Up until recent years, many doctors and dentists concluded that it was better to avoid pacifiers because pacifier weaning can be so difficult. Recent research suggests potential real health benefits of using pacifiers, including the fact that they may reduce incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Of course, many parents also know that pacifier use can help calm some babies and gives them an opportunity to learn self-calming methods. Pacifiers or binkies may help everyone in a home get a little more rest.
On the other hand, pacifier weaning can be very stressful for both child and parents. It can be rough going for a child to give up something that they have come to depend upon for soothing. Many parents initially want to know when they should start weaning. Dentists usually recommend that children not use pacifiers after the age of two, since this can affect mouth shape, and alignment and bite of permanent teeth. Some recommend beginning pacifier weaning gradually a few months before a child turns two.
There are different strategies for pacifier weaning. Some people favor a cold turkey approach, where the pacifier simply goes away. Kids who are two or three will certainly ask for and understand that this beloved comforting device is missing, so other people recommend a more gradual approach to weaning that first reduces pacifier use.
Once a child is about one year old, you should restrict pacifier times, potentially only using the binkie during sleep times. When the baby is wandering about, watching TV or playing, they shouldn’t have a binkie available to them. After the child adjusts to initial reductions, see where you can reduce further. For instance, sneak in and remove the pacifier at night if the child sleeps through the night. Alternately, have pacifiers at night but not for nap times.
This gradual method can help children become less dependent on pacifiers, which makes pacifier weaning slightly easier. It’s a lot harder to wean when a child uses a binkie at all times of the day. It is recommended that when you decide the pacifier should go, you discuss this with your child. You can plan a special party, a gift for when all binkies are gone or have small rewards in place. Don’t plan pacifier weaning around the birth of another child, as this may increase sibling tension.
It is usual and expected for children to grieve the loss of pacifiers, especially during the times of the day when they most need them. If pacifiers were used at night, expect a few nights to be sleepless. Children may be very upset and have a challenging time falling asleep. As much as it may be heartbreaking to watch kids endure this loss, giving in won’t help with pacifier weaning. Make sure you have gotten rid of all pacifiers when you start so that you can’t give in when you’re exhausted and would just like your child to stop crying.
Parents who have successfully helped kids give up pacifiers note that the first two to three days are hardest. Children may still talk about their binkies thereafter, but they’ve usually learned to get to sleep without them. Offer plenty of support and love for children as they endure this loss, but don’t bring up the subject of binkies unless the child mentions it first. Within a week or two, conversations about binkies are likely to end.
One potential foil to pacifier weaning are hidden binkies. Make sure you have gotten rid of them all. Your path to ending the habit won’t be easy if your child has a secret stash of binkies, and some kids do hide one if they are aware that they must give up pacifiers.