The decision to use or not use a pacifier is up to you. There is a list of pros and cons, but generally the American Academy of Pediatrics gives temporary pacifier use the green light. Among the pros, new research indicates that pacifier use reduces the risk of SIDS. However, prolonged pacifier use may contribute to dental problems.
Some parents are able to dispense with the pacifier when their baby is about six months old, but others find that their child really needs it to calm themselves, to be able to sleep, or get back to sleep after waking in the night. Some time between the ages of two and four, most children will give it up. The question,then, is how to help them through this painful process?
How to get rid of the pacifier?
Here is one method that has worked for many families:
- First, gather all the pacifiers you can find into one location. If your child is very dependent on them, you may find over a dozen in the car, your purse, the diaper bag, the crib, the toy box, and the silverware drawer. Make sure they are all clean. Because they are often wet and stored in dark places, they can be breeding grounds for bacteria. Now place the pile of pacifiers in a clear container in a prominent location. Perhaps a big, clear plastic jar on the kitchen counter.
- Next, talk to your child about this. Tell him that he is growing, and soon he will not need a pacifier any more. Maybe you only spend a day on this step, or you might need to spend a week on it. Get some library books out on the topic of “growing up”. Help your child see that this is normal, that every body grows up. That it is okay to feel like a big boy sometimes, and still want to be held and rocked and kissed. Growing up does not have to be like going up a crowded escalator. Your child can take the stairs all by himself. Sometimes he’ll go up two steps, but then come back down one. Maybe he’ll run up three steps, but trip on the third one and want to sit there for a spell.
- When your child is okay with the concept of “growing”, then you explain that every day he may have one pacifier, but it must stay in his crib. He can climb in his crib if he feels he really needs it. He may use it at nap time, and at bed time. But he may not take it out of his crib. And in the morning when he wakes up, HE will throw it in the trash. You will watch him do this, and make sure he doesn’t dig it back out! (Yuck!).
- Gradually, the pile of pacifiers will diminish. As it gets smaller, praise your child often. Hold him a lot. Rock him. Comfort him. Sing to him. Don’t make him feel that he is losing your love and affection. All he is losing is something to suck. It may help, subconsciously at least, if you serve foods that require sucking. Don’t get him addicted to lolly pops! The pacifier is undoubtedly the lesser of those two evils! But you could make some frozen fruit-juice popsicles or put a straw in his glass of milk or juice.
- Finally, the last day will come. He will throw away the last pacifier. Make it a party. Serve cake and ice cream and his favorite food for supper (assuming he has one). Take lots of pictures. Play a special game, and let him stay up just a little bit later than normal. Keep him busy all day. This would be a great day to spend at the park! You want to make sure that he is very tired at bed time, not over-tired and cranky.
Go through your regular bedtime routine, whatever that is. Often that means taking a bath, putting on clean pajamas and cuddling in the rocking chair to hear a story or two. Then put him to bed.
He might fuss a little. He might fuss a lot. Do not pick him back up. Do not bring him into your bed. You may go in his room, lay him down again if he is standing. Cover him and rub or pat his back. You may put on some soothing music. Reassure him that you love him.
Some children will cry for a day or two, but rarely longer. Then get the pacifier-be-gone photos developed and add them to your child’s scrapbook or album. You’ve done it!
If your child continues to have problems sleeping, you may want to get additional information. Here are two books on getting children to sleep. I haven’t yet read either of them, but I read all of the parent reviews posted, and they gave the books a five-star rating. Healthy Sleep Habits, Happy Child and The No-Cry Sleep Solution