How to gently help your little one transition away from their soother
Babies can only use a pacifier for so long! Whatever you called your baby’s pacifier, you are done with it, even though your child may not be. Like many parents, you might feel that it is finally the time to move on to soother free living. You are not alone; so take solace in the fact that others have done this before you and others will do this after you. Get out your patience and get ready to embark on a journey towards helping your child get rid of their pacifier.
1. Assess your child’s readiness.
When children are first born sucking can be a very soothing thing, whether it is on a breast, bottle, or soother. This is what attracts many parents to a soother in the first place: the soothing aspect of it!
When children stop needing their soother can vary from child to child. Some children just naturally give up their soother early on, and some keep it around for various reasons like soothing or habit. Maggie Simpson doesn’t seem to be letting go of hers any time soon!
There is no magical age when your child should be soother free, but before they enter school is a good goal to set, if not sooner. Around the age of two, children are very aware of what’s going on around them so it could be a good time to reason with a soother-toting toddler.
There are some times that are not the best to transition away from a soother, namely when there are other big life events going on: Adding a sibling, moving houses, death of a family member, divorce, etc. Too much change at once can delay the process of being soother-less, so try and do one major thing at a time because this is a major step!
2. Use baby steps to start.
As with many areas in parenting, there are different ways to getting rid of a pacifier and you need to know your child to figure out which way might work best for you. If you want to start small consider making a simple rule like ‘Binky stays at home’ or ‘binky is only for bed, you can have binky but you need to be going to sleep.’
Consider making the pacifier their responsibility. Give your child the ‘job’ of knowing where it is for when they want it. There can no longer be some ‘mommy I need my soother,’ you can respond with a loving ‘that’s your job and I know you can do it.’ With this method they may lose the soother and then give it up. Of course, they may lose it and freak out, but you should try and remain even, calm, and loving no matter how your child reacts.
3. Go cold turkey.
If you don’t think starting small will work then you may want to go cold turkey. For this approach you will literally need to take away all soothers: fish them out from behind the bed and get that one from the bottom of the diaper bag. Make sure you discuss this with your child and have a good reason for taking the away, ‘because I said so’ doesn’t cut it with many toddlers.
There are neat ideas out there of having your child ‘hand down’ the soothers to a baby you know; be it a sibling, cousin, or friend. Either way you choose, be firm yet kind and follow through with your choice. Be prepared for tears and whining and be sure to listen to your child and spend extra time nurturing them and loving them during this difficult time.
4. Cut it or poke a hole in it.
If you want your little one to get over their soother fast, consider cutting or poking a hole into it so that it provides a different sensation. When it’s no longer the soother they have known and loved they may not be as attached to it. With this technique you need to be careful that your child can’t get any bits of the plastic off, as that can be a choking hazard.
5. Try children’s literature.
As with many milestones in a child’s life there are good books to read with the child about living life soother free. Some good ones include: Bea gives up her pacifier by Jenny Album, Pacifiers are not forever by Elizabeth Verdick and No more pacifier for Piggy by Bernette Ford. Be sure to read them through yourself first so that you know the books message meshes with the message you want to send your child.
6. Be honest with your child.
Do not lie to your child when taking away a comfort object like a pacifier. If your child is older and more verbal, have a conversation with them as to why it’s time to be pacifier-free. Do not tell them that the pacifier is going to affect their teeth growth if you do not know this first hand. Before saying something like that be sure to first consult your dentist, although many dentists would like agree with you.
If you are saying that you’ll be giving the soothers to another child, mean it and follow through on it. Although lying is tempting, this is a good time to build trust instead. The exception to the rule on this may be if you want to plant it. Literally plant your child’s soother in the garden and keep ‘checking on it’ to see when it flowers into a soother flower. You will have to plant that flower (or the little white lie) but this is a cute idea at the very least!
7. Keep the comfort but lose the pacifier.
If the pacifier is an element of comfort, then when transitioning away from it, try and keep something comforting to switch to a different form of comfort. Have you told them that they’re now a ‘big kid’ and no longer need a soother? They maybe they could have a smooth rock to hold in their hand and rub when they need comfort.
Are they still pretty little? Why not take the soothers to Build a Bear and build them right into a stuffy for your little one – they’ll get to choose and that will give them some ownership over something they may feel helpless about. Lots of love, snuggles and attention during this time of transition can help the process – you can be the comfort that gets them through.
Not having to have approximately 400 backup soothers that are just to your child’s liking will be a rewarding feeling. Never having to panic again over whether you remembered to pack the pacifier will be such a relief for you. This is a process, but one you and your child can handle. Good luck and look forward to the pacifier-free days ahead of you!