If your baby has been happily using a pacifier to self-settle at night for months (or even years), you’re probably dreading the day when you’ll need to take it away.
With the inevitable now approaching, it’s important to understand exactly when and how you should take their pacifier away, because getting the timing or process wrong can make things stressful for both parents and baby alike.
While the general advice is to take the pacifier away at around 2-3 years of age, you may want to deviate from this depending on your baby’s individual circumstances and if they are showing signs of dental issues or speech development.
But what’s the best way to go about the withdrawal?
Is the cold turkey approach better than a more gradual one?
And what are the side effects of removal?
Let’s take a look.
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When To Stop Using Pacifier?
There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to the ideal time to stop using a pacifier or binky.
Many experts and pediatricians recommend taking the pacifier (or soother) away when your baby is around 2-3 years of age.
This is because the use of a paci or binky beyond this age can lead to dental problems, inhibit speech development and make the eventual withdrawal process even harder.
But the exact timing will come down to personal circumstances.
For example, if your baby is dealing with the stress of a major change in their environment or routine, or even something seemingly smaller like stopping the use of their white noise machine, then it may be a good idea to keep using one to provide some consistency and comfort.
On the other hand, if your baby is under 2 years of age but prone to ear infections (which can be caused by pacifier use), is showing early signs of dental issues or has noticeable signs of speech problems, then you may want to consider taking it away earlier.
As always, if you are not sure what is best for your little one, then it’s best to speak with your pediatrician.
Side Effects Of Taking Pacifier Away
Once you’ve decided it’s time to take away all your child’s pacifiers, it’s important you’re aware of the side effects and withdrawal symptoms, and what you can do to manage them (more on this later).
For the majority of babies, the most significant side effect is a disruption to their sleep.
Depending on your baby, the disruption to their sleep schedule will be between 2 days to around 1-2 weeks.
As you may expect, the more reliant your little one is on their pacifier at naptime and bedtime, the harder and longer the withdrawal process is likely to be.
This is one reason why some parents opt to take their baby’s pacifier away sooner rather than later, because the earlier it’s done, the less of a reliance your child has on one.
Pacifier Weaning Tips
Think Hard Before Going Cold Turkey
For some babies, the removal of their pacifier can cause a lot of stress and promote a sense of loss.
If your baby needs their binky during stressful periods such as starting daycare or preschool, moving house or transitioning from bassinet to crib, then it’s probably a bad idea to remove their pacifier completely.
However, if your baby is enjoying a stable routine and you feel they can cope with the cold turkey approach, then this may be a suitable option for you.
As always, the key lies in your baby’s individual development and circumstances, which may be different from the “average” baby for a variety of reasons.
Get Help From The Binky Fairy
If you do decide to skip the gradual approach (more on this below), then it may be a good idea to prepare your baby a few days in advance.
For some parents, enlisting the help of the “binky fairy” can work particularly well.
An example of this is where you tell your child that another baby needs a pacifier and it would be lovely if they give up their soother so that a younger baby benefits from its use.
Of course, if you combine this with telling your child they will receive something they will love in return (perhaps a new toy), then this approach can be even more effective.
Take The Paci Away Gradually
For many parents, the slow or gradual withdrawal can work well and make things a little easier for your little one.
The gradual approach is where you restrict use to certain times or locations – for example only during nap or bedtime, and only at home or in their crib.
It’s worth noting that this may not be effective unless your child genuinely understands what you’re communicating, so while the gradual approach can work for toddlers, it’s not ideal for infants.
A distraction can be anything from a replacement (see below) to playing a game or partaking in a physical activity.
Anything you can do to get your child thinking and doing something else will greatly help with the pacifier weaning process.
Make The Pacifier Taste Bad
This one is quite sneaky, but some parents find it very effective.
By dipping the pacifier in a safe solution (such as lemon juice or vinegar), your baby may suddenly find it a lot less appealing than it used to be!
The hope here is that they will then discard it voluntarily.
Have A Replacement Lined Up
Given the purpose is to soothe your child, it makes sense that if you remove their paci, you should replace it with something else.
Take It Away During A Cold
Some parents have successfully taken the paci away when their baby has a cold (and not returned it once the cold has gone).
During a cold, your baby is unlikely to want their pacifier as they can’t suck on it and breathe properly at the same time.
With any luck, your baby won’t miss it too much once they can breathe properly again a few days later.
Lastly, remember to stay strong.
The disruption to sleep and crying can be frustrating for the entire household, so you may be tempted to give in or go back on your commitment.
However, it’s important to remember that in most cases the weaning process will be over quickly and you’ll only have to deal with a couple of days of night time crying and then the binky will be gone forever, so stay positive and keep the end goal in your mind.
- There is no set time regarding when you should take your child’s pacifier away.
- It’s best to avoid taking the paci away during transitional periods such as moving room or starting preschool.
- The main side effect will be a disruption in your child’s sleep.
- Think hard before going cold turkey, as this may not be the best option for all babies.
- Use distractions and have a comforting replacement lined up.
- Stay strong, because in most cases you’ll only need to deal with a couple of days crying and then the whole process will be over.