Sigh…your little one just turned 2 (or maybe even 3) and your dentist/pediatrician has told you it is time to eliminate the pacifier. You panic, you dreaded this day! You are worried it will affect her behavior, and heck will it affect her sleep too? However you also don’t want to take a chance of causing bigger issues such as a speech impediment or dental problems. So it’s time…and I’m here to help you get through this transition as easy as possible.
First and foremost, take a day or even a few days to let this sink in with you. Talk to your toddler, let them know that their beloved binky will be going bye bye soon. Keep in mind every child takes the news differently. Some children do not skip a beat, and some have temporary sleep struggles (like later bedtimes or skipped naps). The best thing to do is remain calm, confident and consistent while providing a lot of love to your little one as they get through this transition.
In honesty, the best way to eliminate the pacifier is to simply take it away “cold turkey.” This is not meant to be cruel, instead it causes less confusion and sends a clear message. If you do this, throw away all of your little one’s pacifiers in advance so they cannot find one AND so you don’t cave in. When a message is clear, there are less tears in the process. Weaning and occasional use, only confuses your child, making the transition difficult and more upsetting. Not to mention it only prolongs the inevitable.
If you don’t want to go the cold turkey route, then you can always get creative. Unfortunately no matter which method you choose be prepared for a few rough days and even some tears in the process. Your child may be upset initially, but within 3 - 5 days, your child will begin feeling better and move on. Also keep in mind, the younger your child is, the easier it will be to eliminate this sleep crutch.
One of the cutest ways to eliminate the pacifier, but also be able to keep it close to your little one and part of their life, is stuffing it in a special Build A Bear that they can make at the store. Although I didn't want my daughter to ask for me to take it out of the bear so when I transitioned my daughter at 3 I did the cold turkey approach and prepped her in advance. Surprisingly she didn't miss a nap, and she was only said for a total of 48 hours after we threw them in the trash (she helped me throw them away too). Below are a few more creative ways to ditch the binky...
The “paci or binkie” fairy takes them. Pick a night for the “paci or binky fairy” to come. Have your child gather all his pacifiers and put them in a paper bag, sack, or small bucket and put it by his bed. Explain to your child that the fairy will come and get all the pacifiers because she is a big girl (or big boy) now. And in return, leave a present in exchange.
Build a bear. If you have a build a bear store nearby take your child and let her pick out her new bedtime bear. Before they stuff it, have your little one put her pacifiers inside and explain that’s where they will be now, and she can cuddle with her new buddy instead of using the pacifier.
Up in the sky. Buy a few helium balloons and tie a pacifier or two to the balloons (you can just throw out the rest). Go to your backyard, park, or field and have your baby say “bye bye” as the pacifiers fly up into the sky. Of course you will want to explain to your child ahead of time that it’s time to say good bye to the soothers and prepare him for this bye bye binky ceremony.
Garbage can. I know this one sounds silly, but for younger children the only way they may understand that something is forever is if it goes in the garbage can. Most kids, even at a young age, understand that once something goes in the garbage, it doesn’t come back out. So explain ahead of time that it’s time to say good bye to the binky. Have her place all the pacifiers in there, and that’s it! You can give your child a gift in return.
Garbage man. Do you have a Garbage Truck obsessed kid? Talk to your local garbage man in advance and ask him if he can stop by the next week to take the pacifier away. You can put them all in a box and have your little boy/girl hand to the garbage man knowing that it will be going in the garbage.
Send to a new baby. Have a friend that is expecting or recently had a baby? Ask them if they would be willing to be part of the pacifier transitioning by accepting a wrapped gift of pacifiers in a box from your little one. You can tell your son/daughter that they are older now and they need to give their binkies to the baby. Ask that they wrap them with you, and have them hand them over to your friend for the "new baby."
Take it slow over several weeks. You can always take it slow too if you feel your child will respond better with this type of method. There's no hard rules in eliminating the pacifier, you just need to choose a method that will work best for you and your child, and stick with it. To go slow you will simply begin phasing out the pacifier by only allowing for sleeping times, then only allow for naps, then eventually eliminate completely. This may take several weeks, but your little one may respond better to this if they are at an age in which you can communicate to them and explain to them what is happening. Every morning when they wake they should earn a sticker towards a small reward, and after your little one has gone 5 - 7 nights without the pacifier then attempt naps. Start with nights because missing a nap is way easier than missing a whole night's of sleep.
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