Pacifiers can be wonderful things, comforting your child when you have to leave them with a babysitter or helping soothe them to sleep. But when your child turns 1, 2, or 3 years old and they’re still attached to their “binky,” it’s time to consider weaning. Here are some tips for how to wean your child off their pacifier.
Keep the pacifiers out of sight
The less accessible something is, the less we reach for it, right? Out of sight, out of mind. Well, some children respond well to this strategy: if they don’t see their pacifier, they may not ask for it as much. Try putting the pacifiers up and away. If your child asks for one, give it to them but otherwise, don’t mention or offer it. You may notice they start to ask for it less when it’s not laying there in their crib or sitting out in the open. Eventually, when they only ask for it once a day or not at all, you can throw the pacifier(s) away.
Limit their use
Another method that works well for preschool-age children is to limit the use of a pacifier. Be upfront with your child and set a concrete boundary by saying something like, “Pacis are for naps and bedtime only.” Be sure to stick firmly to this rule. Eventually, you could say, “You’re getting to be a big girl/boy. We’re only going to use the paci at bedtime now.” Bit by bit, you can limit the pacifier’s use this way, until it’s no longer needed or wanted.
Make pacifiers less appealing
If the paci doesn’t taste or feel good, your child will likely lose interest. Keep the paci’s out of reach on a counter and when your child asks for one, dab a bit of vinegar on it and hand it to your child. Your child may muster through the bad taste until they’ve sucked it off, but most likely they’ll hand it back to you and eventually stop asking for it.
Have a graduation party
One of the best ways to bid the pacifier stage farewell is to simply acknowledge your child doesn’t need the pacifier anymore and have a celebration/graduation party of sorts.
Let your child pick the food and decorations out and have siblings make cards. As you plan the “paci send-off” with your child, say things like “I’m so proud of you; you’re growing up!” This will help him/her process things and perhaps even get excited. You could even get a small gift like a new “big girl” cup or outfit in honor of the event to help your child with the transition. Then, during the party, tie the paci(s) to a helium balloon or a Chinese lantern and let paci “fly” away.
A few side notes
- Keep in mind, every child is different so what works for one child may not work for the next. You know your child better than anyone, so try methods you think they’ll respond well to.
- If you’re nervous about the weaning process, consult your doctor or dentist first. They can help you see the benefits of weaning and determine what method might be best for your child.
- Consistency plays a big role in the weaning process. Once you’ve gotten rid of the pacis, don’t buy new ones. If you have a sendoff party and your child asks for the pacifier the next day, talk about the purpose of the party and explain why paci isn’t coming back. Be firm in your approach, even if your child begs. The more you give in, the harder it will be on both you and your child.
- As you determine when to wean, remember that long-term use of a pacifier can impact a child’s teeth alignment and delay speech development. Getting rid of the pacifier isn’t some cruel move of parenting dominance, it truly is in your child’s best interest that they give it up. So the sooner you can wean them, the better.
Helping your child give up their pacifier can be a difficult process for parents. After all, your child’s pacifier is most likely the only remaining token of their infancy. But it’s important to see weaning as a benefit to your child’s health–a milestone to be celebrated! You can do it, parents!
Some ideas and advice were inspired by Rebecca Dixon, M.D., a pediatrician at Indiana University Health