Pacifiers, also known as soothers, can be lifesavers for parents with screaming toddlers or fussy babies.
They are also recommended in the first six months of a child's life to help prevent Sudden Infant Death and to encourage a baby to self-sooth.
But pacifiers also have their negatives, such as causing problems for developing teeth, and that's why they shouldn't be used after a year old.
8 ways to wean your child off their pacifier
When the time comes to wean your little one off their soother, you could be in for trouble!
While some children say goodbye without drama, others find it extremely difficult to let go.
It is important to talk to your pediatrician about the pros and cons of pacifiers.
I experienced reluctance with my third born daughter, who was very attached to her pacifier.
I weaned her off at two years old by applying the following simple tips.
- Talk to your child: Obviously this is age-dependent but I talked to my daughter and used words like "Amani, are you a big girl now?" and she would excitedly reply, "Yes!" Then I would say, "Good, did you know big girls like Tanisha (her favourite cousin) no longer use their pacifiers?" Bringing in her cousin during this transition worked wonders because she really wanted to be like her. Your child may follow through on this trick for a while, but the novelty might wear off.
- Limit its use: You may limit the use of the pacifier during the day to times when you are at home. Work on phasing it out completely and limiting it to naptime and bedtime. I found bedtime to be the most difficult time when weaning my daughter off the pacifier. Amani would scream and throw a tantrum. I started a new bedtime routine that worked. I gave her a warm bath, rocked her as I sang lullaby songs, and she slept. You can also do a bedtime book.
- Give a transitional object: A transitional object can be a new toy or a favourite blanket. It offers security for your child, especially if they can safely sleep with it and self-soothe at night.
- Do not use it as a defense: As a parent, you may want to give your child the pacifier as soon as they have a meltdown, but you shouldn't cave in. It's important to remain calm and find out why your child is crying. Try distracting them with toys, checking their diaper, or finding out if they are hungry.
- Make it unappealing: You could dip the pacifier in vinegar or in lemon juice to make it distasteful. Chances are, your child will spit it out and want nothing to do with it. But there are kids who won't be deterred!
- A special farewell party: With an older child, you can arrange a party to say good bye. I took Amani shopping and let her choose her favourite toy. I had explained to her that we would pay with the pacifier! She picked her choice and went over to the counter to pay for it with her pacifier. (I had arranged an early payment with the shop attendant.) This is how I finally got Amani off her soother. You could do a complete bye-bye party with balloons and hats and let your child bury the pacifier with a seed. When the plant grows, it can be named Paci.
- Praise: Remember to praise your child as they do well off the pacifier.
- Out of sight, out of mind: With this method, it's good to be prepared for some challenging days, but the good news is that the transition period will soon pass. You could accidentally forget the pacifier while on a long trip. Being calm and not giving in is essential for success with this method.
Patience is key
The earlier you wean your child from the pacifier, the better, because you avoid attachment and other health risks.