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Five Steps to Weaning Your Child from Their Pacifier Without Tears
Developed by Mary Sheedy Kurcinka Ed.D and Lynn Jessen MA
"Spirited" children often favor their pacifier longer than their low-key peers. That is because sucking is one of the most effective soothing tools for these intense little ones. But despite this need, many parents feel pressured to eliminate pacifier use long before their child is ready. Lynn and I have learned that when spirited children are forced to give up their pacifier too early, they often start to “bite,” or suck their thumb, clothing, or hair instead. That is why we never recommend “cold turkey” approaches with spirited children and instead suggest that you set your child up for a successful child led pacifier weaning process by moving forward in teeny, tiny steps.
Steps to Take:
- Do not fight over pacifier use but do make use intentional. Let your child know she can have her pacifier any time she needs it. If you refuse your child her pacifier, it is like denying a dieter food. It becomes the only thing she can think about! But that does not mean there are no limits. The pacifier is a soothing tool. It is to be used thoughtfully when needed, not all the time. Thus, a pacifier is not held in the mouth while walking around, playing, using toys, or when talking.
- Establish pacifier use zones. When your child wants her pacifier say to her, “Yes, you may have your pacifier, let’s go to your pacifier place.” Then take her to a designated spot, where she can lie down, or sit on your lap to suck on her pacifier. When she is ready, she puts down the pacifier and leaves her soothing space. Other pacifier places may include her crib or car seat. Again, she may have her pacifier any time she is in these locations but removes it and leaves it behind when she departs.
- Your child may come back to calming spaces any time she wishes to have her pacifier, but again, must either sit or lie down with it, or be held on your lap. This means that even if it’s not bedtime and she wants her pacifier, she can go to her crib, lie there with her pacifier and then stop and get out when she’s feeling better.
- Build your child’s soothing/calming tool kit. When your child needs help calming instead of immediately giving her a pacifier, offer other soothing tools such as a hug, lovie, reading a book, talking, or going outside. Your child will let you know if this is NOT what she needs. If it is not, then give her the pacifier she wants. But the next time – again, offer alternatives first.
- Introduce straws and cups that allow your child to suck, but without a nipple.
When you follow these steps, you will find that soon the “pacifier times” begin to shorten and become less frequent. Instead, your child chooses to calm herself by reading a story or going outside rather than lying in her crib to suck her pacifier. The key is that she is making the choice and when she does, there are no tears.
It is true that pacifier use may impact the mouth and teeth, but when a decision must be made between emotional well being and physical wellbeing, we recommend opting for meeting the emotional need first. For additional information, check out Mary's book "Raising Your Spirited Baby".