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First off, let me tell you that I am a big fan of pacifiers. They were seriously life savers when my oldest son (now 7) was born. I have had one child who was a pacifier addict (he's now 7), one that was a thumb sucker (she's now 4), and one that didn't really suck on anything except his stuffed animal (he's now 2).
One thing that people email me about quite often is about pacifiers. They want to know when they should get rid of them, how to get rid of them, etc.
Today I'm going to share some of my ideas and some of the ideas that folks shared in my Toddler Approved Positive Parenting private Facebook group regarding how to wean kids from pacifiers.
My first comment is usually, why? My second comment is usually, what are you going to replace it with?
Typically the reasons for weaning a child from a pacifier might include night wakings (child wakes up a lot because the pacifier falls out), parents feel he is too old for a pacifier, parents are worried about the child's teeth, the child is having ear issues, or the pacifier might cause challenges with nursing (if the child is still young).
Before you wean your child off of their pacifier think through the reasons your child is using the pacifier and try and consider a replacement behavior you can teach your child instead.
Many children love to suck on things and a pacifier fills that need. When removing the pacifier you will need to consider other ways to help your child fill that need. You may find that the child starts sucking his thumb instead or sucking on pjs or blankets or even their hair. My pediatrician has always said that he'd prefer kids to use a pacifier because you can at least remove it, versus a thumb or hair.
If your child is using the pacifier for self soothing and it is a comfort object, consider other comfort objects you could introduce to the child prior to weaning the child off the pacifier. Possibly a special blanket, stuffed animal, etc.?
When is a good time to wean kids off a pacifier?
There is no hard and fast rule. Each child will be different. Some doctors recommend waiting till after a child is 6 months since the incidence of SIDS is lower after that time (and some doctors think using a pacifier reduces the risks of SIDS).
We weaned our son off of his pacifier when he was 2 years old. Some wait until their child is older and can communicate better and understand a bit better.
I would recommend avoiding weaning a child off of his pacifier during a big transition period- for example a new baby's arrival, a move, family changes, sickness, or other stressful periods.
What are some ways to wean a child off a pacifier?
Here are a few ideas from several of our community members plus what worked at our house. Each child will be different. Some need to take it slow and have it be a gradual transition while others are fine with it being a quick weaning experience.
1. Have the pacifier fairy come!
At my house we put all the pacifiers in a big envelope and put them in the mailbox. Then we went back inside for an hour or so. While we were inside my husband snuck outside and replaced the big envelope with a special gift. When we went out outside to the mailbox we discovered that the pacifier fairy had come and taken all of our pacifiers to new babies and we got a special new toy to sleep with and a treat!
2. Cut the pacifier tip off.
Many mothers recommend you gradually cut the tips off of the pacifiers. Cut a little bit more off each week or each day. Over time the child realizes that they don't work well any more and will stop using them.
3. Have the child only use it at a specific time of day (bedtime/naptime).
Many parents like a more gradual strategy by using the pacifier only at specific times and slowly whittling it down to just bedtime and then eventually removing them.
4. Just throw them all away.
Some kids are fine with just a warning that on a specific date all of the pacifiers are going to go away. On that day you can have the child help you throw them all away. I would definitely make sure you've come up with a replacement strategy before you do this.
5. Wrap it up and give it away to a new baby friend.
Some kids might love getting to share their special pacifier with a new baby and be a helper. Obviously tell that parent to just throw the pacifier away after you leave 🙂 This strategy works best with older kids who can understand that giving away their pacifier would be helpful for a new baby.
6. Attach a balloon to it and send the pacifier away.
I thought this was a cute idea though don't love sending balloons up into the air to litter the oceans... if you have additional ways to make this work, pass them along.
7. Have the child give it to Santa at Christmas in exchange for all of her presents on Christmas morning.
Instead of leaving out milk and cookies, leave out all of the pacifiers. Tell your child that Santa wants to take the pacifiers to all the little boys and girls who are sad or sick at Christmas.
8. Stop buying them!
Let your child know that you aren't buying any anymore. At our house they got lost so often so we'd run out pretty quick! 🙂
9. Trade them in at the toy store.
Put them in a big ziploc bag and take them with you to the toy store. Tell the store staff that you are going to trade the pacifiers in for toys (wink, wink). Pick a toy and stealthly pay for it and ask the store workers to throw the pacifiers in the trash.
10. Get a replacement lovie or stuffed animal for them and have them trade it with you for the pacifiers.
One reader mentioned that she had a pacifier stuffed inside a Build a Bear. She recommend that you NOT do that 🙂 At least it didn't work for her. Her child now hates that bear! LOL.
11. The Elizabeth Pantley method
This is one strategy to break the pacifier/sleep association. Elizabeth shares her strategy in the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution.
I'd love to hear what has worked for you as well? Any tips you can share?
One thing people don't mention is that often by weaning kids off of their pacifier they have a hard time going to sleep, especially at nap time! If I had it to over again I would wait LONGER to take away my child's pacifier. He was a very oral kid at age 2 and really needed that pacifier. He would've had a much more successful transition and would have slept better if we had waited longer. My son stopped taking naps completely once we sent his pacifier to the pacifier fairy, although the transition was super easy and he never really asked about it again. That doesn't happen to all kids, but it did with my oldest.
Whether you wean your child cold turkey or gradually, please remember that the pacifier has served a need and has been a very important item in your child's life (in most cases). Be emotionally supportive and acknowledge how hard it is and give lots of hugs and extra love to your child during this transition.
Also, if your child loves pacifiers, what are your favorites? We loved the Nuk pacifiers and the Avent pacifiers (pictured above) that we got at the hospital.
Come join our Toddler Approved Positive Parenting private Facebook group to ask questions and discuss other parenting topics.
Jackie at Happy Hooligans has also shared some pacifier weaning tips that are helpful if you are looking for additional ideas.