When, Why, and How to Wean from the Pacifier
Chewy, Dummy, Paci, Chupi, Binky, Bopper, Nuk, Chupeta. No matter what your family calls it, in your head you know it as a heaven-sent lifesaver. The thing that saves your sanity in those early months when your child wants to suckle even when they’re full. It calms your child who doesn’t speak the language and needs any little comforts they can find.
Whether your family is grateful to the pacifier for getting you through the early cholic days or through a terrible tantrum, there is a time and a place to introduce, reduce, and remove the pacifier from your child’s life.
Let’s look at some of the good, the bad, and the ugly about using a binky, and ways to help your child transition away from it!
Why Even Start?
Knowing that you’ll need to eventually go through the trouble of taking the pacifier away from your child, why even introduce one to begin with?
Well, there are many reasons. For starters, you can eventually take away a pacifier! Babies will want to suckle. It’s a natural comfort mechanism and they’ll find a way. If you don’t offer them a pacifier, they’ll find their sweet little thumbs. The benefit of a paci is that one day, you can take the pacifier away. You can’t very well take their thumbs, now can you?
Additionally, a pacifier is significantly less rigid than a thumb. Allowing a child to comfort themselves by sucking fingers or a thumb can result in significant oral malformation. Which is to say, we hope you’re saving for braces.
When a child has a pacifier nearby, they are less likely to insert random and unsanitary foreign objects into their mouths. A pacifier is easy to clean and safer than anything smaller to comfort your little one.
Using a pacifier at bedtime can help ease the pain of teething, which can lead to bruxism, or grinding of the teeth. When your child grinds their teeth, they are more likely to cause permanent damage to their budding teeth and jaw, in addition to causing a headache that your child doesn’t know how to cope with
There are even reports and studies that state that the use of a pacifier can reduce the likelihood of SIDS.
No matter why you introduced a pacifier, there is no denying that it quickly became an integral part of your baby’s daily routine.
If you are bottle feeding, a pacifier can be introduced at birth. If you plan to breast feed, waiting to soothe with a pacifier is best left to wait until the nursing relationship is firmly established, between four and six weeks, to avoid nipple confusion and to encourage milk production.
When to Quit
Pacifiers have an expiration date! As your child gnaws it down, your pacifier can become a choking hazard. Be sure to throw it out and replace it if you notice any of the following:
- Splits or cracks in the silicone or latex
- Broken or cracked plastic guard
- After your child has experienced a fungal infection like thrush or candida overgrowth
- After a serious illness
- If the nipple retains grease, stickiness, or a film even after thorough washing
- If the pacifier has been dropped anywhere that makes you not want it in your own mouth
Remember that oral infections and gingivitis can be spread to your child, so sucking on a dropped paci to clean it is not advised.
While pacifiers have their time, that time eventually comes to an end. Prolonged use of a pacifier can lead to an overbite, speech impediment, malformed front teeth, and more frequent occurrences of ear infections. Permanent issues can begin to present themselves around the age of two, meaning that as your child’s second birthday approaches, it’s time to start looking at ways to reduce use.
First Step: Cold Turkey Isn’t for Toddlers
While cutting carbs, cigarettes, and online shopping can all be done cold-turkey, taking away your child’s comfort doesn’t need to be a traumatic moment. Try cutting back on access to the pacifier during the day and only administering it at bed and naptimes.
During waking hours, use the subtle art of distraction to cut back on day time use of the binky. A favorite toy, exciting activity, or just your undivided attention can bring the very comfort your child is seeking when they reach for their dummy.
Second Step: No-Nuk-Nap
Try singing to your child, giving them your attention until they have fallen asleep. This is often enough comfort for your child to forgo the boppy. A story, song, or simply stroking their little angel faces can be just the ticket to getting them to break the habit. It’s also an excellent excuse to soak up as much of that sweet baby smell as you can before they become smell big kids who don’t need your cuddles. If your child simply won’t close their eyes without it, allow them the pacifier until they are mostly asleep, then gently remove it and allow them to sleep without it. Whatever you do, don’t allow yourself to experience anxiety about it. Your child will quickly pick up on this, and soon the pacifier will be the least of your worries! No matter what happens, they will, indeed, break the habit before college.
Step Three: A Final Resting Place
Finding a place to lay your child’s beloved pacifier to rest can help bring them closure. Depending on their level of understanding of letting go, you can bury the item under a precious flower, write a letter and let the “pacifier fairy” take it away and replace it with a toy or stuffed animal, or have the token planted in the heart of a build-a-bear treasure! Your child can keep it at hand, without keeping it at mouth!
These early years are filled with fussiness, tantrums, and minor setbacks, but they are also filled with snuggles, baby smells, and the sweetest sounds you’re likely to hear in your life. With your love, support, and encouragement, your baby will give up their pacifier in time!
Be sure to give that little sweetheart an extra snuggle for us, and make an appointment to have your little one’s gums and teeth checked between the eruption of the first tooth and the child’s first birthday. We can’t wait to meet your little one!
If you have any tips for how to help your little one let go of their pacifier, drop us a comment! We’d love to pass on your winning tips to other parents!