When you are ready to help your child stop using their pacifier it can feel pretty intimidating, especially if your child is dependent on it for sleep. The good news is that it will happen! It may be rough (or it may not) but soon you will be able to look at this time in the rearview mirror. Here are some strategies and tips to help get you and your child started on dropping the pacifier.
The first step is to determine how you want to go about dropping the pacifier. You will want to look at how often your child uses their pacifier, in what situations they use it and how you feel your child adapts to changes in general. Because this is a big change for children, not only around sleep but during the rest of the day as well if they use their pacifier during the day too.
tips for dropping the pacifier
Whichever route you go with dropping the pacifier, here are a few things you can do in all situations to set your child up for success.
Talk to your child
You want your child to know what to expect. No matter how old your toddler or baby is, talk to them about what you are going to be doing. Let them know you are going to be helping them drop their pacifier and you will help them with other strategies for falling asleep and soothing or regulating during the day. Even if your baby or young toddler cannot communicate back to you that they understand, the amount of receptive language babies have at a very young age is often underestimated so talk to them about it!
Provide other options or strategies to help your child regulate and soothe
A pacifier and sucking in general is likely a regulation and soothing strategy for your baby or toddler, it may be helpful to provide something else like a lovey in place of the pacifier to help them soothe and regulate during the day. Here are some tips on introducing a lovey. (Remember, babies under 12 months should NOT sleep with anything in their bed with them.)
For older toddlers and young children you can also create a calm down space in their room or in the house with other comfort objects. You can also help them learn other strategies such as ‘blowing out candles’ for deep breathing.
Now let’s get into dropping the pacifier.
A gradual option for dropping the pacifier
The first option is a gradual option which may be a good place to start if you have an older toddler or preschooler who regularly and frequently uses their pacifier outside of sleep. In this option, you can start limiting pacifier use to when your toddler is in their bed.
You may decide to let your child get into bed and use it during the day at other times besides sleep. If you do, then the next step will be only allowing your child to use the pacifier at sleep times.
Once your child is handling not having their pacifier during the day, you can move to removing it from sleep times. Once you get to this step, there aren’t really many more gradual steps you can take without it being confusing for your toddler. Then you want to proceed to a ‘rip the bandaid’ off approach to removing it from sleep.
The good news is that if you have replaced the pacifier with a lovey or other regulating or soothing strategy during the day, your toddler will have that strategy to help them adjust to sleeping without the pacifier.
Rip the bandaid off approach to dropping the pacifier
You may decide that a gradual approach will be too challenging for your toddler (remember, especially younger toddlers, see things in black and white with little gray area) so a cold turkey approach to removing the pacifier will be best.
In this approach, you will pick a date and on that date you will get rid of all your child’s pacifiers and support them through the adjustment process. Allowing your toddler or young child to be involved in the process is extremely helpful so they have some ownership and control over the situation.
Here are some ideas for getting rid of the pacifiers:
Let your child help round up all their pacifiers and put them in the trash. This is straightforward way to remove the pacifiers from your house.
Place the pacifier(s) outside on the front porch and wait for the paci fairy to come and replace it with something fun.
The Binka Bear is an awesome transition object. It comes with a story about how when your child shares their pacifier with Binka Bear, it helps Binka Bear get his magic!
Gift to someone else
If you know someone who had a new baby, you can wrap up the pacifiers and ‘send’ it off to the new baby. I don’t recommend gifting to your child’s own sibling as this can create some challenging feelings in the household.
Use it to buy something new
Head down to a locally owned toy store (let’s support small businesses!) and talk to the employees or owner about letting your child ‘pay’ for something new with their pacifiers. Give the pacifiers to the store and bring home something new.
The biggest thing with any of these strategies is to make it clear that the pacifiers are gone and no longer an option, no matter how tough it gets.
Dealing with sleep
Pacifiers and sucking are a strategy that your pacifier using child uses to help themselves get to sleep (and likely back to sleep during the night because we ALL wake up some at night). Helping your child develop other strategies to help them settle to sleep will be an important aspect of dropping the pacifier.
For toddlers and older, you can help them with a comfort object or new soothing strategies as discussed above. Then support them through the change. Acknowledging their feelings, validating those feelings and that this is a hard change is huge in helping your child feel seen during a big change. Depending on how your child handles the change, you may need to have a plan to help them learn to fall asleep in a new way – in a different set of circumstances AKA without the pacifier.
There are lots of different options for this. Whatever plan your choose, make sure you feel comfortable staying consistent with it, so that your child knows what to expect. Ideally, you don’t want to make it drastically different than when they had the pacifier (if you left the room after laying them down with the pacifier, you may want to do the same thing, but return to check in and offer comfort, acknowledgement and soothing if needed.)
Dropping the pacifier is a challenge many parents go through and come out the other side of. It may be very challenging for your and your child but you will come out the other side of it too.
Need some more support?
It can feel really intimidating to make the move to drop your child’s pacifier. The good news is that I support families regularly to get them through this change as quickly and smoothly as possible. If you are looking for more support on dropping your child’s pacifier and helping them sleep independently, schedule your free discovery call so we can chat more about what is going on, your goals and how I can help you reach those goals!
Hang in there and good luck!