One of the most intimidating parts of seeing your baby love their soothie is the fact that often times, they love their soothie. It’s scary to think about what will happen when the time comes to wean. So instead of just consulting the experts—we did ask one pediatric sleep consultant—we also asked moms who had made the transition victoriously.
My oldest daughter did not use a pacifier. We tried really hard to get her to love it because, at one point, in the early days, it would have made life so much easier. But she was not interested, preferring the real thing. My second, however, really took to her paci. And it was wonderful until it was awful. She would have magnificent meltdowns when we couldn’t get one into her mouth quickly enough. And as she got more mobile, pacifiers would literally “disappear” and then things would get really bad (I’d search for them for hours). I think she was almost two when I finally took them all away. My husband was gone and it had gotten to the point where I reasoned that taking it away couldn’t be much worse than dealing with her wrath when I couldn’t find it. The “paci fairy” came one night and collected all of the pacis around the house, took them away, and left pink dino sheets in their place. Her older sister told her that the “paci fairy” took them and gave them to little babies. Shockingly, it ended up not being a big deal at all. She never even got upset. Though she still sometimes finds a random paci that the fairy forgot and thinks it’s hysterical to put them in her mouth. Funny enough, now my daughters think that when the tooth fairy comes, she takes their teeth and gives them to little babies...Gross!
I actually wasn’t sure if I would offer my son a pacifier in the beginning, mostly out of fear of knowing when to stop. It felt unclear as to whether you would know when it was time since there aren’t hard fast rules. But after seeing him constantly sucking my husband’s pinkie finger as an infant, we decided he probably would love a pacifier. And—wow!—we were right. He slept every night with one, traveled with one and by age 3 [covers eyes in shame] would ask for it whenever he felt emotionally upset. We finally broke down and told him about “the pacifier fairy.” We gave him about a week to prepare, talking to him about it, allowing him to tell the fairy what toy he’d like to replace it with and understanding that it was going to another baby. He was over the moon the day “she” came because he was so excited about his new toy (Incredibles figurines). I was shocked about how well he took it, even falling to sleep relatively easily the first night. But as the week went on, his sleeping was disrupted. I remember one night, about 3 nights after we’d taken it away, he was awake from 12AM until 6AM. He wasn’t asking for the pacifier but I knew it’d become an important component to his self-soothing/relaxing ritual. I can say, however, he did great overall. A week later he was sleeping normally and rarely even talked about it.
My story is pretty short and straightforward: my twin boys used pacifiers till about 4.5 months old. At that point, we started sleep training and decided, per the book we followed, to cut out anything that could be considered a sleep crutch and prevent them from learning to self-soothe. So we cut the pacifiers out cold turkey on the first night we started sleep training. Sounds so harsh but we decided to just rip the bandaid off. Boys found their fingers soon thereafter and still suck their fingers to this day (one sucks his thumb, the other sucks his two middle fingers).
Interesting to think about whether or not we really overcame the crutch that the pacifier provides if they simply replaced it with their fingers, which they’ll need to stop doing one day. At the same time, using your fingers is self-soothing, so...
Since it was tied up with sleep training, I don’t recall it being that hard. But that’s probably because the sleep training itself was so hard that it completely overshadowed any hardship that came from the pacifiers.
Carolina Romanyuk, Pediatric Sleep Consultant
How and when to wean really depends on the parent and their personality. Some are more gentle in their approach and try to “negotiate” with their toddler. Which doesn’t work. Two of the six main human needs are certainty and significance. The pacifier creates certainty of comfort for kiddos and the significance is that it presents a feeling of control. When having them “choose” to release the paci themselves, it makes them feel proud.
Cold turkey also works really well. It takes 3-5 days and I recommend to get rid of “emergency” pacifiers. We all keep one “just in case”. I did it also with my kids. But having these “just in case” pacifiers, is self sabotage because then you continue in this cycle.
If you are eliminating a pacifier for younger kiddos, like six months plus, cold turkey is best. I’ve heard stories of parents dipping it in mustard and wiping it off. So when the child takes it, it tastes like mustard and they spit it out because they think it went bad. Ha!
Another tip is to go to your pediatrician and the child, if old enough, physically hands over the pacifier to the doctor. In return they do a celebratory dance or get a stamp or sticker for graduating and becoming bigger. The doctor will also mention that since they are so brave the paci is going to help other babies. It makes it easier on the parents if the doctor takes it. Kinda like the authority.
Any stories you’d care to share of your own weaning victories or woes? Hop over to Instagram to share.