Weaning the pacifier is one of those gray areas that can be difficult to navigate as a parent. Although it’s a big milestone, it can be hard to get rid of something that you know is bringing your little one comfort. It’s even harder to figure out the timing. Like everything else in parenting, you know your child best. However, sometimes a little guidance can be helpful if you’re unsure what to do. So today, we’re discussing when to wean off of the pacifier and how to do it smoothly.
Weaning the Pacifier
Let’s dive into when and how to wean the pacifier with some tips to help simplify the transition.
When Should I Wean the Pacifier?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning pacifier use between ages 2 and 4. However, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentists advises getting rid of the pacifier by age 3 to prevent dental problems. Typically, between 2-3 years old is the sweet spot.
Although 2-3 years old is recommended by experts, every child is different. When you decide to wean the pacifier is really up to you. This may look different from kid to kid, and you’ll likely have a different experience with each of your children.
When you decide to wean the pacifier also depends on how the pacifier is impacting your little one. If your child is under 2 years old but it’s bringing them frustration, making them extra fussy, and causing more overnight wakings than necessary, it may be time to ditch the pacifier. Your child doesn’t need a pacifier (especially if it’s causing more harm than good!)
Weaning the Pacifier: Things to Consider
Deciding when to wean the pacifier and executing your plan are two entirely different stories. This topic can be tricky to find answers on because there are so many variables thrown into the mix. Does your child treasure their pacifier, or would they forget about it in a day? How often does your child use their pacifier? Does falling asleep (or sleeping through the night) feel like it would be impossible without it? How old is your little one? How much difficulty and resistance do you have the capacity to handle in this season of your life? All of these factors are worth considering when deciding when and how you will go about weaning the pacifier.
How Long Does Weaning the Pacifier Take?
How long it takes to wean the pacifier depends on so many factors. Every baby is different, and every situation is different! Typically, weaning the pacifier becomes much easier after the first few days. However, your child’s age, attachment level, and personality will create their own unique experience when it comes to this topic.
Methods for Weaning the Pacifier
Here are several methods for weaning the pacifier depending on your child’s age, level of attachment, and what works best for you (weaning the pacifier is hard on the parents, too!).
This classic method works like a charm for some children- but not so great for others. Depending on your child’s age, you may want to give them some warning ahead of time (especially if they’re older than 18 months!). If your child is older, try reading them a special book to warm them up to the idea in the days leading up to the transition. Talk to them about what’s about to happen so they don’t feel blindsided, and offer replacement items that they can seek comfort from instead. It’s helpful to give them some warning, but make sure to approach it positively.
If your child is extra attached to their pacifier and uses it while they’re awake, it may be a good idea to take a slower approach. Allow them to use the pacifier at night and during naps while they’re asleep to ease them into the transition. Make sure the pacifier doesn’t leave the crib to eliminate use during the day. Once they’ve made that step, transition to napping only. Wean the pacifier during nighttime sleep so they’re only using it while they nap. Eventually, you’ll be able to eliminate it during naptime, too!
Slowly Decrease the Size
For babies that are younger (between 6 and 18 months old), gradually cut off the tip of the pacifier each night to reduce its size. This can be a great method because the appeal will slowly decrease.
Make it Fun
Weaning the pacifier can become a fun bonding experience for you and your little one! Involving them in the process can also provide them with a sense of ownership in the transition and make it feel less like something is being taken away. Here are some fun ideas:
- You can have a “pacifier fairy” come and replace their pacifiers with a fun new item. You can even read this Pacifier Fairy book to prepare your little one for the exciting magic that’s about to happen!
- You can tell your little one that they’ve done such a good job being their pacifier’s best pal, but it has to go home to its mom now. You can have them help you put it into a box (and maybe even decorate it) for you to go bring it to “the airport”. Whenever your little one sees a plane, they’ll likely be reminded of their old friend!
- Plant a “pacifier garden” with your little one and make it into a fun activity. The next morning, have a garden of lollipops waiting for them!
- Seal the pacifiers in an envelope with your child and “mail” the package in exchange for a new prize or toy that they’ve been wanting.
Tips for Weaning the Pacifier
No matter your chosen method, you’ll likely encounter a few road bumps along the way. Here are some tips to make the transition as smooth as possible:
This is the most important tip there is. The reality is that weaning the pacifier likely won’t take very long- however, these transition periods can make days feel like weeks. Your little one’s pacifier is comforting and helps soothe them, so taking that away is bound to cause a fussy baby. There will likely be crying, waking through the night, and the urge to give up. Hang in there, mama- before you know it, your little one won’t even remember they had a pacifier!
It can be tough to stay consistent- especially when it comes to your child’s comfort, sometimes all you want to do is give in to make them happy. It’s important to stay consistent in your approach because backtracking will only prolong the process. Your child will thank you in the long run- the fuss and sleep problems that you’ll likely encounter won’t last forever!
How Will Weaning the Pacifier Impact Sleep?
If pacifiers are a major part of your little one’s sleep habits, it will likely make it harder for them to go to sleep. This is where sleep training comes in! If your little one is sleep-trained, they will have a much easier time adjusting and self-soothing. If sleep training isn’t yet in place in your household, give it a try for smoother bedtimes and better sleep (for the entire family).
Sleep Shore Sleep Consulting
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