Pacifiers serve as a source of comfort for babies but can become an unhealthy attachment. There are several approaches to ending pacifier use and each works best for different people. When you are ready to help your child stop using a binky, dummy, or pacifier, look for a method that works best for your personalities.
Also known as going "cold turkey," this method involves taking away the opportunity to use pacifiers all at once. For some children, this works because the possibility is gone, and they must cope and move on. There is no confusion about whether your child can use a binky because it is simply not an option. Most children will experience some difficulty when the pacifiers are removed, but the idea here is 'out of sight, out of mind.' Eventually, your little one will forget that he used to use a binky because he'll self-soothe and move onto the next thing. Younger children, like those under age one, will cope with this method the best while older kids may have more trouble because of their attachment. To prepare for this abrupt technique:
- Choose a date and time with the least stress for your child.
- Remove all binkies from the house, cars, diaper bags, and other caregiver locations for your child on the selected date.
- Once all pacifiers are gone, announce the plan when your child is fed, not tired and happy.
- Offer replacement comforts when your child craves the pacifier, like snuggles or other items she can suck, like a drink with a straw.
Once the binkies are gone and you've let your child know, do not bring them back under any circumstances. This method requires extreme dedication and understanding on the part of caregivers. Be prepared to stand your ground and arm yourself with ideas to distract or comfort your child in times of distress.
Make It Undesirable
When you alter or talk about the binky in some way that makes it less soothing or gross your child may decide to ditch it right away. Some ideas include:
- Poke holes in the sucking end with a needle to make it less satisfying.
- Cut off the tip, making sure there are no loose pieces hanging off.
- Make it taste bad with safe, edible products like lemon juice or vinegar.
- Draw dots on the binky and suggest something gross happened, like a fly pooped on it, so it must be thrown away.
- Replace all pacifiers with the smallest ones you can find. These won't be as satisfying.
Trade It In
If you prefer to use a more creative method to offload all the pacifiers at once, have your child help:
- Collect all binkies and trade them for a new toy at a store. Let the clerk in on your plan and have your child "pay" with the pacifiers.
- Package up pacifiers and deliver to a baby you know. Make sure the other parent is on board to receive and dispose of the contents.
- Take all dummies to your child's next doctor or dentist appointment along with a new surprise gift. Give the gift to the receptionist and your child can trade the pacifiers for a new toy.
- Collect pacifiers and keep near the child's bed for the Binky Fairy to collect in exchange for a new comfort item.
Weaning is a term typically used to describe the transition for children from breast-feeding to eating other foods and drinks. The process of weaning involves slowly lessening the time something is offered over a matter of days, weeks, or even months. In this method, children have time to adjust to each new phase of the process which can make their reaction less abrasive. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning your child from the pacifier at some point between 6 to 12 months of age.
In this weaning technique you give your child a time frame, like one week, and explain within those seven days she will slowly stop using her pacifier. Display a calendar marked with the end date so your child can visualize the time frame. Communicate with your child each step of the way to help them cope.
- Choose a time frame you feel is reasonable for your family. It could be one week or one month. The point is to make a plan with a concrete end date.
- Break your time frame down into manageable chunks. For example, if you decide on one week you would break the plan down into actions for each day.
- Start with binky removal for your child's least stressful times, like right after meals or during play. Explain in clear terms to your child he can't have the binky during play time and put it out of sight during this period. If he asks for it, offer your attention instead.
- Offer praise whenever your child makes it through the designated time without the pacifier.
- When you are ready to move on, take away the pacifier as an option during another time frame.
- Follow Steps 3-5 for your chosen time frame and remove all pacifiers on the last day.
This option allows the child to take the lead on weaning. Talk to your child about the need to start using a dummy less and allow them to decide when you move from one step to the next. For this method, you will follow the same steps as in the deadline-driven method, except there will be no concrete dates. Children will feel more in control and independent and parents won't feel like they are being mean or harsh with this technique.
For some families, a sentimental and celebratory technique works best. The end of the pacifier phase signifies something greater for the child. From small gestures to elaborate parties, making this a milestone worth celebrating can help kids embrace the change.
Big Kid Motivation
Kids who like the idea of being a big kid or are excited about the new possibilities that come with each age can be motivated by these desires. Explain to your child that she's becoming a big kid and binkies are for babies. Allow your child to show off her big kid skills and independence by getting rid of the pacifiers herself.
Passing the Pacifier
If your child has a younger, infant sibling or another relative, she can pass her binky down to them. Kids motivated by helping others love this activity because it makes them feel important and kind.
Mementos and Keepsakes
Just as you keep a baby book and other special items from your child's life, keep the pacifier as a memento. Sit with your child and look through old pictures, his baby book, or items you've kept from when he was born. Talk about why you are saving them and how you keep them tucked away so they will stay nice and clean. Make a special box or place to house the keepsake binky and put it with the other important items.
Tips and Tricks
It seems parents have tried every way imaginable to help children let go of pacifiers and maybe you have too. If all the familiar methods have failed you, maybe these ideas can help.
- Attach the pacifier to a larger comfort item like a stuffed animal or blanket. This way your child can still use it, but it won't be convenient and comfortable especially during the day as she moves around.
- Create a sticker chart and offer a large reward of the child's choosing when the binky is completely gone. The little victories help empower your child and kids are motivated by things they want.
- Use your child's interests as a way to get rid of the binky. For example, if your child loves fire trucks see if your local fire station will make binky an honorary member.
- Plant a paci garden. You've probably seen those fun Easter activities where kids plant jelly beans and wake up to find lollipops sticking out of the garden. Use the same concept to "grow" something cool by burying binky and having something else pop up in its place.
- Coordinate with an upcoming holiday and invent a story about why Santa's elves need the binky or what the Easter bunny can do with it if you hide it in a plastic egg for him.
- Sew the paci inside another favorite comfort item like a stuffed animal so it will always be with them, but they can't use it.
- Use logical reasoning for older kids, explain exactly how the dummy is harmful to your child's teeth so they understand why it has to go.
- Get creative and use the binky as a paintbrush for a one-of-a-kind art piece you can hang. The binkies will be ruined and need to get thrown away or only used for painting now.
- Indulge your child's curiosity with pacifier experiments. Use the paci to explore what happens when it gets too hot or too cold. Giving it a new, fun purpose might help your child see it as something other than a comfort object.
- Turn it into a toy. Just as your baby grows into a toddler then a preschooler, explain the paci must grow into its next stage too. Perhaps the life cycle of a paci is to help baby sleep, then to help little ones play, then to help others.
Letting Go and Moving On
For many parents and children saying goodbye to beloved, cherished infant items is sad, frustrating, and disliked. For others, it can be seen as a positive step forward or ritual of growing up. Whatever your feelings on the subject, getting rid of a pacifier is a personal and individual experience. Help your child give up the binky and move past this phase of life with a method best suited to his or her needs.