When your child was a baby, perhaps he or she was comforted by a pacifier, and that felt like a lifesaver. But now that he or she is an active toddler — or perhaps even preparing to enter preschool — your doctor may be telling you it’s time to give up the pacifier. For plenty of parents, that's way easier said than done, so here are tips to help make that happen.
One piece of advice from EverydayFamily.com is especially important: don’t despair. There are many strategies to try, and it’s unlikely that you’ve exhausted the possibilities. Some children actually respond best to a cold turkey approach, one where you simply remove the pacifier from your child’s reach and don’t return it. This can be challenging, early on, but usually within a week or two, your child will have adjusted.
If that approach seems too harsh to you, and if there isn’t an urgent timeline (say, preschool looming), you can try shortening the amount of time that the pacifier is available each day. Yet another approach: tell your child that, in a predetermined amount of time (say, a week), the pacifier will no longer be available to him or her. There will be more about this approach later.
BabyCenter.com offers advice that has been time-tested by parents willing to be anonymously quoted. This includes putting a product on the pacifier that makes it taste unpleasant. (This is a method used to help people who want to stop biting their nails.) One BabyCenter.com parent tried this approach when her daughter was 33 months old and still using a pacifier at night. They felt as though they had tried everything else, so they asked their pharmacist to recommend the right product and they applied it to the pacifier. “That night,” the parent says, “she stood at the sink scrubbing her pacifier and telling me that it tasted bad. After a few tears, she decided to leave it for the 'soother fairy,' and that was that. Problem solved in a matter of a few hours.”
Finally, an expert quoted by Parents.com provides a detailed three-day plan. The expert is Mark L. Brenner, author of Pacifiers, Blankets, Bottles & Thumbs: What Every Parent Should Know About Stopping and Starting. You can read the plan in more detail at the site, but here are highlights.
On day one, talk to your child in the morning and before bed, sharing that you can see how he or she wants to do things that older children do. Agree with that philosophy and explain that, in three days, it will be time to say goodbye to using a pacifier. The author believes that, like adults, children do better with change with advance notice. Don’t ask permission and keep the talks short.
On day two, repeat the conversation, letting your child know that tomorrow will be the last day with the pacifiers. Keep your tone matter of fact. On day three, ask your child to help you gather all the pacifiers together. Make it seem like a scavenger hunt, and follow through whether your child helps or not. Put them in a plastic bag, then put the bag on the porch for recycling. Explain that the material might end up being turned into a new toy or a new tire. This gives the actions being taken some purpose. And, usually, the author says, most children are over any sadness within 48 hours.
Like anything else, no one method works best for all children. Try several methods, or talk to your child's physician for other ideas.