So how can you make it easier for your little pacifier devotee to kick the habit? Our smart tricks and techniques can help her part with it peacefully.
Time it right. Don't try to wean your child off her pacifier during a stressful time, such as the birth of a new sibling, an illness, or a move, says Dr. Cohen. Kids use their binky to cope with transitions and tough situations, so they're far less likely to hand it over when they're anxious.
Make it a team effort. Don't forget to tell your babysitter, family, and everyone else who cares for your child about your ban-the-binky plan -- and make sure they follow it. Otherwise, someone may slip your child a pacifier and undo all your efforts.
Limit binky time. Although some kids do respond to the cold-turkey approach, gradual weaning is usually more successful. Start by telling your toddler that the pacifier can't leave the house. Once he can handle that, restrict its use to naps and at bedtime.
Banish boredom. Many toddlers plead for their pacifier when they have nothing to do, says Dr. Cohen. The next time your child whines for it, try distracting her with a favorite blanket or stuffed animal, sing a song with her, or take a few minutes to sit and cuddle instead. Bonus: Since kids use a pacifier to self-soothe, these techniques show her that there are other ways she can feel calm and secure.
Tie the breakup to a milestone. Linda Haworth-O'Brien, of Palos Heights, Illinois, encouraged her daughter, Maggie, to give up her binky for her third birthday. A few weeks beforehand, she talked up what a big girl Maggie was and that she wouldn't need a pacifier anymore. Coincidentally, her supply of binkies "mysteriously" dwindled. On her birthday, Maggie went without her pacifier all day. That night, however, she cried and Mom caved in. "But the next morning, she handed me her pacifier and told me she was ready to give it up," says Haworth-O'Brien.
Keep it positive. Putting pressure on your child to give up her pacifier will do more harm than good. While it's perfectly fine to say that your toddler is a big boy or girl now and doesn't need to suck on a binky, don't stress her out or make her feel ashamed by saying that pacifiers are babyish, says Dennis Woo, MD, chairman of the department of pediatrics at Santa Monica-UCLA Hospital. But even if your child isn't swayed by your encouraging words, don't worry: Once she gets to preschool and sees that the other kids don't use a pacifier, she'll likely give it up on her own.