You’ll know when the time is right to reduce and end pacifier use. Try the following ideas until you find the solution that works best for your child.
1) Take baby steps
This method gradually decreases pacifier use over time. Start by limiting the number of pacifiers in the house. Then, make sure they are only used at home and not on outings. Next, limit use to just nap time or bed time. This can be done over several weeks. This is ideal if you are in no hurry and you want to take things slowly with a child who is very attached to pacifiers. You might want to try this along with reading a popular story about giving up the pacifier like ‘The Last Noo Noo’ or ‘No More Dummy for Piggy’. Your child may even lead the way!
2) Try another source of comfort
When your little one needs his or her pacifier, try distracting him or her. This can be with comforting activities like cuddling, singing or storytelling, or with exciting activities like trips, or favorite games. Alongside this, replace the pacifier by giving your child his or her favorite blanket or teddy. If you try this at bedtime, start a bit earlier as it may take your little one a bit more time to settle down. But don’t worry; your baby will soon adjust.
3) Keep it quick and cheerful
This method is like pulling off a Band-Aid. Your child could adjust immediately, or it could take him or her a few days. Significant events are great for this overnight approach. For example, a birthday signifies being more grown up and may be the perfect time to say goodbye to a pacifier. If you go for this approach, make sure there are no other big changes happening such as moving or welcoming a new baby. Once you’ve decided, make sure you get rid of every single pacifier so you are not tempted to give in to your little one if he has a meltdown.
4) Create a story
Stories like ‘The Tale of Nutty, Nitty and Nellie’ can spark your child’s imagination and creativity. Your child can help create a box or bag for the pacifiers to be put into and sent away. Any beloved character can be incorporated into a story involving leaving a pacifier. For example, your child can help hang pacifiers on a Christmas tree or put them in a special place for Santa Claus or the Easter Bunny. Then, you can surprise him or her with a present from that character.
5) Good child
A popular method to help build your child’s sense of empathy is to have your child kindly send the pacifiers to ‘another baby’ or Nellie in ‘The Tale of Nutty, Nitty and Nellie,’ who needs them more. The process of preparing, addressing and sending the pacifiers is a nice way for your child to ‘help’ someone else. Alternatively, make your child feel like a friend of the environment by sending the pacifiers to be recycled. You could even thank your child for his or her bravery and kindness with a little gift like stickers.
6) Structure and reward
A ladder or star chart is an effective way to motivate, support and praise your child for making a change. Let each sticker signify a small milestone in the journey such as 2 hours or a nap without the pacifier. At each sticker tell your child with words, smiles and hugs that he or she is doing so well and being very grown up. When your little one has earned a day worth of stickers, give a small reward such as a new book, favorite TV show, or a trip out. Your child’s confidence will grow with each step.
Dr Kerry Taylor, Parent Infant Clinical Psychologist