Pacifiers can help babies soothe themselves and fall asleep more easily and may even reduce the risk of SIDS. Prolonged pacifier use, however, has been associated with speech delays, social issues, and even dental problems later on.
The issues caused are generally easy to correct, so parents don't have to rush to take away the tool, but when it's time, these tips may help wean your toddler from their pacifier.
Some parents wean alongside an important life event like welcoming a new sibling, moving houses, or starting preschool. Practically, this makes sense. For many toddlers, however, the pacifier is an important source of comfort. Taking it away from them when their life is already scary and uncertain may cause extra stress for the whole family.
The transition may be smoother if the pacifier is initially only taken away during select, low-stressmoments. If the child is used to being without the pacifier during playtime at home, for example, they may not be as frightened and unsure if the pacifier can't go with them to the grocery store.
For a toddler their pacifier may be one of their few treasured possessions. Children don't have the same perspective and control over their lives as adults, and their pacifier has been there from the beginning of their memory.
It doesn't help the toddler to hear that it's just a pacifier. Parents should validate any big feelings and treat weaning as if their toddler is saying goodbye to a trusted friend.
Treating the end of the pacifier as a fun and exciting event may help to get the child on board. This approach can work especially well for parents who want or need to stop pacifier use abruptly.
Parents can mark the occasion with a party or special family ritual. Some parents use the binky fairy. They tell their child that if they leave their pacifier under the pillow, the binky fairy will take it and leave them a big kid toy.
If you're using the slow weaning process, every adult in the child's life should know the plan for when and where the pacifier is allowed.
Consistency helps the child feel secure. They may become confused and resist weaning if, for example, they can have the pacifier during nap time at grandma's house but not at home.
Children tend to fear a life change less if they know it's coming and have seen other children go through it. Be transparent if a playmate is weaning. There are books available that tell the story of other children giving up their pacifiers. Read these before it's time to start weaning to familiarize the child with this process. Some toddlers may even decide on their own to start leaving their binky behind.
Toddlers aren't quite ready to soothe big emotions all on their own. Pacifiers are an early support, but they are not the only comfort object a child can use. Teddy bears, soft blankets, or a special piece of clothing can be a good alternative.
If a toddler already has a comfort item, parents can direct them to snuggle the item instead of using their pacifier.
Once the pacifier has been taken away, it's not ideal to give it back. The child may learn that getting their pacifier is just a matter of kicking up a big enough fuss. Weaning is, however, rarely a straightforward process. A child who hasn't asked for their pacifier in weeks may suddenly demand it every night. Sick toddlers want extra comfort.
It's important not to shame or threaten the child if they do regress, as that will only make them want the pacifier more. Gently remind the child that they are no longer using the pacifier and remind them of the new ways they've learned to calm down.
A pacifier with holes is less satisfying to suck on. This can be a subtle way to make the pacifier less appealing so the child will naturally give it up in favor of alternatives.
Use a sterile pin or needle and make two or three clean holes in the plastic. Watch to make sure pieces of the pacifier don't break off, as this is a choking hazard.
Every child is different and a weaning approach that works for one toddler may completely stress out another. Parents should be free to change their approach. Pediatricians are a great source of specific advice, as they can offer recommendations based on the toddler's temperament and history with the pacifier. Sometimes, the child may just not be ready and weaning can be delayed for a few more months.
This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.