A pacifier has been central to establishing healthy sleep habits for our babies. If you read my article on pacifiers for sleep training or enjoyed my review of the best baby pacifiers, you know this already. But there comes a point when your child gets old enough that it’s time to take the pacifier away. This is a sad time, because you’ve come to love it almost as much as they do.
Our pediatrician recommended doing this by age 2, a milestone our twins have just reached. My personal opinion is that two years is almost too old — our boys are stronger, louder, and more independent than our daughter was when we took hers away at around 20 months. And they loved their pacifiers.
Weaning your baby from the pacifier seems like a cruel thing to do, but it’s a necessary part of their development. The good news, if you’re planning to make this happen, is that it’s not as rough as you think it’s going to be. Here are a few steps that will help.
1. Begin Reducing Pacifier Use
We start by limiting our little ones’ pacifier use. In short, it’s only used for bedtime, and we take it away first thing in the morning. We make sure they don’t get a hold of one throughout the day, which isn’t easy. We resist the urge to give it to them at the fussy time of the evening, or in the car.
If they need it to fall asleep, or wake up and need another one, we give the pacifier to them. But we make it clear that it’s for bedtime and nothing else.
2. Explain and Celebrate Taking the Pacifiers Away
We spent a day collecting all of the pacifiers in the house and putting them into a ziploc bag. We explain that because they’re BIG BOYS they have to give up the pacifiers, so that other babies can use them. We emphasize the point by putting the last two pacifiers into the bag, and then putting it away up in a high cabinet.
3. Offer a Replacement for the Pacifier
Your little one will do better if you provide some sort of replacement for the soothing comfort that a pacifier offers. We chose a Playskool Gloworm, a soft and squeezable soother that the babies take to bed with them. When you squeeze its belly, the face lights up and a little lullaby plays for about 30 seconds.
These were good replacements for pacifiers because they’re comforting and entertaining, soft, but not really chewable. So we don’t have to worry that they’ll take it as a literal replacement.
Don’t expect your little ones to be fooled. One of ours recognized right away what was going on, and he cried. The shiny new gloworm didn’t really do much for him.
4. Brace Yourself and Be Strong
There will be a few rounds of crying, but be strong. Our boys took an hour or two of crying to fall asleep the first couple of nights. Once or twice we had to go in because they’d thrown their Gloworms on the floor.
But it got better rather quickly. They still seem to miss the pacifiers, and they slept less (taking longer to fall asleep, and waking up earlier) but now we seem to be getting back into a routine. It’s hard that we can’t offer them a pacifier to help them sleep longer in the morning, but we get by.
Whatever you do, make sure that your baby doesn’t find a pacifier somewhere around the house and start using it… because then it’s back to square one.