Catherine, my second oldest, was the only baby that would ever take a pacifier. By a year old, she was almost completely reliant on it. The “paci” was a familiar friend at play time, nap time and bed time, and car trips. Thankfully, it was easier to break the pacifier habit than it was the thumb-sucking habit.
Unlike a thumb, which is part of a child’s body, a pacifier is merely an object. That means mama can control it! (Yeah!)
To break the habit for good, I lost Catherine’s three pacifiers – on purpose. At just over a year old, she was capable of understanding the simple concept of something being lost. “All gone!” I announced one day. “The paci is all gone! Where is it?” I feigned genuine despair and Catherine fell for the masquerade. We hunted around the house for a while. We looked under furniture. Checked her crib and the toy basket. The pacifiers had vanished (cough cough)!
There was some fussing, but not a lot. Basically, when Catherine started to cry or whine for the pacifier, I would simply throw my hands up and say again “The paci is all gone? Where is it?” She would stop crying and look around. I would spend another minute or two “looking” for it. The drama created by searching for the lost binky was a great distraction, and it completely banished the tears. After looking for a while, Catherine would get bored and go back to whatever she was doing before.
This went on for a few days, and she simply forgot about her pacifiers. I don’t remember where I hid them, but I did throw them away when I saw she was over it for good. I think this approach worked pretty well for two reasons: timing and temperament. Catherine was just over a year old, so while pacifier-sucking was a habit, it wasn’t as deeply ingrained as it could have been. Waiting until she was a toddler might have made it tougher.
Secondly, Catherine is a sanguine child. A hallmark of this particular temperament is that the sanguine is always looking for fun and new things, and is therefore easily distracted. They are quicker to forget hurts, worries and problems. (Speaking of temperaments….I’m going to be doing a post on this shortly. It’s a fascinating subject which dates back to antiquity, but is grounded in some very simple truths about human personalities!)
But back to pacifiers…
You could try my trick and see if it works. And starting to break the habit at around a year old (or less) is ideal because they are starting to explore and you can get them interested in other things besides the pacifier.
Two other methods I’ve heard that work well are (a) asking your child to give away the pacifier (to Santa, the Tooth Fairy, another baby, etc.) and (b) weaning them away slowly (take away the binky at play time, then nap time and eliminate bed time last).
I know there are those who say “Children will give up the pacifier on their own. Why deny them a comfort measure?” My answer to that is very simple. Prolonged pacifier use, like prolonged thumb-sucking, can cause tooth and mouth problems. This wouldn’t happen until they are 4 or older, but that also means the habit will be deep set and harder to break. Once again, after dealing with the thumb-sucking issue I am a big advocate of catching potential problems early on.
Feel free to share your binky stories below!