Pacifiers: Get Your Child to Give it Up

Ann Douglas's picture

by Ann Douglas

PacifierA friend asked me, "Do you have any tips for how we can ease our son off his pacifier?"

These parents have tried the cold turkey approach but it hasn't worked. There's only so much crying she and her hubby can take before they just throw their hands up in defeat.

Giving up a soother can be as tough for some children as giving up caffeine or nicotine is for an adult.

Children, however, aren't dealing with physical withdrawal symptoms. It's not like your child can get physically "hooked" on a soother -- but, then again, they don't have the same repertoire of coping strategies as most adults.

This means that they are unable to psychologically prepare themselves for "soother cold turkey" by taking part in toddler yoga or toddler kick-boxing (whichever may be best suited to their temperament).

All your child knows is that his or her world has been rocked in a major way.

If you look at it from the child's perspective, you'll see that taking away the pacifier when he or she is still relying on it for comfort is like taking away the wee one's teddy bear or worse (think left arm).

You'll find that kids cope a whole lot better when the transition to life in a soother-free world is more gradual. Hey parents - here's an added bonus, the transition will be a lot easier on you, too.

Consider offering your child a different bedtime buddy, like a teddy bear or other comfort object as a substitute for the soother at naptime and bedtime.

Since naptime and bedtime is the time when young children tend to be most reliant on their comfort devices, if you can help your child reduce and kick the habit during these challenging times of day, you'll be well on your way to weakening the strong association that's been created between sleep time (or nap-time) and the comfort mechanism.

A quick tip is to start limiting the use of the soother at other times of the day. This means that you will need to teach your child other techniques for comforting him or herself when upset.

This requires a great deal of patience from you during the early days because your child might initially cry a great deal in order to try to convince you to hand over the soother. So make sure it's a good time to take the plunge when it comes to pacifier training (e.g., don't tackle it the week you're moving to a new house, visiting out-of-town relatives, and/or due to give birth).

How have you won the battle?

Ann Douglas is the author of numerous books about pregnancy and parenting including the bestselling "The Mother of All Pregnancy Books." She regularly contributes to a number of print and online publications, is frequently quoted in the media on a range of parenting-related topics, and has appeared as a guest on a number of television and radio shows. Ann and her husband Neil live in Peterborough, Ontario. with the youngest of their four children. Learn more at her site, having-a-baby.com.

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to Pregnancy.org.