When your newborn was crying and screaming, the only source of comfort that doesn’t involve breastfeeding or the bottle may be a pacifier. Pop it in their mouth and your distressed child immediately calms as they suck away happily. The trouble is that this comfort, while perfectly appropriate for infants, can ruin an older child’s teeth.
How do you wean your toddler from their beloved binky or pacifier?
It can be difficult to make your way through the weaning process because sucking on a binky is your child’s source of self-soothing and comfort. Without it, your child may feel lost and struggle with developing a new method to regulate themself. Here is a quick
how to guide that can give you some ideas for successfully weaning your child off the pacifier:
When to Wean
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends breaking a child’s pacifier habit by the age of three. Both finger sucking and pacifiers can harm not only the teeth, but the jaw, dentists say.
Your child will likely lose their fundamental need to suck on something by the time they’re a year old. This is also the time when the risk for SIDS, risk for which is reduced by sleeping with a pacifier, drops.
So, the best time to eliminate the pacifier is somewhere between the age of 1 and 3. It’s really up for parents to decide and will depend on the individual child’s medical, physical and emotional needs. It’s wise to check with your child’s medical providers such as their pediatrician and dentist so that you can get the best advice that’s specific to your child.
The Cold Turkey Method
There are many ways to wean your child off their pacifier. Depending on you and your child’s personality, you’ll have to pick the method that best fits you both.
One way to go is cold turkey. That means you pick a day to be the end of pacifier use and simply take it away. You could offer your child a preamble, saying “You’re getting to be such a big boy/girl, so it’s time to stop using a pacifier.” Then, get rid of the pacifier. There will likely be a few meltdowns or tantrums at this point, especially when it comes to key moments in the day such as naptime and bedtime. You can simply repeat your speech, explaining that there are no more pacifiers for your child. Then, you’ll have to watch and make sure that your child doesn’t begin sucking on their fingers to cope.
The Slow Elimination Methods
Not ready to try the cold turkey method? If you’d rather try a more gradual approach, there are several options.
One sort of in-between method is a 3 day elimination. Here’s your guide to eliminating pacifier use in 3 days:
- Day 1: Tell your child that in 3 days, they will no longer use a pacifier. Use a matter of fact approach. Have this conversation 2 or 3 times throughout the day.
- Day 2: Repeat. This time, tell your child that tomorrow they will no longer use a pacifier.
- Day 3: Remove the pacifier. Similar to the cold turkey method, you’ll probably have to endure a few meltdowns.
Alternatively, you can go for a very slow method. With this method, you only provide the binky when your child asks for it. You can also try to distract your child when they ask for the binky, but ultimately give in if your child seems distressed. Over the course of time, your child may slowly stop asking for their binky. With this method, usually, the binky sticks around for naptime and nighttime. You may have to use another method to eliminate using the binky around these times.
Make it a celebration! You could celebrate that your child’s growing and say that it’s time to have a goodbye party for the binky. Collect any binkies around the house and bag them up together. Then, enjoy a special treat as part of your “party”. You may even offer your child a special new toy or blanket to replace their binky.
Some parents opt to enlist the support of a “binky fairy.” This character whisks away the child’s binkies and replaces them with a special new toy. This happens as a surprise when the child isn’t using their binky. When the child asks about their binky, the parents explain what happened. You can opt to tell your child ahead of time that the binky fairy might appear soon, since your child is getting so big. Or, you can tell them after the fact and surprise them with the toy.
Tips for Success
To succeed, you’ll need to make sure that you follow some basic principles:
- Be consistent. Whatever strategy or strategies you pick, stick with it, even through temper tantrums and meltdowns. If you give in and get the pacifier back out again, you’re only delaying the process and encouraging more meltdowns in the future.
- Be empathetic. Talk about your child’s feelings and try to understand their point of view. You might say things like “You’re sad and want your binky,” or “Yes, it’s hard to get used to not having your pacifier.” Acknowledge feelings without giving in.
What to Avoid
When weaning your toddler from their pacifier, there are also a few things you should avoid, including:
- Cutting the binky. Many people swear by cutting off a piece of the pacifier to make it less appealing for the child. However, these creates a hazard. It will be easier for your toddler to chew off pieces which could cause your child to choke. Pacifiers on their own can pose a choking hazard and this only gets worse if you cut it.
- Giving in. Be strong for a few days and leave the pacifier behind. Give in and you’ll have to repeat the process over and over. So, just remember that eliminating binky use is a natural process and you may have to endure some upsets to reach the goal.
Weaning your toddler from their pacifier can be a tough task, but in the end, you and your child will benefit from the change. Your child’s teeth and jaw will be protected from potential damage. You’ll also avoid some of the other unpleasant side effects of frequent pacifier use such as irritation around the mouth and a risk of injury or choking.
So, pick a method, mark a date in your Picniic calendar and get started weaning your toddler as soon as you feel ready!
Already an expert pacifier eliminator? Tell us your tales of weaning your toddler from their pacifier in the comments section below.