Kicking the Pacifier Habit

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All babies are born with the “suck reflex,” an innate need to suckle for comfort and nourishment. It helps babies calm themselves when they still have no other way to deal with things that distress them. Of course, the tendency is to suck on anything on hand: the pacifier, their thumbs and hands, a bottle, and even mom’s breast. The pacifier, of all these, is the handiest to offer after the right nursing habits are established. But now that your baby is a toddler, is it time to give up a well-loved soother? How do you go about it?

When to Stop For parents, it’s really a matter of belief or preference. Some are comfortable enough to wait until the pacifier is given up voluntarily. However, some pediatric dentists advise that weaning should be done by age two when any problems with teeth and developing bones can still be corrected within six months after pacifier use. Any longer and your child might encounter problems with teeth and mouth development.

How to Stop Going cold turkey is stressful at any age, so it’s best to help your child gradually give up the pacifier. But when a favorite pacifier gets lost or misplaced, then there’s nothing you can do but make the best of it. Some toddlers may not opt for a replacement, and just mourn the loss of the old one and move on. But when you figure that it’s time, start gently with a good talk about why he needs to let the pacifier go: because he's growing up and his mouth and teeth need to grow properly.

A. Stages After letting your child know about the big change, explain that the pacifier will only be available at specific periods from thereon (e.g. before going to sleep). Over the next three or five days, slowly lessen his use of the pacifier until he asks for it no longer.

B. Exchange Another strategy is to give your child a “growing up” substitute for the pacifier. Try offering a stuffed toy to hug as an alternative. You can alternate this with the pacifier for gentle weaning, gradually increasing the use of the new soother until your child develops a preference for it.

No matter how or when you want to wean your child, be prepared for the occasional sniffling, big-eyed pleading, and crankiness. The pacifier has been his source of comfort for years. It will take some practice before he masters his new coping skills. Keep complimenting him though! The positive reinforcement will go a long way in building his confidence in his new-found ability to sleep and cope without the pacifier.