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How can I wean my toddler off his pacifier?

How can I wean my toddler off his pacifier?
Submitted by American Baby Team

First ask yourself, why do you want to wean your child from the pacifier? If it's interfering with her ability to interact, talk, or play with others then it may be a good idea to phase it out. But if she's using it only to fall asleep (better than relying on you to rock her or lie down with her) and to soothe herself when she's upset, then she is using it to a good end.
Like many parents, you may be concerned about the impact of pacifier use on your child's teeth, but pediatric orthodontists report that regular use of a pacifier before age 4 doesn't cause dental problems or misaligned teeth. Some parents are embarrassed by an older baby with a binky in her mouth, but rest assured when your child gets to preschool and sees that the other kids don't use a pacifier she'll likely give it up on her own. In addition, kids who are dependent on their pacifiers may just substitute their thumbs if the pacifier is taken away.
That said, if you still want to wean your child from the pacifier, the first step is often helping her find other ways to calm herself. Many children use a security blanket or toy for comfort. If your daughter doesn't have a "lovey" already, you can help her develop one by choosing a blanket, stuffed animal, or doll, and including it in your caretaking activities. Have it sit on your lap or your daughter's as you read together, and set it next to her as she eats and when you cuddle before bedtime. Or offer your child the opportunity to trade in the pacifier for a big-boy or big-girl toy, or dip the pacifier in something that doesn't taste so great, like pickle juice, so your kid will look forward to it less.
Taking binky away gradually is the best way to go. Don't get into a power struggle over it or your child may hold onto it more fiercely. When your child wants the pacifier during the day, let her have it for a minute or two and then offer other ways to help her calm down -- a hug from you, snuggling with her lovey, or reading a book together. Reduce the time you let her have it until she doesn't use it at all. Taking the pacifier away at bedtime will probably be more difficult. Perhaps let her use it during reading time and while you're rocking or singing but not when she goes to sleep. Then gradually lessen the time she uses it.
It may also help to have a pacifier going-away party, as special rituals can ease difficult transitions. When your daughter is ready to give up her pacifiers altogether, gather them up, put them in a special place (such as a box you've decorated), sing some good-bye songs, and then put the box away.

Originally published in American Baby magazine, February 2004. Updated 2009

The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.

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for me, it was easier to allow my child to feel more in control of the process. we went to the store and i let him pick out a new bed time and nap time "buddy." he picked out a stuffed monkey. i told him that the monkey was for "big boys" only and that it was time for the pacifier to go to new babies to help them fall asleep. eager to feel more grown up, he threw the pacifier away himself. i think seeing the pacifier go away and feeling in control helped him a lot.
Submitted by cassie.mercer1
Ava takes hers for naps and bedtime only. She's 14 months. Like someone else mentioned, it cues her that it's time to settle down and it comforts her so I really have no problem with it. She has a lovey and a small blankie too... she's also high maintenance. ;) But that's okay. In the morning and after naps she throws her paci out of her crib and says "ni ni" to it, LOL.
Submitted by rheanna1983
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Submitted by weer
My daycare provider told me the best advice on getting rid of the pacifier.. Cut off the tip a little every few days/week. I did that with my 18 month old son's paci's. I only had to snip it twice before he completely lost interest in it. It's just not the same when the end keeps getting shorter and it's harder for them to suck on it and slowly resolves the attachment issue too! It was 1000 times easier than I thought it would be!
Submitted by hedimack
dont wean just toss it out the car window or let him wake in the morning and dont give it back .it will be tough the first day but they wont miss it.
Submitted by tinasaltytea
We only use her paci at nap/bedtime or when she's sick. We started this when she was 1 and she's now 18-months-old and has done great with this approach. In the morning, I have my daughter put her paci in her crib so that she doesn't view me taking it away as punishment - it's her decision. At naptime & bedtime, giving her the paci is her cue that we're tranisitioning from playtime to sleep time.
Submitted by write_angie
My only concern about the 'rest assured when your child gets to preschool and sees that the other kids don't use a pacifier she'll likely give it up on her own.' We were told that about thumb sucking and to this day, my 10 year old still has not given that up. She doesn't mind if the kids see her with her thumb in her mouth! I do not sugest the wait and see approch. I think if we would have started helping her sooner we wouldn't be were we are now.
Submitted by fadroskij
When our daughter turned one we reduced her pacifier time to just at bed time and nap time. She is very mature about it. It has a special place at the end of her crib. She usually takes it out of her mouth and puts it in on her own. I do keep a pacifier in her bag for emergencies. We have only had to use it once at church.
Submitted by lcahoj
Yes my little 2 year old is still hooked on her paci and now it's specific brands too.It's nice to hear someone who implies not to stress over it.I laugh at the advice to replace it with a blankie/stuffed animal because mine has all three and still needs rocked at times too.She is my high maintance princess but I love it all the way.It doesn't seem to cause a problem with speech either, she is talkign up a storm in full sentences.So I pick it up and put it away when she takes it out for now.
Submitted by AGraceMom