Weaning Your Child Off the Pacifier

Help your child say so long to their soother, once and for all.

Weaning Your Child Off the PacifierAs it turns out, Annika just needed the right carrot dangling in front of her.

When it came time to ditch her well-worn soothers, we gave our two-and-a-half-year-old daughter a choice: if she threw them out herself, she could get a purple tricycle (something we intended to get her anyway). Well, it worked — she dumped her stash of suckies into a trashcan and, after a few tough nights, learned to fall asleep without them.

Comfort Level

Babies are born wanting to suck. It’s a natural, comforting behaviour that can help them fall asleep. However, because older babies don’t have the intense sucking need they did when they were first born, the Canadian Paediatric Society recommends that children give up their soothers when they turn one.

“When a toddler is attached to a pacifier, it’s for emotional reasons, and it’s not unlike the attachment they might have for a special blanket or teddy bear,” says Ann Douglas, author of The Mother of All Toddler Books (John Wiley & Sons). “It’s also typically used in times of stress, so it’s associated with stress relief in the way that an adult might reach for a cup of coffee.”

And as many parents of mini-addicts know, it can be a struggle to wrestle the soother out of the mouths of babes. So we thought…Who better to ask than other parents for their tried-and-true methods for getting rid of the pacifier once and for all?

Make Some Magic

“At our home, the ‘suckie fairy’ took the soothers and gave them to new babies and left a little gift for our children when they were both around three years old,” says Christine McEvoy Storey, a Guelph, Ont.-based mom of two. “When we did it with Brittany (now six), it just so happened our good friends had a child around the same time, so Brittany put two and two together and always assumed the new baby got her suckie.”

Go Cold Turkey

“Our daughter Jillian was three years old by the time we got rid of it,” says Michelle Mullins, an Oakville, Ont.-based mom of two. “It was major withdrawal for her. We just took it away because we decided that getting rid of her “bips” was long overdue. It was rough, though — it was what I imagine a drug withdrawal would be like: she was awake the first night, crying and tossing and turning. The second night was better but still rough. It took a full week before she got over it. It’s easy to say after the fact, but I think we should have gotten rid of it earlier, when she wasn’t so aware of it.”

Outsource It

That’s how Lori Thompson started the ditching process with her then-two-and-a-half-year-old son, William. After William’s first pediatric dentist visit, the dentist recommended that he give up the “sue-sue,” in part because his teeth spacing was getting a bit crowded on the bottom half of his mouth and there was a chance his bite could change with the prolonged use of a soother. “So William and I had a long discussion after the visit,” says the Toronto mom of two. “I reminded him the dentist said we can’t use it anymore at nap or at bedtime.” Five days later, William finally got used to sleeping without his soother.

If there was one piece of advice the moms were unanimous on, it was that whatever you do, stay strong once you’ve actually ditched the suckie (don’t even keep it in the house if you can — toss it into the garbage to avoid the temptation of caving in to whiny and teary demands). It may take hours or days, but like generations prior, your child — with positive encouragement from you — will eventually grow out of her need for a pacifier for good.

Doesn’t Make the Cut

You’ve probably heard that one way to discourage soother use is cutting them in half or snipping off the ends so the soother loses its suction, thus, its appeal. However, the Canadian Paediatric Society advises against this common practice as cutting soothers may create bits of loose plastic that could break off and become lodged in a child’s airway.

Astrid Van Den Broek, a Toronto-based writer and mother, is amazed that her daughter Annika barely remembers her “suckie days.”

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