Gently Weaning Your Toddler from the Pacifier

pacifierA quick search brings multiple techniques on weaning: everything from using bitter polish, hot sauce, mutilating the pacifier to decrease the pleasure, to making a child give it up cold turkey. While the pacifer has lots of benefits for a young baby, when it’s time to wean it can bring up many issues. For a gentle parent, finding a way to respectfully and calmly ease the use is a must.

Gentle ways to wean from pacifier use include starting gently, using positive reinforcement, moving slowly and letting them make the decisions of when. Peaceful Parenting had a lovely post on a creative way to gently wean your child from a pacifier:

When young Ben was old enough to understand via conversation with his mother what was happening, she tied his pacifier to a stuffed animal that he could carry with him during the day. This allowed him to use it for comfort as needed, but made it slightly less convenient to walk around with for hours on end at home.

Next, Ben’s mom introduced the idea that the pacifier and animal needed to stay in bed. She and Ben made a ritual of tucking the animal (with pacifier) into bed each morning. If Ben wished to use the pacifier during the day, it would be in bed – where his animal needed to stay for animal’s comfort and snooze time.

Once Ben became accustomed to returning to bed to use the pacifier as needed, his mom untied the pacifier during the day time hours and put it up on a high shelf in the bedroom, retying to his animal at night. If the pacifier was needed during the day, he would ask for it, and they would snuggle into bed during its use. Day time use became less and less frequent, and eventually faded away altogether.

Each evening Ben’s mom continued to tuck him into bed with the animal and asked him, “Do you want your pacifier tonight or would you like to try sleeping without it?” One night the time came when he asked for it, looked at it for a while, and then handed it back to his mom. He then presented her with a question, “If I change my mind, will you get it down for me?” “Yes, of course I will,” his mom replied. But he never asked for it again…It lived on his shelf for many months to come – there just in case he needed it, for the security of knowing it was there should the time come. And Ben’s weaning from this comfort item was complete–without tears, fears, or the introduction of anxiety.

 

When my son was ready to start having a conversation about his binky use, we calmly spoke about how big kids don’t use a binky through out the day, how it is hard to understand him with it, and asked his feeling about it. We compromised on an only in bed routine. He was only allowed to use the binky in his bed. When that became comfortable, we started removing his binky from him bed with his permission and he only had it at bedtime. During the day he only had his lovey to comfort him, and slowly it became habit to only use that. With lots of encouragement, positive affirmation and allowing him to set the pace we were able to remove the binky from his days with minimal tears and anxiety.

The last thing I wanted to do with my son was create an anxiety ridden power struggle over his pacifier. By giving him time and space to gently give up his binky habit and ease into the next phase of comforting with a lovey, he was able to give it up with no tears and no anxiety. It took my son until a while to give it up, yet he was comfortable with his decision and choices. And that is the most important part to me.

PIa Watzig is a stay at home mom living in Portland, Oregon with three crazy boys. 

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