NatureAmy

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Bye-bye Binky without the Tears – How the cut the pacifier method worked for us

My youngest LOVED her pacifier – really, really loved it – and I really loved that she loved it so much.  I’ve been a human pacifier, and although I loved to soothe my babies with breast milk, I really never cared to be a sucked on just for the sake of being sucked on.  “Pacis” are such wonderful soothers, plugs, and quiet-ers.  I really had no intention of using it past 12 months, but here we were at 24 months and counting and she was more attached than ever.

At 3 days old, she already loved her pacifier and I loved that she loved it, too.

At 3 days old, she already loved her pacifier and I loved that she loved it, too.

All three of my kids have taken pacifiers (and all three were exclusively breastfed, so it obviously didn’t hurt breastfeeding in our family).  However, my boys both gave up their pacifiers on their own at about 6-7 months, about the same time they decided they liked solid food.  So, I never had to break a child of a pacifier before – and I was kind of terrified of it!

We planned to break her of the habit at 12 months, but since her birthday is in May, a summer full of travel and camping trips made us put it off until after summer.  Then school started, and overnight field trips and general family busyness made us decide to put it off again.  Then came teething and molars, but she was only using it at nap time, bedtime, and in the car, so I was not too concerned about it and neither was her pediatrician.  Then she got a bad winter cold and the pacifier was the only thing that soothed her and I let her have it during the day.  However, when she got better, she was hooked on having it all day long…

At almost two years old, she was more attached than ever. A rare photo with it in her mouth (I usually pulled it out for pictures).

At almost two years old, she was more attached than ever. A rare photo with the binky in her mouth (I usually pulled it out for pictures).

We were down to just one pacifier and I decided that once that was lost, we would not replace it.  However, she picked the worst day to lose it – the same day I had a miscarriage at the end of February – needless to say, we made an evening trip to the convenience store down the street while she sobbed and screamed in her bed.

Three months later, after her second birthday, we decided that it was finally time to say goodbye to her pacifier for good.  But I was torn over all the options.  We could just take it away and deal with her crying and tears – but I really wanted to avoid that if possible.  We could exchange it for a new toy, but I really didn’t think she’d be thrilled about that, either.  We could plant a pacifier tree for new babies, but that would go over her head.  Experts, like in this article from Parents magazine, told me to expect one to five nights of crying no matter what method I used, but was there a way to avoid that?  There was one method that I kept coming back to that suggested a gradual and peaceful transition.

I had heard about the “cut the pacifier” technique  somewhere (I really don’t remember where I first heard about it) and I was intrigued.  The technique is simply to cut a small piece off the pacifier every few days until it loses its “magic”. Eventually, the child decides the pacifier is broken and just doesn’t want it any more. If it worked, we could gradually wean her from the pacifier without the tears.  It was worth a shot.

So, after another couple camping trips and our weekend away in Tahoe for our anniversary, I decided to dive right in.  Everything I read about the method said that it was safest with a high quality pacifier like a Nuk, which is what we use.  Some people were concerned that cutting the silicone could present a choking hazard, but I was not too concerned about this with our Nuk.  The first cut is supposed to be a small triangular cut right near the tip, so that is what I did as soon as we returned home from our vacation.

The first very small triangular cut - really just the tiniest nip off the end.

The first very small triangular cut – really just the tiniest nip off the end.

After the first cut, I hesitantly gave my daughter the pacifier at bedtime, unsure of how she would react.  I half expected her to throw a fit and I had a reserve pacifier hidden in the bathroom, just in case.  She lit up when I gave her the pacifier – as she always did – she loved that thing.  She popped it in her mouth and promptly spit it out and put her finger in the hole.  She whined and held her pacifier up to me.

“Uh-oh,” I thought. “Just act natural…”

“It’s okay,” I soothed in an overly optimistic tone.

She looked at me again and popped it back in her mouth, deciding it would do.

So far, so good…

Over the next few days, she still wanted to have her pacifier throughout the day, but she was holding it more than she was sucking on it.  She still sucked on it at nap time and bed time, but it was not in her mouth for too long each time – just enough to sooth her. Definitely a step in the right direction.

Three days in, because it was going so well, I decided to cut the hole a little larger, still in the triangular shape.  Most stories I read said that the process took two to four weeks of slowly cutting the tip every few days, so I was expecting her to still take the pacifier for at least another week.

However, when I gave her back the pacifier that night, after the second cut, she was done.  She stuck it in her mouth, spit it out, and held it tightly in her fist.  Apparently, it no longer had the right suck – it had lost its “magic”. She didn’t whine or cry – she was done.  She continued to hold the pacifier during nap time and bed time for the next week or two, it was still a soothing item, but she stopped sucking on it.  The method worked in three days with no crying!

Puppy love - now all she needs is her favorite lovey to sleep.

Puppy love – now all she needs is her favorite lovey to sleep.

Honestly, I was pleasantly shocked that the method worked so well.  I expected fits of rage and temper tantrums when we weaned her, but we had nothing of the sort.  It was simple, quick, painless, and quiet – and I would certainly use the technique again.

So, what have you used to break your toddler of the pacifier habit?  I’d love to hear what’s worked for you.

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9 Comments

  1. Very interesting. I have an almost three year old that doesn’t want to give them up. I’ll have to give this a try! Thank you.

  2. Do you know which Paci’s are NOT safe to do this with? We use the Maam Paci’s.

    • Amy

      December 8, 2016 at 3:01 pm

      I don’t have a list, I just read that the Nuk were a good brand for this method. The Maam probably is, too. I imagine any high quality silicone pacifier would be safe for this method. I wouldn’t use a rubber one, personally – I think that would break apart easier if cut. We had a cheap pacifier that we bought as an emergency backup at the dollar store – I wouldn’t cut that one, either.
      Good luck,
      Amy

  3. Wow Amy, I am amazed of how fast this method worked for you! I am really trying this one out just have to pick the right week for it. My little one has been sick with her allergies (seasonal) so we are waiting for that to pass to start weaning her.

  4. I am about to attempt this method with both my 3 year old and my 21 month old. The other one only uses it at night but the other screams uncontrollably and has terrible tantrums that this is the only solution. I am apprehensive about the younger one but it needs to happen. Do you think doing both kids at the same time would be beneficial or detrimental?

  5. My LO is 2 and I found your article and before reading how you did it, I just snipped a big a piece off. It’s been 4 days (and we had the throw up bug on day 2 which I thought she’s need it back) so far so good. She asks for it but I remind her “it’s broken” and she doesn’t like sucking on a broken binky! Parents need to resist the temptation of giving it back Stay strong.

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