Weaning your child off a pacifier can be a challenge to parents. A pacifier, also known as a soother, dummy, doodie or binky can be a great addition to your baby's routine while they are adjusting to life outside of the womb.
There are so many major developments in the first few years of your child's life and a pacifier can help with soothing and settling them during those times. However, many parents face problems when the time comes to say bye-bye binky - your little one may throw tantrums and make a big fuss when they can't have their pacifier. Luckily there are a few different methods you can try to wean your child off their pacifier with as little fuss as possible. Here is our guide to weaning your child off a pacifier.
What are the benefits of using a pacifier?
Pacifier use for babies aged 6 to 12 months is often recommended by health professionals as pacifiers can be beneficial to your baby's safety and comfort as they grow. The benefits of introducing a child's pacifier to your baby's routine include:
Create a safe infant sleeping environment
Pacifiers can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and sleep-related infant deaths. If you are going to introduce a dummy at night, make sure it isn't attached to any clothing or stuffed toys, as these could be a choking hazard.
Soothe your baby
A pacifier can help to soothe your baby when they are feeling grumpy, tired or are in discomfort. The sucking motion is known to have a soothing effect on a little one which can help to settle them when they are grizzly.
When going on a long car journey or travelling, a pacifier can help to distract your child so that they remain calm. Pacifier use can also be great as your child grows through life events such as starting daycare or having a new sibling in the family.
Can your baby's pacifier create problems for their health?
Prolonged pacifier use could offer risks to your child's health, especially if they are still using a dummy past the age of 3 or 4 years old. A pacifier could alter the correct positioning of the teeth and affect your child's bite, as well as affect the roof of your baby's mouth. If a pacifier is used for too long while your child is growing up, they could experience dental issues as their adult teeth begin.
A pacifier habit could is also known to cause middle ear infections in some children past the age of 6 months as the sucking motion can affect the auditory tubes in your baby. If your child does get an ear infection then your pediatric dentist will recommend that you wean off the pacifier.
Additionally, introducing a pacifier to your baby's routine could disrupt their independence; especially if they become attached to their binky and will not go anywhere without it! This can also mean you'll have lots of problems trying to say bye-bye binky!
However, as long as parents take pacifier safety into account and keep an eye on their child's health, pacifiers can be a great way to keep kids calm while they are growing and developing.
When should I wean my child off a pacifier?
Every child is different, however, most children will begin to wean off their pacifier around the age of 2 to 4 years old. However, if your child begins to suffer from dental issues or ear infections they should say goodbye to their pacifier before the age of 12 months. You should also wean your child off their pacifier if they begin to develop speech problems.
It may not be a good idea to prevent pacifier use in your child while they are experiencing a major life event or development, as the binky can help to soothe them during a tough time. Wait until things have calmed down to get rid of the dummy.
How do I wean my baby off the pacifier?
For some parents, restricting pacifier use can be an easy task but for other parents, weaning could result in a very grumpy child. Family physicians are able to provide expert tips that can help your child to stay calm while they are saying bye-bye to their dummy. Here are some ways that you can try to successfully start weaning your child from their pacifier.
Gradually stop using the pacifier
One way to help your child break from the routine of using their pacifier is to gradually restrict its use. This means you should try to phase it out of the day and only allow it for nap time or nighttime at first. Let your child know that they can only use their binky at nighttime and see how they manage.
Once you have successfully taken the pacifier from nap time during the day, you can eventually stop the use of pacifiers during the night, too. The best way to do this is to replace the dummy use at night with something else in the bedtime routine, such as bath time, a bedtime story, or a lullaby.
Go cold turkey
For some parents, going cold turkey can be a quick and effective way to stop the use of a pacifier. There are 2 ways you can go cold turkey, depending on your child and how attached they are to their binky.
Let them know they will not be able to use their binky anymore
You could try letting your little one know that their pacifier is going cold turkey; explain to them that they are a big boy/big girl now and that dummies are for new babies and young kids. Make them feel good by letting them know they are at an age that they don't need their pacifier anymore, and will have to stop using it. This method can work better for some children as they will know what to expect.
Take the binky away without notice
Other kids may react better to having their pacifier taken away if they aren't aware it is even happening. If your child isn't too attached then you could try to take the binky away after their first birthday or at an age where you feel they shouldn't have their dummy anymore. Simply keep it hidden and see how they react; if they ask about it you can tell them it's gone or you have lost it. Some parents find that their child doesn't even care that binky has gone missing!
Replace the pacifier with something else
Another way that you could stop using pacifiers for your child is to try replacing the dummy with something else that your baby or toddler can become distracted by. This could be a stuffed animal, blanket, or a new toy - the excitement of having something new may mean that they do not care on losing their pacifier. Remember that stuffed animals, teddies, blankets and toys should never go in your child's crib or with them at nap time, as they can be a serious choking hazard.
Ask your child to give their pacifier away
Asking your child to give their pacifier away can not only help with weaning them but can also teach them to be giving and selfless. You can tell your little one that the 'binky fairy' or the 'paci fairy' has come to collect their dummy as they are a big kid now and are at the age where their binky needs to be given away. This can also fit in well if you have told your baby about the tooth fairy, as they may be more likely to believe that they do need to give their pacifier away to the binky fairy.
This weaning method can be a fun way to get your child to give up their pacifier; you could invent stories about the binky fairy or have them paint/draw on pictures of the fairy.
Let your baby naturally stop using their pacifier
Although prolonged use of a pacifier can mean that your child gets into the habit of being with the binky at all times, they may naturally get to an age where they stop using it without any assistance. They may see other kids around them without dummies or become distracted by something new. The best way to encourage your little one to naturally stop using the binky is to praise them when they go without it - make it known that you are proud of them for spending time without it and that they are a big kid that is doing a great job.
Make the pacifier taste bad
If you are finding it really difficult to cut your child's habit of using their binky, you may need to try out a new method that can help them move on without it altogether. Dip the binky in something unpleasant or bitter like lemon juice or pepper. Your little one won't like the taste and may stop using their binky altogether! You could get rid of the pacifiers in your house altogether by trying out this method.
Need a little extra support?
We understand that ditching the soother can be very daunting! It's a FAQ in our monthly Q&A sessions on Instagram. Don't stress! In our Sleep Series courses, we give you the 7 Steps to Better Sleep which will help you not only understand your child's sleep but navigate this milestone too. You'll be able to get expert-led support from Erica in the Sleep Series Community on Facebook while working through the course and getting closer to your family's sleep goals.