Toddlers and Preschoolers

Bye-bye Binky! How do I take a pacifier away?

Is there anything that causes such relief and such consternation as the pacifier? Dummy, binky, nunu – I’ve heard it called lots of things. I’ve seen it both cause and fix the most epic of tantrums. It helps mums and dads across the country and around the world get a good night’s sleep, but as our kids get older, we have to start thinking about ditching it.

Why is a pacifier good?

Pacifiers have pros and cons and there is no right or wrong when it comes to using them. We are not a health website and do not make health claims, so you should always have a chat with your health visitor, doctor or pediatrician and see what they think.

That being said some of the things that are good about pacifiers are:

  • Research has linked the use of a pacifier to a reduced risk in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
  • They offer comfort and help children to cope with stress
  • They can teach children to self-comfort in the night without crying to wake you
  • The pacifier is something within your control – you can give it or take it away, unlike the habit of comfort by sucking a thumb

Why is a pacifier bad?

There are some negatives around using a pacifier as well, which can include:

  • Your child might rely on the pacifier more than you like
  • It can become a bad habit for parents to give the pacifier to handle any potential issues rather than learn good habits
  • They can be hard to take away when you decide it’s time to quit them
  • A child may not attempt to talk as much if they’re using a pacifier in the day
  • Pacifiers can be bad for toddler dental health – this is after two and should be discussed with your dentist at their first check up.

When should I take the pacifier away completely?

There’s no rule for when you should decide that the pacifier has served it’s purpose and you want to get rid of it. It’s not a case of the older they are the easier it gets, or vice versa, because it’s really dependant on the child. If you think the pacifier is having any negative behavioural or medical affects then it’s time to move away from it. The ideal time to start thinking about whether the cons outweigh the pros is around the 12 to 18 month mark, or at t he very least, shifting it towards only being used at night and not given at all in the day. Most parents start thinking about giving up completely by around the two year mark, but some children at three are still not ready to give it up.

The theory is the earlier you take it away the less dependent they become on it, but there is a point at which being able to explain and reason with them is an advantage.

How do I get take a pacifier away from a child?

The first question I’m going to ask is how old is the child in question? There are two different methods for taking a pacifier away from a child.

  1. A child too young to understand reasoning – usually under the three year old mark but can vary.
  2. A child old enough to understand reasoning, cause and effect. Usually a child over the three year old mark.

Have a read through these two different methods and see which one will work best for your family.

Taking a pacifier away from a baby or young toddler

Because you can’t explain why you’re taking the pacifier away or make any bargains with a baby or younger toddler, you simply have to go cold turkey. You can adjust them to having the pacifier only at night to make it easier, but to get rid of the night time comfort it’s going to be a case of tough love. They will miss it and they will cry for it and you need to not give in. It’s gone. If your children are anything like mine, they may have secreted pacifiers around the house. You know how you started off with 5 and suddenly there’s only 1 left so you buy another pack and those disappear too? I’ve found them in shoes, in drawers, under the mattress, under the bed, in the cat food, you name it… so make sure you’ve had a really thorough clean of the house because if you take the pacifier away and your child magically finds one somewhere (it shows how good their memories are!) then you’re back to square one.

Step one – remove all the pacifiers in the house.

Step two (optional) – only give the pacifier at night time, removing it in the morning.

Step three – remove it completely.

It sounds simple, yet incredibly hard. The habit should break fairly quickly if you stick to it – within three to five days on average. This is likely to be three to five days of increased tantrums, needing more attention and waking during the night. In the night time during this time you can either decide to go and offer some comfort, or to try a cry it out method. It’s up to you as a parent. I personally only allow 5 minutes of crying before I go in and offer comfort.

Taking a pacifier away from a child who can understand (two to three years on)

If your child has a good grasp of language, which could be anywhere from two to three years on, you can use some simple ideas to help them grasp the concept that the pacifier is going away. They can include things like:

Giving the pacifiers to another baby in the family – You can symbolically gift the pacifiers to a younger family member or friend, talking about how grown up your child is now and how nice it is to give the gift to another baby who needs them.

Posting or giving them to the binky fairy – It sounds a bit silly, but you can make a ritual out of popping them in an envelope, decorating it with art and glitter and then posting it out to the dummy fairy, then waiting for a little reward to come in return!

You can also leave them outside the door, which is what happens in the book Bea Gives Up Her Dummy. Reading this book together might make your child see that this is a really good idea!

My 3 year old daughter loved her dummy. We had managed to restrict just to bed times but she still needed it during the night and had started to wake for her dummy during the night so thought it was time to try to get rid of it (her teeth were also starting to protrude).

She really enjoyed reading the book and chose it before bed most nights. After reading, we would ask her if she wanted to give her dummy to the dummy fairy; each night she responded ‘no, I like sucking my dummy’ so we didn’t push it. After about two weeks, her response changed one night to ‘yes!’ so we collected her dummies and left them for the dummy fairy!” – Review by LibbyHow

Hanging the pacifier on a Christmas Tree – If you’re looking to quit around Christmas, you can hang them as a decoration on a Christmas tree, and say Father Christmas is going to come and take them away for all the little boys and girls who still need them and he’ll be leaving lots of presents in return!

These are just symbolic gestures that help the child feel like they’re in control and that they’re choosing to give the pacifier away and are being rewarded for their hard work. You just need to find the hook that captures your child’s imagination and makes them want to hand it over.

Some extra tips for banishing the binky

Always explain why and talk about it – Even if they don’t understand, talk in simple language about what you’re doing and why.

Offer a replacement comfort item when needed – Offer lots of cuddles and love. Offer a stuffed toy or a favourite blanket. Distract with favourite toys, snacks and songs. Children still need to be comforted and finding alternative ways to the pacifier will help smooth the process along.

Make sure all caregivers are on board – mum, dad, friends, family, nana, but of course, also people at daycare or nursery. Everyone needs to know to stick to the plan, as if someone gives in, not realizing that you’ve cut them out, then you’re back to square one.

This too, shall pass – Keep reminding yourself that this is a storm in a tea cup. Even if you are struggling right now, keep calm, weather the storm and it will pass. Good luck!

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