By Cora Megan, M.A. and JoAnn Robinson, PhD
Pacifiers are a great aid to self-soothing for infants and toddlers. It replaces using a thumb, the age-old ready-made tool, and is less damaging to developing teeth. Pediatric dentists recommend that by age three years children are weaned from using them.
Getting rid of a pacifier is tricky business. So often we are tempted to trick our children or cut it off without acknowledging their feelings or involving them in the process. We always encourage parents to involve their children in the weaning process as much as possible. Don’t underestimate how aware your child is of their attachment to the pacifier! Here are a few methods that have worked for Peace At Home parents:
- Prior to weaning, acknowledge your child’s feelings. “You love your pacifier! It makes you feel safe and comfortable.” Give them a little warning (3 days is generally good.) “In 3 days it will be time to say goodbye to your pacifier. You may have feelings about it, and that’s OK. You can share your feelings with me.”
- Then we encourage you to give your child a choice in the matter. “Do you want to give your pacifier to X or do you want to do Y?” The outcome of each choice will be the same; in 3 days she will no longer use her pacifier. By consulting your child you are giving them a perceived sense of control which will set you both up for success. Accept any strong feelings with open arms but don’t let the emotions sway the outcome. You can do it!
Acknowledging your child's emotions and giving them the words to describe feelings is a way of building emotional intelligence and strengthening the parent-child connection at the same time.
Remember: this process is no different than any other where your child is encouraged to share feelings.
So what are some X and Y choices to consider? Our parents shared these ideas in a recent conversation on our Private Facebook Page:
- Just before 3 when you're about to be a big kid (e.g., move to a big kid bed), the binkie fairy will trade you all your binkies for a toy.
- “Mail” binkies to a baby that was just starting out because they needed them more.
- Curate a few options on a shopping website, and let your child choose any toy, using his pacifiers to buy it. Tell your child that once they are gone, they would not come back. Put the pacifiers in a mailer (re-used if possible) and while they watch, put an address on the bag (perhaps your mother’s or a friend’s address), with a note inside – “Please throw these away, we’re using them to buy a toy.”
Your child may ask about the binkies or cry a bit but with a few days’ persistence and reassurance that they are able to feel safe without it, your child will let them go.