Pacifiers are a heavily debated topic in parenting circles. If you don’t have children, that statement probably sound absurd, but it is true. There are theories about pacifiers preventing children from speaking on time, issues of dental development, and even nipple confusion.
When our son was first born I was set on breastfeeding. I wanted our baby to reap the natural benefits of breastmilk, I wanted to feel connected to him, and I also wanted to showcase the wonders of the female body. After growing a human for ten months, the fact that a woman’s body can also feed the baby astounds me. With all of that being said, I was worried about using a pacifier because the breastfeeding specialists at the hospital warned of nipple confusion and how pacifiers could potentially prevent a baby from breastfeeding properly.
Well, life is what happens while making other plans, and after a week of breastfeeding, I gave up and switched to formula. (Note: my decision to switch to formula was a personal decision that my husband and I made together. In no way do I endorse one method of feeding over another. Fed is best, no matter how that has to happen.)
Once we stopped breastfeeding, I gave pacifiers a try and loved them. Pacifiers calmed our son down when he was crying, allowed him to sleep better, and even provided a sense of security for him. He loved the pacifier! And therefore, so did I…
…Until I hated the pacifier.
We weaned our baby off of his pacifier about a month ago. He is not even a year old yet. Most children I know kept their pacifier until they were over a year old, almost two years old. Honestly, I had no problem with the pacifier at all. I didn’t even consider weaning him off his pacifier before he was a year old.
Then, one day my opinion changed after an incident. I walked into the room where our son was playing in a bouncy seat and watching Sesame Street. His pacifier was no where in sight, and I feared he gave it to our dog (which he made a habit of). I asked him, “Daniel, where is your binky?” With that, he smiled and revealed that the entire pacifier was in his mouth.
As you could imagine, I lost my mind and immediately took it away from him. This specific pacifier he was using was the largest size possible to buy because he had done this before with smaller ones. I decided right then and there that it was time to wean him from his pacifier. This, too, was a personal decision. Every article online that I have read claims that pacifiers have holes in them and safety measures to prevent choking hazards, but I just could not shake my anxiety about the whole thing.
Within four days, he was off the pacifier and did not even look for it anymore. Below I listed a few steps I took that worked for us in getting our son off the pacifier:
- Hide the pacifiers or simply throw them away
- Personally, I threw them all away. I didn’t want anyone else in the house to accidentally give him one. Further, I didn’t want him find one, himself, and put it in his mouth. Besides all that, we have had a few incidents where the family dog has gotten his paws on one and needed help. Throwing them all away was like closing a book for me: it was over.
- Do not budge
- This is one of the benefits of throwing them away. For the first few days, our son was very sad and missed his pacifier. Not only did it help him sleep and calm him down, but it was his only security. With that being said, we cut him off the pacifier cold turkey. I think this helped speed things along because he was forced to go about his day without one.
- Find another safe security item
- As mentioned previously, the pacifier was his security. We found it helpful to find another safe item that he found soothing. We gave him a large teething ring, and now he sleeps with it.
- Use a soother sound machine
- The pacifier helped him fall asleep. For the first few nights, he fought sleep without it. So, we began using a soother that plays relaxing sounds at night to help him. We use this one from Pottery Barn Kids. It plays many different sounds and has different volumes, too.
- Be more attentive to the baby’s needs for a few days
- Since our son was about a month old, we practiced different variations of the Ferber method. Our pediatrician endorsed the practice, and it allowed our baby to become semi-independent and learn to occupy himself. Obviously if he was crying his head off we would pick him up and sooth him, but there were times when nothing would be wrong and he just wanted to be held. With all of that said, once we took the pacifier away, he was confused and didn’t understand where his security item was. Because of this, we soothed him and cuddled him more during the difficult days or hours.
- …but don’t totally disrupt the baby’s sleeping schedule or other developed habits
- Yes, it is important to be more attentive to the baby’s needs for a few days, but it is equally important to not disrupt their healthy and developed habits as well. We (luckily) had our son sleeping through the night by 4-6 weeks. One of the ways we did this was by putting him down to sleep when he was still awake. Our pediatrician said this was a good way to make him learn to put himself to sleep. After we took the pacifier away, we continued this practice. It was difficult for the first few nights, but eventually he did figure it out.
- Keep toys handy
- We kept him occupied the entire day. We put him on his foam blocks with a boatload of toys and let him just go at them all day. Not only would this tire him out at the end of the day, but it kept him preoccupied.
- Get the baby talking
- Along with keeping him preoccupied with toys all day, we talked to him all day. This allowed him to keep his mouth busy without needing the pacifier. (Side note: since weaning him off of the pacifier, he speaks much more than he previously had!)
- Don’t say the word in front of them
- Babies are not stupid. They are actually incredible little creatures that learn every single day and observe everything. By ten months, our son knew what a “binky” was, and knew he wanted one. Whenever we would say the word, he would look around the room in search of the pacifier. So, we stopped saying the word around him. It was too sad to watch him nervously look around for the pacifier!
- Don’t lose your mind
- This one is kind of related to point #2, but it is slightly different. Don’t budge. But also, don’t go crazy. All babies eventually kick the pacifier habit. It just requires discipline and a little work.
I always say this in any of my posts about parenting and it has become a personal mantra for me: all children are different. I have completely accepted the fact that this method of weaning might not work for anyone else, or even our own future children. This method worked for my first child, and it worked for my family. I wanted to share this step-by-step method for anyone else looking for a solution!
With that being said, no parent should beat themselves up about pacifiers or any other parenting issue, for that matter. I felt like such a failure when I stopped breastfeeding, but after careful reflection I knew I made the right choice for my child, me, and my family.