For the third night in a row, I was woken up in the middle of the night by my 3-year-old because she couldn’t find her pacifier to go back to sleep. Frustrating. It was very clear to me, it was time to ditch the binky. Many parents are hesitant to force their child to give up the pacifier. When a child is tired, frustrated or even upset or mad, they go for the comfort they know. When a parent wants to take the pacifier away, a child knows exactly what to do to get it back. They cry, they scream, they throw temper tantrums beyond words. They are given the pacifier back because, boy, do they know how to get what they want! It can be very nerve wracking for parents so no wonder parents give up shortly after trying to wean their child off the pacifier.
When should I wean my child off the pacifier?
Babies as early as 9 months old can learn to self comfort. There is no medical reason why a baby past 9 months old need a pacifier. Some pediatricians and speech pathologists say 12 months is a good time to wean a child off the pacifier. 12 months starts the beginning phase of speech development and if a child always has a pacifier in his mouth, it could inhibit him from learning to babble, which is an important phase of speech development. When children start smiling, laughing, and playing while the pacifier is in their mouth, it’s time to ditch that paci! Children will learn to talk with a pacifier in their mouth. When a parent starts saying “Take that pacifier out of your mouth, I can’t understand you….” It’s time to ditch that paci!
I’m not ready to wean my child off the pacifier….
There’s no definite rule to say that a child must be weaned off the pacifier by 12 months of age. Some toddlers and even preschoolers use a pacifier as a transitional object to help relieve stress. When a child is involved in new a transition or environment, such as starting daycare, moving to a new house or getting used to a new sibling, a pacifier is a way to help the child cope with stress. Once your child learns other ways to cope with that stress, the pacifier shouldn’t be needed.
Why should I consider weaning my child off the pacifier, especially if it doesn’t bother me that he uses it?
Not only that your child’s speech development could be delayed, as mentioned above, there are other reasons to be aware that ditching the pacifier should be considered. When a child sucks on a pacifier often, the tongue is pushed toward the front teeth inhibiting the s and z sounds. This sets the stage in developing a lisp.
Your child could become dependent on the pacifier to go to sleep, which causes them to wake up in the middle of the night looking for the pacifier, which causes you to wake up and help him find it.
Permanent teeth start coming in around 4 – 6 years of age and often use of a pacifier could prevent permanent teeth from coming in properly. This could cause lasting dental issues.
If your child suffers from frequent ear infections, weaning him off the pacifier could offer him relief. One study showed that children who didn’t use pacifiers had 33 percent fewer middle ear infections.
Now I’m convinced, so how do I wean my child off the pacifier?
I conducted a survey from real moms who experienced weaning their child off the pacifier. These were some of the unique ideas that other moms tried and succeeded.
– Make it taste bad. Put an unpleasant taste on the nipple.
– Go cold turkey. One mom warned her soon-to-be 3-year-old that on his third birthday, he would no longer be allowed to have his pacifier anymore because big kids don’t need pacifiers. Even when he asked for it after his party, they still said no and he eventually gave it up.
– Take it away gradually. Allow your child to only have it at nap and bed time. Then eliminate nap time and eventually bed time.
– Since there are so many sizes and shapes of pacifiers, using the infant size pacifier on your infant is fine. Then as they grow older, don’t upgrade the pacifier to fit your child. Eventually, they won’t find comfort in a too-small pacifier and will lose interest.
– Poke a hole in the nipple. The pacifier won’t work as well and you can tell your child, “Uh oh! It’s broken!”
– Leave it out for the Binky Fairy, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus, etc. One mom and her daughter hung her pacifiers on the tree outside for the binky fairy and when her daughter woke up, there was a goodie bag in place of the binkies. You could put the pacifiers on a window sill. The Easter bunny or Santa Claus can give the binkies to other little babies that don’t have a pacifier.
– Lose it. My 3-year-old is the most reasonable 3-year-old I know. When she couldn’t find her pacifier when it was time to go to bed, I offered to go look for it as long as she stayed in bed and I’d bring it up to her when I found it. Even if she woke up in the middle of the night wanting it, I told her I couldn’t find it and offered to sit with her for a few minutes. It has worked for four days now!
The most important thing to remember about weaning your child off the pacifier is to be patient and consistent. Many times a child will give up the pacifier on their own and other children need a little boost. Once you decide to take away that pacifier, don’t make exceptions or give in. Stand your ground and be understanding. After all, your child won’t still be using the pacifier when they go off to college, right?