Alongside the longtime debate over co-sleeping vs. crib and formula vs. breastfeeding, pacifier use is one of the major topics for parents. Anyone who has tried to ween a little one off their beloved pacifier will tell you, it isn’t easy! There are lots of tears, withdrawal symptoms are real, and the requirement for patience is critical. Despite its challenges, the transition is necessary. Babies who use pacifiers into their toddler years are more prone to ear infections, dental issues, speech impediments and more. If the time has come for your little one’s pacifier to retire, consider one of the following methods for rehab!
- Countdown to cold turkey!
Set a date and countdown until big kid status begins! Cut construction paper in favorite colors or characters, glue the strips in interlocking loops to create a chain with corresponding days until the big day. On the official big kid day, be prepared for counter withdrawals by scheduling fun activities (playground trips, crafts, games, etc.) to keep the thoughts away from the lack of a pacifier. Before bed, reward the little one with a sticker or treat. Keep in mind this method may not work for everyone as it will be a drastic and sudden change. If you decide to stop cold turkey, be prepared for the worst with extra snuggles, kisses and lots of patience!
- Consider replacement therapy with other food!
One way to ween your baby off the pacifier is to encourage a more mature palette through the introduction of solid foods. Lead by example by placing age-appropriate food in front of them at family meal time and giving them the independence to feed themselves. Let them remove the pacifier to eat, when they finish eating, provide them with a drink in an age-appropriate cup, and continue with your evening routine. The key to replacement therapy is to maintain a routine. Introduce different foods and textures to allow your little one to appreciate all of the flavors and textures of different foods! Before no time, they will realize the pacifier doesn’t taste all that great and will become more interested in other things!
- Make it a treat!
Place a liquid, yogurt or a puree in an ice tray and place a pacifier nipple-down into each cube. Allow them to freeze and give them as a treat. When the treat portion is gone, the pacifier will be taken, cleaned and used again for a treat next at a later time. These frozen pacifier treats are great for teething, keeping cool, sick pops (when used with an electrolyte drink) and general snacks.
- Take it slow.
Take note of when your little one is most dependent on the comfort a pacifier provides and remove it during all other times of the day. For example, if the pacifier provides comfort in the car and during the night, those will be the only times it will be in use. Slowly remove the pacifier from the night time routine by putting your little one down without it and, over time, remove it from the comfort routine during the night. For car rides, consider providing a snack or activity or toy to distract them from the missing pacifier.
The goal is to empower your little one to realize and decide they no longer need the comfort from their pacifier. Every child and experience is different. Remember, we are approaching this as rehab and the dependency on a pacifier is no joke! Be patient, provide comfort and encouragement along the way, and remain consistent! Your support during one of your little one’s first challenges will set the tone for the rest of their lives!
Written by Tabitha Keese, Staff Writer, Modern Domestic, Founder of Shipwrecked on Fabulous Island Blog