Soothing a Child Who is Going Pacifier-Free

by Ann Douglas

Soothing a Child Who is Going Pacifier-FreeWhen a toddler is attached to a pacifier, it's for emotional reasons, and the attachment experienced is not unlike the attachment a toddler might have for a special blanket or teddy bear.

That toddler has been sleeping with that soother at bedtime and nap-time since very early in his life and likely turning to that soother for comfort as well. It's no wonder that soother is part comfort fix, part best friend.

What's more, a soother is typically used in times of stress so it becomes associated with stress relief in the way that an adult might reach for a cigarette or a cup of coffee. It may not be physically addictive, but a soother can be every bit as habit-forming.

That soother has been part of a toddler's daily routine since he was a newborn. Even the most hardcore caffeine addict hasn't been knocking back coffee for quite that long.

Giving up a soother for a toddler can be every bit as tough as giving up cigarettes is for an adult. A toddler may not be dealing with physical withdrawal symptoms -- you can't get physically "hooked" on a soother, but that physical advantage is more than cancelled out by this or her less developed coping skills.

Think about what we adults tend to do when we're planning to kick a bad habit. We go into support system overload mode. Toddlers don't have the same repertoire of resources. They can't sign up for a "how to ditch your soother" workshop (complete with a soother quitting day countdown plan and all kinds of helpful advice about putting their quitting support team in place; and changing their lifestyle so that they'll be less likely to reach for that first soother-fix of the day).

All they know is that every other time in their entire life when they felt miserable or sad or scared, they turned to their soother and they felt better.

Now someone is telling them that they are too big for the soother and they can't have it -- or they can only have it under certain circumstances -- or whatever. They don't care about any of that stuff. They want their soother and they want it now.

This is where we as parents have a really valuable role to play in the world of the toddler who is in soother withdrawal. We need to help them find new ways to get through nap-time and bedtime and stressful times without their go-to fix: The soother.

That could mean offering a new friend (a stuffed animal or comforting blanket) as a less-worthy stand-in for the soother. It also means making ourselves available to offer reassurance and comfort during this difficult time of transition.

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,

Copyright © Ann Douglas. Permission to publish granted to


These tips can be useful for those toddlers that are weaning from "comfort breastfeeding sessions." You know the type where you *know* your child is not hungry, but simply using you as a human pacifier! Thanks for the tips!