To steal a phrase from Dora the Explorer, “we did it!” By our self-imposed deadline (our daughter’s third birthday), my husband and I helped our little one kick the pacifier habit.
Over the course of about six months, she went from using a “baba” as her comfort object day and night to being baba free. So, now that I’m finally done with this milestone, I figured I’d share what I learned. Today’s hint is seven tips for breaking the pacifier habit.
1. Break it early. Experts recommend getting rid of the pacifier by the time your child is 1. Then, as The Baby Sleep Site points out, you can probably just go cold turkey and deal with a few rough nights and naps. Unfortunately, if you delayed the inevitable past the first birthday, like my husband and I did, then you may need a more involved process, so read on.
2. Set a deadline. Kicking the binky habit is easier if you set a goal, i.e. a deadline, for when your child will be paci free. I found a birthday to be a good deadline because it’s a natural point of transition. In addition, setting a deadline a number of months in the future gives you plenty of time to prepare, and follow through with, your approach.
3. Think gradual. Though different techniques work for different children, a step-by-step, gradual approach can be easiest on both parents and kids. Indeed, most of us used a gradual approach for other major baby and toddler milestones, like cutting out night feedings and moving to one nap, so why not use it for transitioning away from the pacifier as well.
In my daughter’s case, I worried that going immediately from having five or more pacifiers in her crib, and at least one baba with her at all times, to no babas might be traumatic. My then 2.5 year old was already dealing with becoming a big sister and potty training. Plus, with a new baby at home, my husband and I may not have been able to deal with the tantrums that would have resulted from a cold turkey approach, and this could have further delayed the baba breakup.
So, instead of simply throwing out all the pacifiers, we gradually cut down our daughter’s baba use over the course of six or so months. First, we eliminated pacifier use outside of sleep-time. Then, roughly every two weeks, we eliminated one pacifier from our daughter’s crib until she only had one baba during her nap and at night.
4. Prepare your child. In other words, talk with your child about the transition that’s about to take place. Stories can help. About six months before our deadline, I began telling my daughter a bedtime story about a princess who gave all of her babas to the baba fairy in exchange for a gift, making lots of other babies happy who received the old babas. I also bought a couple of books about breaking up with pacifiers, including “Pacifiers Are Not Forever” and “Bea Gives Up Her Pacifier,” and they went into our before-bed story time rotation as well. This leads to my next tip.
5. Use props. There are a host of products on the market meant to help parents with this transition. Though I generally don’t recommend buying gear designed just for one milestone, I found many of the pacifier-breakup props to be helpful and worth the money.
In addition to books about saying bye bye to binky, I’m also a fan of pacifiers designed to break the paci habit, like the Lily Method Pacifier Weaning System. Once my daughter was down to one baba at nap and nighttime, and we had a little over a week until she turned 3, I tested out this system. It’s essentially a $20 set of pacifiers designed by a pediatric dentist to wean little ones off the paci over the course of five or so days. I’m giving away the system to three lucky Hint Mama readers – details below.
The set consists of five pacifiers, with progressively smaller nipples, that you give your child one at a time, with the last few designs “a size and shape that no longer satisfies the child.” By the time we were at stage 4 of the system, just before the big 3, my daughter seemed less interested in her baba, and we finally were ready for the last stage of our process: the baba fairy.
6. Consider the pacifier fairy. If you’ve never heard of the pacifier fairy, it’s an approach worth knowing about. The gist is basically that you tell your child that his or her pacifiers are going to the pacifier fairy, who will take them and leave a gift in return. And you can embellish the story, and accompanying pacifier breakup process, however you wish.
In our home, shortly before my daughter turned 3, after we’d been talking about the baba fairy for months, we put the pacifiers in a bag and had my daughter sprinkle “fairy dust” (aka silver glitter) on them. Then, we had her put the bag outside her door before nap (see the images to the left).
Once she realized what was going on, she started screaming. I then brought out the package containing the gift she had wanted from the fairy: a new Elsa dress and Elsa shoes. When she saw the delivery from the baba fairy, my daughter was thrilled, and slept in her new dress and shoes.
Though we did have about an hour of screaming for baba that first night, the transition has otherwise been pretty smooth. In fact, my daughter now pretend plays she’s the baba fairy, and tells us stories about how the baba fairy took her babas.
7. Find a pacifier tree. Finally, I just learned about this last tip from a friend who grew up in Israel. There, many communities have “pacifier trees” where tots hang their pacifiers in a goodbye ritual. I love the idea of this approach, which it turns out is a tradition in many cities. If you like this idea as well, search online to see if there’s a pacifier tree near you, or start your own.
What tips for breaking the baba habit did I miss? How did you encourage your child to drop the binky? Share your thoughts below, and be sure to enter to win one of three Lily Pacifier Weaning Systems.
A Lily Method Pacifier Weaning System was provided to me for review. All opinions are my own.