use Santa Claus – telling the child that Santa collects all pacifiers to give them to younger babies and awards children who have given away their pacifiers with “big child” gifts. 

  1. The Bad-tasting Binky Tactic

This tactic is pretty much relying on the same technique that’s used to prevent nail-biters from, well, nail-biting. What you have to do is find something your kid really hates the taste of and just make the pacifier taste like it. If you are not sure how to make a pacifier taste bad, here are a few ideas: lemon/lime juice, vinegar, salt, broccoli, Brussel sprout, spinach, etc. It does sound like a mean method at first but it certainly has its advantages – after all, it makes the decision come from the child. 

  1. The Books Reading Method

If your child is old enough to understand the books you read here, make use of some of the many children’s books on putting an end to the pacifier habit. Here’s a list of the best of them:

Some final words

No matter what method you will choose to break the binky habit, there are a few guidelines you should follow. Your first step should be to remove all pacifiers but one and then move on with the weaning method you have chosen. It’s a good idea to think about pacifier restrictions both in terms of time and place. For example, you can limit its use only for bedtime and/or the crib.

Important! Weaning your child off her pacifier is a stressful transition and should be done only if your child is not currently sick or experiencing any other significant changes in her life. These include potty training, welcoming a new sibling to the family, moving to a toddler bed, starting daycare/preschool, etc.

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