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Here’s How We Got Rid of the Pacifier in One Try




Written by:

Barbara Mighdoll

I was absolutely dreading the day we had to say goodbye to Caden's pacifier. “Paci” went absolutely everywhere with us. It was his source of comfort, whether he was upset or needed to be soothed in the middle of the night. I swore we'd never get rid of it…I mean you don’t see kindergarteners going to school with pacifiers, so they’ll grow out of it naturally right!? 

Well this strategy held true until my husband took him to his first dentist appointment at age 2, and the dentist broke the news that it was time to bid farewell to the paci. I was so resistant to the idea. We had just welcomed a new baby, and Caden still felt like my little baby who relied on his paci, especially during this time of change. So, I decided to put it off for a few months, until after our big trip to Italy. Then, we'd start the journey of weaning him off the pacifier. 

When the moment finally arrived, I found myself in tears… something I never imagined I'd experience before becoming a parent. The paci wasn't just a source of comfort for him, it also symbolized the last remnants of his babyhood in my eyes. I thought the process would be agonizing, but to my surprise, he let go after one try. So, I'm sharing what worked for us, hoping it might make this daunting process a little easier for you too.

Here's How We Got Rid of the Pacifier in One Try

Why do dentists recommend removing the pacifier?

Dentists recommend that parents start weaning their children off the pacifier by the age of 2 in order to prevent any negative effects on their dental health. Prolonged use of a pacifier can lead to issues such as misalignment of teeth, changes in shape and position of the jaw, and even potential speech problems.

When do I take away the pacifier?

Every child is different, and ultimately it's up to the parents to decide when the time is right to get rid of the pacifier, and if they’d like to take the dentist’s advice. It may also become more difficult for a child to give up their pacifier as they get older and become more attached to it.

Signs your child is ready to wean off the pacifier

Here are some signs that your child may be ready transition away from pacifier use:

  1. Your child is using the pacifier less frequently or only in certain situations, such as bedtime or at nap time.
  2. They are able to self-soothe without the pacifier.
  3. They have stopped sucking on their thumb or fingers.
  4. Your child understands and responds to verbal cues about giving up the pacifier.

Weaning infants vs. weaning toddlers

Weaning a child off a pacifier changes a lot from infants to toddlers, mostly because of the different developmental and psychological stages they're in.

Infants, typically under a year old, are less emotionally attached to their pacifiers, making pacifier weaning easier and quicker. For infants, a gradual way to wean, such as limiting pacifier use to nap and bedtime only, can be effective. This approach minimizes discomfort by slowly reducing the pacifier's role in the infant's daily life. Parents can also introduce alternative soothing strategies during this stage, like cuddling a lovey.

Toddlers, on the other hand, often develop a stronger attachment to their pacifier, making the weaning process potentially more challenging. At this age, children are more aware of their surroundings and capable of experiencing a stronger sense of loss. Therefore, methods that involve the toddler's participation and understanding, such as the “Pacifier Fairy” or “Goodbye Pacifier” ceremony, can be more effective. These strategies help toddlers feel in control of the situation and understand the significance of moving on from the pacifier.

Here's How We Got Rid of the Pacifier in One Try

How do I get rid of the pacifier?

Here are some effective methods to consider for getting rid of the pacifier. The best approach is the one that works for you and your little one.

Stopping cold turkey

This approach involves simply taking away the pacifier one day and never giving it back. While this can be an efficient approach, it may cause more stress for both the child and parents. It is super important to prepare your child beforehand, explaining why the pacifier will no longer be available. Again, this method isn't for everyone and it's OK if it doesn't work for you.

Weaning gradually

As mentioned earlier, gradual weaning involves limiting pacifier use to certain times of the day and slowly reducing its use over time. This can be a more gentle approach for infants and toddlers who have a strong attachment to their pacifiers. IMO weaning to just sleeping time should be step 1 no matter what other method you decide to use to break the pacifier habit for good.

Cutting holes in the pacifier

For older toddlers who are more attached to their pacifiers, this method may be helpful. By cutting very small holes in the nipple of the pacifier, it reduces the suction and makes it less satisfying for the child. This can gradually decrease their reliance on the pacifier. Ensure the hole is exceptionally tiny, ideally created with a sewing needle poke, to avoid leaving behind any broken or dislodged fragments that could pose a choking hazard. My good friend attempted the “cold turkey method” with her toddler with no luck, but then tried this method a few months later with success.

