Bye-bye Pacifier: 4 favorite ways

Rev. 7/18

Are you stressing out at the mere thought of getting rid of your child’s pacifier?  Most parents dread this topic! 

Here is some advice on how to get rid of the pacifier with confidence and success. Pacifiers are an effective soothing mechanism for infants and have been shown to decrease the rate of SIDS during infant sleep. For older toddlers, I think pacifiers help the stress and pain of teething. By the age of two years of age, however, most kids are ready to transition to an alternative soothing item (stuffed animals, “lovies,” and other blankets.)

At the age of 2, the jawbone is still very pliable and changing. Changes in the position of the teeth due to pacifier use (an “open bite,” or malocclusion) can still self-resolve. And, removing a foreign object from a child’s mouth during a period of extensive language development is just a good idea.

I know some parents delay this transition because of the fear that their child will be "mad at them” for taking away their trusted friend. So, why not take yourself out of the process (figuratively speaking) and have them get rid of it? If your child can actively get rid of the pacifier him or herself, then you are not the one to be blamed. You are the one providing comfort.

So, how do you do it?

Here are my four effective ways to help your child get rid of his or her pacifier.

1.  Go shopping. Is there a toy, book, or treat that your kiddo would love to get his hands on? Have your child “pay” for this item with all the pacifiers that he collects around the house. When you are at the store where this item is sold, find a helpful face at the customer service desk. Explain to the service clerk that your child would like to “pay” for a special item with his pacifiers. As you pay the clerk for the item, allow your child to place all his pacifiers on the check-out counter in exchange for the new toy. It is a quick, effective way to get the pacifiers out the house and provides a new item of distraction. In addition, it is a tangible reminder of what the child accomplished.

2.  Go to Build-A-Bear WorkshopHave your child grab all of her pacifiers and head to the mall!  Have her pick out a new “best friend” from the Build-A-Bear collection. Before the stuffing is placed in the bear, have her put all her pacifiers in the bear. Now, she will have a new friend to sleep with, and her pacifiers will also be there! (FYI, I have no vested interest in Build-A-Bear.)

3.  Pick a night for the Pacifier Fairy. Have your child collect all of his pacifiers and place them in a special sack near his bed. Let him know that the Pacifier Fairy is going to leave a special treat in the morning in place of his pacifiers.

4.  Bring them to me! Bring along all the pacifiers to your child’s 2-year-old checkup along with a new “surprise” for your child. Give the surprise to my nurse as you are checking in. During the visit, I will be happy to take all the pacifiers from her in exchange for the new surprise. You can remind her later that Dr. Natasha is using the old pacifiers with her patient babies who did not have a pacifier. Promote the example of “big kid” generosity.

Some more quick tips:

  • Any behavior modification with a 2-year-old works best when the message is simple and clear. That is why these techniques work. The pacifiers are gone. Period. I do not recommend "weaning" from a pacifier since the message to your child is not clear from day-to-day. This leads to confusion. Stay firm with your decision, and don't talk or "explain" too much. Once the pacifier gone - it is GONE! No turning back - no explanations needed. This is just something that happens to all big kids, and the time is now.
  • Make sure that your child has not hid any pacifiers around the house. Nothing is worse than getting through this process, only to find a formerly-hidden pacifier in your child’s mouth.
  • You know your child best, but I would argue 20-22 months is the sweet spot for most kids to successfully make this transition.
  • Regardless of how, where, or how much the pacifier was used; be prepared for 3 bad days. That is the average time it takes to dissociate the pacifier from your child's lifestyle. Consider those 3 days short-term inconvenience for tremendous long-term gain.

My son loves his pacifier. Just looking at his cheeks swell as he smiles behind that piece of plastic - I can't help but smile myself. I know our day to get rid of the pacifier will come soon. Until then, let me know if these suggestions were helpful to you, or if you know of any other successful methods. I would love to hear.

Good luck.

P.S. Want to hear one more way to get rid of the pacifier? Check this post.