Getting Rid of the Pacifier
Step-by-Step Guide to Pacifier Weaning
By: Kelby Carr on: Fri 01 of Jun, 2007 [00:12 UTC] (14061 reads)
Pacifier weaning can be one of the hardest challenges for a child. Whether you're getting rid of an infant or baby's pacifier or persuading a preschooler to wean off the pacifier, it is no easy sell. Here is a step-by-step guide to getting rid of the pacifier.
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Keep in mind before you start that a pacifier is a soothing and calming device, and it will take steps to wean off of it. It's no different than an adult giving up a vice like drinking coffee or smoking. Habits are never easy to break, and a child has even less coping skills than an adult.
Be sure you go into it with that perspective. This will be a trying time for your child, and it's important to be patient and supportive, but at times firm.
Step 1 - Analyze Whether it's Time to Get Rid of the Pacifier
Before you even start, be sure this is the right time. What are the reasons you feel weaning the pacifier must happen? Is it because of pressure from family and friends, or embarassment over your child being in public with a pacifier. If it is, that isn't the best reason.
If you are concerned about the physical impact, they actually say that children can safely use pacifiers up to age four without any ill effects. In fact, babies who use pacifiers have a lower risk of SIDS.
If you are concerned it is a bad habit to develop, keep in mind that everyone (babies, children and adults) need ways to cope with stress. Babies and children need it even more than adults. Do you have a replacement method to allow your child to self-soothe?
You will need one, because everyone should have a tactic for calming and soothing. And trust me, a child will find a replacement - probably thumb sucking. You can't take a thumb away, so you may be causing a bigger problem later.
Step 2 - Introduce the Idea of Pacifier Weaning
You cannot expect your baby or child to ditch the pacifier overnight just because you decide it's the right time. If your child is old enough to understand you, just bring up the idea a few times. Make casual statements like, "We should discuss getting rid of the pacifier soon." Then leave it at that.
If you are weaning a baby, you won't have the luxury of communicating about it. But there are non-verbal ways to do that. Simply don't offer the pacifier as often out of your own habit. Save it for when the baby is upset or going to sleep.
Step 3 - Cut Back on Pacifier Use
The next step in pacifier weaning is to start reducing the use of the pacifier. If your child is older, explain to him or her that the pacifier is only for bedtime and naptime. Continue your comments that the pacifier needs to go soon, and discuss the reasons why with your older child. Ask him or her how he feels about that.
If you are weaning a baby, simply don't use the pacifier unless it's sleep time or your baby is extremely upset. Instead, when your baby cries, look for other ways to help him or her self-soothe. You might consider distractions with favorite toys, or offering a favorite stuffed animal.
Step 3 - Make Plans to Get Rid of the Pacifier
Now it's time to get serious. Set a deadline for the pacifier to go. With your older child, a great incentive is to toss out comments like, "We can go to Chuck E. Cheese after you give up your pacifier," or find some other incentive to motivate him or her. You may find your child offers to give up the pacifier.
With your baby, try giving the pacifier until they fall asleep or get sleepy and then remove it.
A great motivator can be to have your child "donate" his or her pacifiers to needy babies. With our daughter, she left all her pacifiers out for the Easter Bunny to take. She had the promise of extra Easter basket bounty, and the idea that the Bunny would be very proud of her.
You can also tie pacifiers to a balloon to set them free so they can go to new babies who need pacifiers. This makes for quite a dramatic farewell to pacifiers, and it helps your child get closure.
Step 4 - Pacifier Gone!
Now, the pacifier is gone. If you think this process is over, it has actually just begun. Expect a few days to two weeks of your child having a hard time with the transition.
This can be a good time to introduce a new comfort blanket or toy for a baby. For an older child, a big stuffed animal or toy he or she can fidget with will help your child cope.
Most of all, once you've eliminated the pacifier, do not revert back. It will be hard for a few days. Your child will probably beg you for the pacifier back, even if he or she was the one to ask for it. This should pass after a few days.
When your child gets extremely upset, offer hugs, support, words of encouragement about how brave and big-girl or big-boy he or she is. Be sure to say you know it is very, very hard for your child.
After a few days, and particularly if you have helped your child find another coping mechanism that isn't worse than a pacifier (starting a bad habit of going to sleep with the TV on, for instance, isn't a good replacement).
Don't forget to tell your child often just how proud you are of his or her accomplishment. This goes for children and for babies, who may not understand the words, but they certainly understand the positive tone in your voice.