Soooo.... It is scary, believe me, I know. I have personally tackled this "little" pacifier addiction issue with my 2,5 year old only a couple of weeks ago and, knowing what I know, I was petrified.
Because everything I do from Savvy Sleep has the purpose of easing parenthood for you, let me share my story to tell you how is it that you can ditch the pacifier with no dramas and in just a couple of days.
Why did I make the decision
I have always been a fan of pacifiers. Not only are they recommended for babies by the American Academy of Pediatrics to decrease the chances of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) but they also provide soothing to a baby and it can accompany them in learning to fall asleep.
And that is why both of my children have used a pacifier for their entire life.
Buuut, following the recommendation given by my dear friend and expert dentist Dr. Laura Maanon, I knew that I had to ditch it for my toddler between 2-3 years of age if I didn't want it to affect the way her teeth were shaping.
(You have Laura's amazing post on dental care for babies here . Go read it, it's a good one!)
I had already noticed that her top teeth (check image below) were shaping roundly and that was the trigger for me! so let's go make a plan!
The step by step process
SET A DATE AND MARK IT ON THE CALENDAR
Successful plans are the ones that have a date! Putting it on the calendar makes you commit to it so, go ahead and give it some thought. When will you have time to dedicate to the process?
My advise is that you plan around a couple of days earlier so that you can prepare your child, then, the night that you will actually do it, and a couple of nights more to make sure you are around for bedtime.
CHOOSE A STRATEGY
There are many different ways to go when ditching the pacifier and you only need to choose the one you believe your child will play along better.
Let's see some examples!
Cold Turkey: Explain your child for a few days what's going to happen and why. They are now a big kid and big kids do not use a pacifier. Remind them every day during the daytime and at night. The day you will do it, remind them during the day a few times. It is good that they personally put the pacis in the bin and see them going away. Now be strong and go for it!
Use a pacifier weaning system: I am personally not a fan, but if you believe this will work best for your child, here is one system by a reputable brand I trust: The FridaBaby Paci weaning system
Cut a hole in the pacifier: Ok so I feel like I need to give you all the options but out of all of them, this is the one that I would never choose. Reason being that I believe that it only frustrates the child. Our children +2,5 yo are very capable to understand us when we explain something in a simple way. My approach with children this age has always been the one where we involve them and make them part of their life transitions. And this is one of them. Quite big actually. But, if you think this will work best for your child, go ahead!!
The pacifier fairy: This is what personally worked for me! There is a pacifier fairy who comes to collect all your child's pacifiers for the fairies, who use it for many different things (as umbrellas, as rides in the playground, as boats...). In exchange, they leave a gift to mark your new step as a big girl/boy! There are quite a few books that can help you with this. I used "Bea gives up her dummy". You can purchase it here.
The pacifier=money story: You bring your child to a toy store and walk around until something really catches his/her attention. Your child really needs to LOVE something in the store. You will tell your child that for them to get that toy, they need to give away all the pacifiers. Remind them a few times while at home and come back to the store the next day with all the pacifiers in a bag. Make sure they are excited about the toy. Go to the cashier and make the child give the pacifiers away. Every time the child asks for the pacifiers, remind them of the amazing new toy they got.
Send it in a box to some children who really need it or to a character in a book that they love: Put all pacifiers in a box and have the child leave it at their bedroom door at night before they go to sleep. They will receive a nice reward in exchange the day after.
Put it in a balloon and send it to the stars! Pretty self explanatory! The key again is that the child actually sees the pacifier go.
PREPARE YOUR CHILD
Now that you have decided on a date and how to do it, it's time to prepare your child. Tell them what is going to happen in a way that they can understand. Did you purchase some bedtime stories on quitting the pacifier? it's time to read them! Children focus on some things that they find interesting or funny so use it to your advantage! (e.g. In the pacifier fairy book that I purchased there was a picture of the protagonist with bunny teeth because apparently that's what happens to big kids who still use the paci - not so far from reality, ha! - My daughter found that hilarious and went back to it over and over again so that is exactly what I used to remind her for a couple of days. She still tells me that big kids who use a binky have bunny teeth!)
IMPLEMENT THE STRATEGY
Yeay! The day has come and this will mark a before and after in your child's life. I know that you are scared. I was too. But, as I always tell my clients when we start working together: envision a positive outcome and face this with confidence. Children can tell wether you are not too sure about what you are doing, so do not let them smell your fear!
Now, rest assured, no child went to college still using a pacifier so it will happen for you!
Remember to remind your child about what's coming in the most positive way! But do not do it at bedtime only, do it all throughout the day. If you wait until bedtime, you will for sure have a meltdown.
When bedtime comes, make it super special and remind your little one that he/she now is a big kid! Do not rush! Make sure you dedicate enough time to the ceremony.
Now, when you are ready, put your child to bed. If they still ask about the pacifier, remind them of what just happened and about the amazing reward that's coming (and yes, I am all about rewards with toddlers. They happen at nursery, at school and all through their lives because, let's be honest here, we all want a little reward or a little recognition after we have done something difficult, don't we?)
DO NOT LOOK BACK
When the pacifier is gone, it is gone. Gone for good. Even better if you just throw it away to never have the temptation to go back to it.
Let me tell you, I never endured any tantrums asking for them and my situation was not fun: My daughter was really dependent on the pacifier to sleep (as in she not only held one in her mouth but also liked to hold one in her hand to relax) and I also have a 1 year old at home who still uses it to this day.
Your best weapon with anything that you teach your children is consistency. Be consistent in your decision and never give it back...
...They choose to soothe themselves by sucking on their thumb. In that case, breaking the habit of sucking their thumb is a lot more difficult than breaking the habit of the pacifier so I would recommend that you give it back and try again in one or two months.
What if I have another baby that still uses a pacifier?
This was my situation and my daughter surprised me by accepting it with zero drama. In any case, explain why babies can use a paci but they are now a big kid and big kids do not use pacis. Give credit to your child, they are really flexible and adaptable.
Can I provide some extra help to sleep when going through this process?
Absolutely! If your child has a lovey or some sort of soothing aid that can help make the transition, as long as it is safe, do use it. I definitely elongated the bedtime routine with my girl and stayed a little longer with her when lights were out to comfort her and get her very relaxed and sleepy. Then she would finally fall asleep in the crib. After a couple of days that was over and we went back to regular routine.
Won't my child have troubles falling asleep without it?
It may be a little more challenging for a couple of days, be ready to use whatever else can help your child relax and fall asleep but do not give in. Your child will find the way to fall asleep without the pacifier in a day or two.
Now, choose your best strategy and go for it!
You can do it!