The method that worked for us: ‘Pacifier Fairy'

Here’s exactly what we did when Caden was 2 years and 4 months old:

  1. We started by limiting the paci to just crib time. It started with a “bye bye paci” ritual every time Caden woke up from a nap or from an overnight sleep. We kept at it for a few weeks until it turned into a routine, and he stopped looking for it or asking for the pacifier during the day. A huge win.
  2. Instead of the pacifier, we encouraged Caden to look for his lovey, his big Teddy Bear, for comfort or companionship during the day.
  3. We set a date for when we'd completely say goodbye to the pacifier. Every single night in the week leading up to “the big day,” we made it a ritual to read a book about the Pacifier Fairy. It's this book to be exact: Pacita the Pacifier Fairy. Disclaimer: I cried at least the first few times while we read it.
  4. I ordered a “big prize” that the Pacifier Fairy would be “leaving” in exchange for the pacifier. Here are some ideas: Balance Bike, Car ramp race track, The Lalo Play Kit in Coconut, or Kids Guitar.
  5. When the big night arrived, we read the book once more, walked over to his bedroom door, and had Caden drop the pacifier in a big bowl outside of his door. He said “bye bye” then we closed the door and continued with our usual bedtime routine without bringing up the pacifier.
  6. Then, when we placed him in his crib, we made sure his Teddy Bear was snuggled beside him, and to our surprise he didn’t cry for his paci the whole night!
  7. In the morning we opened the door together for him to find his big prize! We made sure to remind him that the Pacifier Fairy had visited and left him this amazing gift as a reward for being so brave.
  8. After that moment, we hid the book, and of course any pacifier or related items like pacifier clips, and never spoke about the pacifier again in front of him. And don’t forget any pacifier items you may have at daycare or preschool! Make sure the staff knows about your plan and hides all evidence of a pacifier.
  9. And just like that, it was over! He didn't mention the pacifier again for nearly a year, until one day he noticed Willow with her own pacifier.
  10. When Caden mentioned that he missed his paci, I dug out the book again, and we started reading it together to jog his memory about where his paci was. We even pointed out in the book which one belonged to him.
Here's How We Got Rid of the Pacifier in One Try

Dealing with challenges and setbacks

Just like any other parenting journey, there may be challenges and setbacks along the way. Some children may have a harder time giving up their pacifier and may resist or even throw tantrums. It’s important to have a little patience and remain consistent in your approach, while also acknowledging your child's feelings and frustrations.

What if my child resists?

If your child is not responding well to the pacifier fairy method, or any method, it may be a sign that they aren't ready. In this case, listen to your child and try again at a later time. It’s also helpful to involve them in the process by allowing them to choose when they are ready to say goodbye. If your child starts to miss their pacifier, it’s important to remind them of why they gave it up in the first place. You can also offer alternative comfort items, such as a favorite stuffed animal or blanket, to help ease the transition.

How can I soothe my child without a pacifier?

Pacifiers are often used as a way to soothe and comfort babies, so it’s understandable that parents may worry about how to calm their fussy baby without one. Some alternative ways to soothe your child include: 

  1. Offering a stuffy or blanket
  2. Providing extra cuddles and physical touch
  3. Playing calming music or white noise at sleep times
  4. Using a gentle rocking motion when putting them to bed

Remember, every child is different and what works for one may not work for another. It’s important to find alternative methods that work for your child and their unique needs. 

What if my child can't sleep without a pacifier?

It’s common for children to use pacifiers as a sleep aid, but it’s not healthy for them to rely on it indefinitely. If your child is having trouble falling asleep without their pacifier, try incorporating a new bedtime routine that doesn’t involve the pacifier. This could include story time, singing a lullaby, or practicing deep breathing exercises together.

Do what feels right

Ultimately how and when you decide to wean your child is up to you. I believed, and still do, that every child will wean themselves eventually. If you have concerns, consult with your child’s pediatrician for additional guidance and support.


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