How & When To Wean Your Child Off A Pacifier

Early Childhood Development Specialist Anastasia Moloney shares her tips on how to say goodbye to your child’s beloved pacifier

Little toddler with a rubber pacifier in her mouth

As a parent, it’s up to you to decide when it’s time to wean your child from a pacifier. This is no easy task considering it’s probably one of their most prized possessions, soothing and comforting them when they are tired or distressed.

Some children may decide to stop using their pacifiers by themselves, however most often, the parents make the decision. There are many theories about how and when to transition away from a pacifier. Just remember that it’s up to you. Try not to feel pressured or judged by the reactions of family members, other kids and sometimes, even strangers.

When to wean your child off a pacifier

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics and The American Academy of Family Physicians, babies should be weaned off pacifiers between 6-12 months to prevent Otitis media, also known as middle ear infections. Studies have found that pacifier use beyond the age of 3 years “contributes to a higher incidence in anterior open bite, posterior cross bite and narrow intercuspid width.”

How to wean your child off a pacifier

In this article we will discuss five tips for weaning your child off a pacifier including:

  • Decide on a plan that might work for your family
  • Make sure the timing is right
  • Introduce a new security object
  • Talk about the transition with your child
  • If your child is old enough, empower them to make the decision when to part with their pacifier
  1. Choose a weaning plan

    • The three-day plan: If you want to rip the bandaid off relatively quickly, this plan created by Mark L. Brenner, author of Pacifiers, Blankets, Bottles & Thumbs: What Every Parent Should Know About Stopping and Starting (Fireside), basically gives you three days to prepare your child for the disappearance of the pacifier.
    • The gradual approach: This approach aims to help your child become less dependent on their pacifier. Begin by limiting the use of the pacifier to certain spots – only in the house, and then only in the crib. As they become less dependent throughout the day it will be easier to remove completely. This approach may still lead to a few rough nights of adjusting to sleeping without the pacifier, however it will become easier and easier.
    • The cold turkey approach: This method is like ripping the band-aid off quickly. While this approach may not suit everyone, some parents just want to get it over and done with quickly. If you’re child is old enough to understand, it’s still recommended that you explain to your child what’s going on. The most important thing about this method, is that you have to stand your ground and not give in. Just make sure you’ve got some extra things to distract your child with for a few days like a special outing, a new toy or fun activities like finger painting, play dough or something tactile.
  2. Choose your timing:

    A period of stress for you or your child such a moving, starting a new daycare or sleep training etc may not be the right time for anyone.

  3. Introduce a new security object:

    Before taking your child’s pacifier away, introduce some other type of ‘lovey’ or security object. This could be a blanket or stuffed animal. While the pacifier is still around, it may not become their new favorite, but make an effort to have the new object near them when they need comfort or at bed/nap time. This will help them find comfort in something else once their pacifier is gone.

  4. Talk to your child about what’s happening:

    Whether you decide to take a gradual approach or a quick one, always talk to your child about what’s happening if they are old enough to understand. For instance you can talk to them about how they’re becoming bigger and they don’t need the pacifier anymore and that instead of a pacifier, the can have a lovey.

  5. Empower your child to decide when to part with their pacifier:

    If your child is older, it may be helpful to involve them in the process of saying goodbye to their pacifier. This will give them control and encouragement to make the decision themselves. Together with your child you could start by reading a story book about giving up pacifiers. You could create a special box together to put the pacifier in when he/she’s ready. As a positive gesture, you could give your child a reward once they’re ready to say  goodbye to the pacifier. This will help to reinforce the decision s/he made. If you begin with one approach and you feel like your child doesn’t seem interested, you can always start another. No matter what approach you choose your child might have moments of missing their pacifier and go through an adjustment period at night, but be strong as this will pass if you are consistent.

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