How to wean your toddler off a pacifier

Let me start this out by saying that I’m no expert in the field of removing pacifiers. I’m simply a Mom who had a two year old who was OBSESSED with hers.  So obsessed, in fact, that part of me was convinced she’d head off to college with one hidden in her suitcase somewhere.

November 2012 (almost 2 years old)

November 2012 (almost 2 years old)

When it came time to say goodbye, I struggled (right alongside my husband) with the fear of the unknown. All we knew was that she loved it so much that if we kept it from her, earth shattering tantrums would follow. It wasn’t a pleasant experience for anyone so we allowed her to keep it longer than we should have.

That being said, we are officially a pacifier-free home (thanks in part to the fact that our now 6-month old never took one in the first place – thank goodness!!!).  In attempts to offer some inspiration to those of you who think it can never be done, here are my tips on how to wean your toddler off their ever-beloved pacifier.

It may seem impossible now, but it can be done!

Tip #1 :: Make sure YOU are ready and committed

Our first mistake was thinking we could wean Abigail off her pacifier because other people thought we should.  Just like everything else in life and in parenting, you need to make decisions based on what is best for you and your family (and not what other people think). In order for this to be a successful experience, you (the parents) need to come together and decide that it’s time.

At the end of the day, we made the decision to wean Abigail because we were sick of seeing her smile through her binky and we were tired of listening to muffled words that were a result of her binky usage.  Coincidentally enough, we came to that realization the day before Abigail’s first dentist appointment (where the dentist said pacifier usage should not occur after 18 months of age).  At that point, we really knew it was time and we were finally ready to commit to the change.

Tip #2 :: Come up with a plan you can stick to (and get creative)

This is extremely important. Once you’ve made the decision that you’re committed and ready to wean your toddler, come up with a clear and easy plan to follow. Make it a plan that works for your family.  For us (as detailed here), we were able to take her pacifier away one step at a time.  First, it was taken away at all times other than nap and night time. Then after coming up with a story of where we would send the pacifier (we went with the old trick of “sending it away to a family member”), it was taken away completely.

We came up with a plan and a timeline and we (for the most part) stuck with it. Always allow for a little flexibility in your plan (we’re dealing with kids, after all), but don’t think you’ll be able to do it without a clear path in mind.

If you’re going to tell a story like we did (“you’re a big girl now…you don’t need a pacifier anymore..we’re going to send your pacifier off to your younger cousin”), let them get involved in the process.  It’ll make it that much more believable for them. With Abigail, we let her decorate the package, put the pacifier in, and we had her put it in the mailbox.

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When it arrived in Atlanta, we had my family out there take a picture of her cousin grabbing it out of the mailbox.
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When Abby saw that picture, her face lit up like it was Christmas morning.  The more believable the story, the easier the transition will be for your toddler (and it’s just more fun for everyone that way!).

Tip #3 :: Be prepared for withdrawals

This was the fun part (and yes, I’m being extremely sarcastic). Your toddler, especially if they love their pacifier half as much as Abby did, will go through some intense withdrawals. There will be kicking, screaming, hitting, flailing, and pretty much any other -ing word that drives you nuts about your kiddo.

All I can say is be prepared, pack your patience, and be ready to protect the other children in the house (which is what I did when Abigail would go into a flailing, uncontrollable tantrum – I had to make sure Mackenzie was out of the way, haha).

For us, the intense withdrawals only lasted one day. That one day felt like an eternity, but it could have been much worse.

Just set your expectations appropriately. Plan for the worst. Assume it will take weeks and then if you only deal with three days of withdrawals, it will feel like a minor miracle.

Tip #4 :: Follow through, even when you want to give in

There will be moments when all you want to do is dig through the trash and find the pacifier you tossed in the day before in an effort to enjoy some peace and quiet.  I urge you to stick to your guns and deal with the withdrawals and the screaming (and just pour yourself a large glass of wine or take a LONG bath at the end of the day – you’ll need it). If you give in, even if it’s for a few minutes, you’re erasing all the hard work you’ve already put in.

Instead of handing the pacifier over (or shoving it in your toddler’s mouth out of desperation), distract your toddler with another activity or treat they enjoy. We took extra trips to the park, we played legos for hours, and yes, I even took Abigail to get frozen yogurt one day in an effort to sufficiently distract her.  You do what you gotta do sometimes!

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Tip #5 :: Give your kids more credit than you think they deserve

One of the most interesting things I think I learned from this experience is the fact that we as parents were more attached to Abigail’s pacifier than she was.

Since she was a month old we let her use it for soothing purposes, we used it as a noise minimizer, and as she got older we allowed her to grow more and more attached to it.

Because we had become so used to it, we were afraid that when we took it away, we’d experience meltdown after meltdown. We were afraid she’d never nap again. Never sleep again at night. Never last more than 5 minutes in the car or the stroller without screaming. The list goes on…

We were afraid.

And then when we started the process, we were blown away by how much Abigail understood and how easily she transitioned away from her pacifier. She understood what was going on. She understood that she sent her pacifier to her cousin because she “needed” it more than Abby did. She had a few rough moments in the beginning, but in the end, she was perfectly content with saying goodbye to her binky.

To this day I’m still shocked at how truly easy the transition was (especially when compared to our expectations of how it would go).

Tip #6 :: Just do it

Last but not least, just do it!  I sort of hate to quote Nike, but I’m going to do it anyway since it’s the best and simplest way I can encourage other parents to embark on this journey (if, as I said in my first tip, YOU are ready to say bye-bye to your toddler’s pacifier). 

There will never be a perfect time to do it. You’ll always be quick with an excuse to avoid the transition (some of our excuses sounded like this :: “we’re traveling this weekend…her molars are coming in…she’s just not ready yet…we need a few more nights of good sleep before we take it away…” Sound familiar???).  There will always be something holding you back.

So if you’re ready to see your toddler’s beautiful smile ALL the time and you’re ready for their words to make more sense, just do it. It may be rough for a few days, but once that pacifier is gone, you’ll feel like the weight of the world has been lifted off your shoulders (or at least that’s how I felt!).

You can do it!  And good luck!

7x7xMommy

Read our very detailed experience (Operation Binky Removal) here.

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2 Responses

  1. Leah says:

    Hi there! I just stumbled across your blog and love it! Thank you for this article. I’m almost in tears reading it because I guess it breaks my heart at the idea of taking Cash’s passy away. He’s going to be so heart broken but it’s certainly time. He’s 2.5 years old and so attached to the passy and his blanket. The blanket, no problem. He can keep that until he’s 40 but the passy has to go. Your tips and encouragement are great and I’m going to sit my hubs down and we’re both going to commit to the take away. It’s going to be a rough road…preparing for the worst, hoping for the best. Thanks again!

    • 7x7xMommy says:

      Hi Leah!
      I’m so glad you found this helpful! It is SUCH a hard thing to do (especially when you haven’t started the process and all you can do is imagine how terrible it could be), but I promise you’ll get through it…all of you will…but I’m not going to lie and say it’ll be easy. 🙂 That being said, I CAN say the rough couple of days are absolutely worth it. You guys can do it! Good luck 🙂

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