Pacifier, soother, binky, dummy, whatever you call it, our kids love them. Suckling is a natural instinct for babies as they need to suck to get food. They feel a sense of reassurance when they suck because they know they’re getting fed and they aren’t going to starve. This reassurance, rooted in instinct, then becomes similar to an addiction in older babies and toddlers. They no longer need to suck to be fed, but they still crave that relaxed feeling they get from their pacifier.
Parents often feel nervous about weaning their baby or toddler from their pacifier and feel pressured by others to ditch the dummy. In this blog, we’ll explore the reasons for weaning, what age is best for weaning and the methods for doing so.
When to take away the pacifier
Experts say the easiest time to wean your baby off pacifiers is around 7 months of age. Babies weaned this early can stop relying on their soother within a week without protest. This is because they’re still too young to have formed a bond or develop habits. After 9 months of age, your baby will develop an emotional attachment to their pacifier. Therefore, after 9 months you can expect some backlash when removing the pacifier.
You may decide to wean your child off their pacifier if they have been experiencing ear infections. Using a soother can cause fluid to build up in their middle ear, causing painful infections.
If your child is older, you may consider weaning them to prevent orthodontic problems in the future. Excessive pacifier use past the age of 2 can cause a crossbite or protruding front teeth.
Methods of stopping pacifier use
1. Give it away.
Most of us know this method. If your child is old enough to understand the concept, tell them there are babies without pacifiers and it would be a nice thing to donate their binky to them. Make an event of it, gather all the pacifiers in a bag and tell them how happy they’re making another baby who never had a soother before. They’ll feel like they’re doing a good thing and it introduces the idea of being charitable.
2. Add some magic.
Another tried and tested method of soother surrendering is giving it to Santy, the Easter Bunny, the Soother Fairy or any mythical person who your child might get excited about. Just like the Tooth Fairy routine, leave the pacifiers out when your child goes to bed. When they wake up in the morning their dummies will be a thing of the past. If they ask for the pacifier just remind them that they gave it to Santy/Easter Bunny/fairies.
3. Take it away gradually.
Start restricting soother use to naptime, bedtime and situations where your child might need more comforting. Restricting its use introduces the idea of being without it, while still being reassured that they’ll be reunited at a specific time, like naptime. If your child is old enough, explain to them that they don’t need their soother constantly. Once they’re out of the habit of having it constantly on-hand, they won’t miss it as much and can start to go longer stretches without it, like only having it at night.
4. Read books about giving up soothers.
Reading books is a great way to teach children certain lessons in a gentle and fun way. Many children love snuggling up for storytime with a parent and often get really invested in what goes on in their books. Reading books about children giving up pacifiers introduces the concept while also bringing them through the process to the happy ending. Your child could even suggest giving up their soother in order to be more like the hero in their book.
5. Just wait.
When was the last time you saw an adult with a soother? If someone offered you a soother right now would you jump at the chance?
We all eventually grew out of our pacifier habit, whether it was instigated by a parent or not. Most children will eventually give up their pacifier on their own. Parents often feel rushed to get their child to give up their soother because of what others say, or judgemental looks from people when their child has their soother in public. If your child is comforted by it and there’s no medical reason to stop the pacifier use, it’s an option to just allow them to make the decision on their own.
Stick With It.
Whatever your method is, be firm and stick with it. Your child may make a fuss the first few times they look for their soother and it’s not there. However, giving in and returning their pacifier may just make their attachment grow stronger and make them anxious about being separated from it ever again. Whether you make the decision or they do, stick to the game plan. The process has started and the soother is out of here for good. You’ll be glad you stuck with it!