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.
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…
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.
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!
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.