Monday, June 2, 2014

No Mo Pacifier: How it Happened

Breaking News.  At this very moment, my daughter, aged 22 months, is napping without a pacifier.

Due to dentist/orthodontist recommendations, I always knew I wanted the pacifier out of her mouth for good around the time she turned two.  I'd heard of tactics such as the pacifier fairy or the toy-trade-up or cutting holes in the suction part of the actual pacifier so kiddo gets frustrated with it and rejects it themselves, but I never really had a set strategy in mind.  I figured when the time came, we would know what to do.

Today, when I went to put her down for a nap, I couldn't find the pacifier in her crib.  Normally I would have gone upstairs to grab another one from the cabinet, or looked under the crib where they often fall and retrieved one for her, but something about today told me to let it be.  

As always, we read a book in the rocking chair.  We sang a few songs.  She clutched her Raggedy Ann doll.  I walked over to her crib with her wide awake as I always do...

I'm going to put you in your crib... and you can lay down... and feel the soft... and close your eyes... and say 'Night Night'.  I love you.  Night Night, Penny.

But no pacifier.  She didn't ask, I didn't offer.

I left the room, shut the door, and waited for the crying.   

No crying.

In the video monitor, I could see her arranging her crib and burrowing herself into her teddy bear as she always does.  She rubbed her ear and clutched her doll and fidgeted her feet beneath a muslin blanket until she was just right.   And she went to sleep.  The only difference was that I couldn't hear the suck-suck sound of the silicone through the monitor speaker.

I called Dan at work to talk through it and make sure he was on board, since the nighttime routine is kind of his thing.  We hadn't planned on taking away the pacifier for another couple months and I didn't want to throw a wrench in any plans that he had for his special time with her every night before her second birthday, or overrule any ideas he had for weening.  

Together we decided that today would be the day.  Penny's pacifiers are gone, and we will not speak of them again.

The pacifier is not the enemy.  It also can't be the cure-all.

For anyone looking to me for ideas on having a pacifier kid, here are a few things we did along the way to enable a very gradual and painless weening:

1. We never bought her new pacifiers for her according to her age/size.  They have pacifiers in different shapes/sizes that are for preemies or newborns, all the way up to bigger ones that are specifically for kids up to 18 months old.  I always thought that if we kept getting her new bigger ones as she grew, she would feel a more permanent attachment to them.  Not sure if that's sound reasoning, but it saved us a few bucks.  And never promoting to a larger pacifier perhaps made it so the little 6mo silicone ones she's had from the get go might have become old hat.

2. We never dignified the item with pet names or gave it special emotional powers.  Probably ninety percent of the time, Dan and I referred to it as "your pacifier."  Every now and then it would get called "binky" or "paci" but always matter-of-factly, not an endearing reference.  The pacifier certainly served a purpose (especially when she was an infant, golly, I don't think my boobs could have survived without it) but it wasn't a beloved item in the house, I don't think there was much of an emotional attachment to it.  It was there for the sucking reflex and soothing that resulted, that was it.  I gotta think there's a psychology around this stuff, although I've not researched it.  Maybe my sister learned something about it in her college child development class last semester.  I'll have to remember to ask her.

3. When she turned one we set a policy that the pacifier would no longer leave her crib (except for the book-reading step of her bedtime routine.)  This meant that by the time she was walking, she only had it to go to sleep, but never ran around the house with it, or had it in public, or used to sooth her daytime trials and tribulations.   Every morning and after every nap she would give the pacifier to her teddy bear (in the corner of her crib) to keep it safe for her until next time she got it for bedtime.  "Give your pacifier to the bear" became a fun thing, usually she would carefully tuck it under his armpit for safekeeping or sometimes even lift him up and hide it underneath him completely.  This routine made it very easy for the pacifier to be out of sight / out of mind during the day.

4. We introduced and started rotating a few other "security" options like soft lovey blankets and baby dolls that have become good choices for cuddling and soothing during sleepy time.  I've been cautious not to encourage ONE specific security item, like a certain blanket or animal, because the thought of her having an attachment to just one item, and then me losing or ruining that item, freaks me out.  We've tried to promote routine with flexibility... she always has something in her crib to cuddle, but it's not always the same thing.  We always read books and sing songs before sleep time, but it's not always the same book or the same song.  This has worked for us, although more particular children might need more consistency than what we've afforded our fairly easy-going toddler.

5. We recently started talking about how sweet little babies get pacifiers but big girls don't need them.  If we'd see babies out in public with a pacifier, I'd use it as an opportunity to talk up how Penny is going to be a big girl soon and her baby sister will need all the baby things like diapers and pacifiers. [We'll save the potty training topic for a later conversation].  It helps that I'm pregnant so there will soon be an obvious distinction in our house between who's the baby and who's the big girl (or maybe I will eat these words). 

So during nap time today, I collected pacifiers from places in the house where she might find them.  Then I patted myself on the back, I think I did at least this one thing right.


  1. Yay Penny! Ensley stopped using her pacifier little over a week ago using some of the same ideas! I think #3 is a big one! I believe cutting pacifier time down to just nap & bedtime at 1 year old really helped.

  2. Wonderful blog Julie. I'm going to send you an email this week about a baby topic I am researching

  3. Wow, great for you guys! My daughter is 2 now and I had mentally prepared myself to take it from her after her birthday. She only uses it for nap and bed time. She has a pocket that she puts it in as soon as she wakes up and never asks for it unless she's in the crib. Well, the first day we tried we were successful. I had told her that one of our dogs chewed it up and we had to throw it away. She understood and went to bed (at night) without it. The next day was a disaster. She fussed for a long time at nap time and because I have to go to work at that time and my mom takes over, I gave in and gave it to her so my mom wouldn't have to deal with a psycho. And that night, she screamed for about an hour before I caved in again. I just couldn't stand it anymore and felt awful. We've been doing the other tips, telling her they're for babies. I plan to try it again soon (in a week and half, actually...when I have a week off of work to dedicate the time to this). My neighbor said that when her 3 boys were quitting the paci, she had them throw it in the trash themselves (on trash day)...then they'd take the trash to the curb and watch the trash truck take it all. They loved the trash truck so this, I think, is a great idea. -Misty


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