It was a blistering cold winter’s eve in 1978. The littlest land of fairytales (Denmark) was full of happy people. Each and every person in the country was snuggled in their beds, ready for a nice long hibernating night’s sleep. Well, almost every person. There were four people awake – wide awake, because of one unhappy girl’s desperate cries. “Where is the white one? I cannot sleep without the white one! I will not sleep without my white one!” The saddest girl in the land had suddenly lost her trusty pacifier. Her source of comfort was gone – and therefore no one in her family would sleep until the entire house had been turned upside down, looking for the white one – her last pacifier.
The event is (obviously) etched in my memory with every minute detail intact and a slight bit of scarring. (Mom, if you are reading this, don’t feel too guilty. I eventually got over it – I think!) I was four years old when my parents decided to throw away my last and favorite pacifier. They apparently felt that going “cold turkey” would be the only way to wrestle the little plastic soother away from my steel grip. Check out my list of ideas to help your child quit his pacifier habit – without scarring him for life! (This post contains affiliate links.)
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When does pacifier (and thumb) sucking become a bad habit?
- Sucking pacifiers and thumbs is soothing for babies. It provides them security and has been found to reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Most toddlers stop the sucking habit on their own, between two and four years of age.
- Continued pacifier use and thumb sucking may cause the upper front teeth to tip toward the lip or not come in properly.
- Extensive pacifier use or thumb sucking may impair speech and language development.
- Partner with your pediatric dentist to monitor your child’s teeth and jaw development, especially before the permanent teething are ready to come in.
As parents we often delay and put off potentially uncomfortable “confrontations.” We quietly hope that the issues will resolve themselves, and sometimes they do. However, when pacifier use continues with no apparent end in sight, something must be done. Instead of YOU (the parent) being the “bad guy,” have the child participate in a way that he is the one who gives them away/ gets rid of them. This is a win-win situation. You give your child a sense of control and you can still be seen as the source of reassurance and comfort.
Effective ways to help your child quit his pacifier habit:
- Cold turkey: Yeah the jury is still out on whether or not this method scarred me for life! I will let you be the judge of that! Some families swear by doing it this way. It is effective and they say it only takes a toddler three days to “forget” and move on. (HA! Try 37 years!)
- Slow and steady: This is a great “wait and see” approach to gauge if your toddler will grow out of his pacifier dependency on his own. First you limit the pacifier use to only in the house and then only when in the bed. This slower method works great for kids who probably would have outgrown the habit on his own.
- Give the pacifiers to a baby: If a friend or relative is expecting, have your toddler wrap up all his pacifiers and give them to the new baby. (Feel free to buy another new baby gift, so you are not just handing a new mom a bag full of germ-infested plastic nipples.) If you are running low on reproducing friends, consider bringing the pacifiers to a local daycare facility where they have an infant room.
- Put them outside and let a fairy exchange them for small gift: I have heard several variations of this method. Some families have the toddlers collect all the pacifiers, and leave them in a tree outside. The next morning there is miraculously a package in the tree, in place of the pacifiers. Remember to let the toddler box up the pacifiers, so he’s in control and HE is the one giving them away.
- Mail them: This is such a cute idea. You help your toddler package the pacifiers to be mailed to Santa, a friend or relative who could use them. Or mail them to the grandparents for permanent storage. This will obviously only work if the grandparents live far away, so your child can’t convince you to drive over to their house to get the pacifiers the next day.
- Go shopping and pay with pacifiers: Take your little sucker (sorry, pacifier-user) to a store he loves. Let him pick out a toy or book and have him pay with the pacifiers when you reach the register. Before you even can consider this method, please keep in mind that not all cashiers will understand what you are doing, so be sure to go to the register with a mom-looking employee.
- Stuff the last one in a Build-a-Bear: FINALLY a good excuse to go to Build-A-Bear and get an oversized dust-mite-collector. Now your extensive collection of bears can serve a good purpose.
- Give the pacifiers to your pediatrician or pediatric dentist: Bring the pacifiers with you to your next well-visit or check up. Hand a small gift for your child to the nurse when you arrive. Your child will give the boxed-up pacifiers to the doctor when he/ she starts the examination. The doctor will in return give your child the small gift as a thank-you from all the babies in the doctor’s practice who will benefit from the pacifiers.
The success of these suggestions will come from you getting your child’s buy-in and cooperation. He will box up the pacifiers and knowingly hand them over, simply because he is now a big kid and he wants to help others who don’t have pacifiers. You are teaching empathy, giving your child a sense of control and helping him graduate to “big kid” status without (too many) tears!
You will find these adorable books helpful!
How did YOU kick the pacifier habit as a child? Please share your personal story in the comments.