Weaning off the pacifier without going cold turkey.
Intro – We did it. I’m still cuddled up in bed with her but she is asleep without her pacifier. She was and I know will continue to be my hardest one over the next few days but we made it through bedtime number 1.
When to wean off the pacifier is a matter of great debate in parenting circles. In fact, my siblings and I can’t even all agree on when is the appropriate time to get rid of them.
Online conflicting information ranges from “expert” to “expert” and parent opinion abounds. However, when you are facing the reality of a new baby with a toddler running around all that information feels useless as most parents face the transition dealing only with one child at a time instead of 2 or possibly even 3!
It Really Could Ruin Your Child’s Teeth and Mouth
Prolonged pacifier use can actually interfere with the formation of the bones in the mouth. According to the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, it can cause jaw alignment issues, front teeth to tip up and out, as well as other mouth growth problems.
The American Dental Association agrees that prolonged pacifier use could lead to life long dental problems. Both note that this behavior is perfectly natural and generally not a problem since many children break the habit on their own.
When to Stop Pacifier Use: The Great Debate
The greatest debate seems to come from when is the best time to stop. I read as early as 6 months old but saw as late as 4. Even the AAPD and ADA differ with one suggesting 3 and the other 4.
The debate can get heated among parents of both sides staunchly advocating for what they believe is best.
Dos and Don’ts: Somethings are easy to agree on
Don’t let your little one sleep with a cord or strap attached to the pacifier.
Do allow your child to use their pacifier when 6 months or less to help develop a strong breastfeeding latch.
Don’t encourage additional sucking by putting anything sweet on the pacifier.
Do encourage good oral habits by restricting pacifier use to times of need instead of all day long.
We opted to take it away at about 1 year old. Our children happen to have barely any teeth until then (seriously I was lucky that my kids even had 4 teeth on their first birthdays), and we also knew that the ability to distract them would work greatly in our favor. However, I am not condemning or even suggesting that this the “right” way. This was simply our choice.
Somethings to consider when you have children close together:
The age difference between your two children.
If you have true “Irish twins” it might be best for your family to allow the older child to keep their paci as they go through the changes of becoming a big brother or sister. Plus it might save just a tiny shred of your sanity. Slightly larger gaps are easier, in my opinion, to remove the pacifier before the new one arrives.
They have really short term memories at one.
They really won’t remember after just a day or two unless you give in and give it back to them. They quickly get used to their new normal.
Let them have a comfort item of some kind.
Be it a blanket, stuffed animal, or lovey. Whatever it is, I found it easiest to transition when they had another comfort item to use.
Don’t transition when they are sick, are going someplace new to stay, the holidays, or if you have just gone through a big life change as a family.
In my personal opinion right after a new baby arrives is NOT the time to try and transition away from a pacifier.
My 3 Best Tips for Weaning off a Pacifier
1. Start Early or Well in Advance
Weaning from a pacifier is easiest as a long term process. We actually start at about 6 months. If baby is happy and playing either with someone or with a toy we pop the pacifier out and let them practice making noises and being happy without it. My husband also turns it into a toy in itself by taking it from them and playing “keep away” before returning it. Obviously, this is a very slow and short game of keep away. At 7-8 months we really focus on only letting them have it when they are upset, tired, or have gotten bumped around. By 10 months they pretty much only have it at naptime and bedtime. By 11 months it has to be left in their bed so they can have it at naps and nights. During that time we start weaning off at naptime and bedtime. We also wean off bottles during this time as well. At about a year old we put the pacifier away in the drawer and that is that. However, we have worked towards that moment for 6 months.
2. Have a Consistent Routine for Naptime/Bedtime
From my experience and in talking with other parents this seems to be the most difficult time of day when it comes to weaning from pacifiers. One of the things that we do to help solve a whole host of issues is to have a solid bedtime routine for our children. The routine for each child has shifted just a bit as we add kids but the general idea is the same.
They get a bath, then into a diaper and jammies, grab blankey, read a story, then turn out the lights and I sing while we cuddle. As they get a bit older and bigger that cuddling has moved from the rocking chair to their bed but even my 3 year old still likes to snuggle at bedtime.
Having a solid routine signals to your little one that it’s time to settle down and go to sleep. These signals will help ease the transition into not going to sleep with the pacifier. Their bodies are used to going to sleep after those signals and so they want to sleep. Plus, making sure they are extra sleepy those first few nights without it is always a great idea too (not overtired but just a little extra sleepy).
3. Don’t Go Back
I know this sounds a lot like going cold turkey but remember you have been preparing for this. Maybe not for a whole 6 months like we have but ideally you have been preparing your little one for this inevitable day. Once you make the decision to put the pacifier away do NOT cave and give it back. Now there were several days, especially with my daughter, where I kept it close at hand to see if maybe she would just go down easily without it but I was not committed that she was done. It wasn’t a problem to give it back. We all got a nasty case of the flu and were struck by a series of unfortunate events right after her first birthday. She was, therefore, allowed to keep her until about a month after her first birthday. Once I committed to putting it away though that was it. I was done.
No Matter When You Wean from a Pacifier These Tips Will Ease the Transition
It really is about finding what’s best for your family. Whenever you decide to wean these tips can help you create a transition that is easy and less frustrating for the whole family.
Want to remember these tips for when you’re ready to transition from using a paicifier? Pin this post to your favorite Pinterest board! [H3]
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