Before your eyes, your cuddly baby has blossomed into an active, opinionated, independent toddler. But are those binkies still in the picture? Maybe this is a familiar scene: Tiptoeing in at night and leaving a rainbow of pacifiers above your child’s head for him to plug in if necessary.
On the one hand, your child (and therefore you, too) has mastered getting a full night’s sleep—uninterrupted. On the other, he has become reliant on a piece of rubber or latex in his mouth to fall asleep. You may have heard from friends and family members, “Well, he won’t be going off to college with it.” But you may ask yourself, when is it time to give it up? And how do I help him to do it?
Questions to consider about Baby’s binky:
- Why does he use it? To help him fall asleep? To help him when he needs comforting, such as when he says good-bye to mommy at childcare? Or provide something to suck on as he goes about his day? Obviously, using it all day and sporadically for comfort are two different situations.
- Is it affecting his language development? Do you notice his speech becoming slurred or does he grunt and point when the pacie is in his mouth?
The timing of breaking the pacifier habit depends on the individual child. Many experts believe that around three years, most children start to wean themselves from the pacifier. Sometimes kids in a preschool or childcare setting notice other kids not using a pacie and decide to break the habit by themselves. But all children kicking the habit will require the support of their families and caregivers—just how much intervention depends on the individual situation.
Some tricks to ditching the pacifier include:
- Discuss the pacifier usage in front of the child with the pediatrician or dentist. Often, words of wisdom from someone else have an impact on the child and provide motivation. Of course, keep your child included in the conversation. Having your child feeling in control of the pacifier usage or breaking from it is a large part of the battle.
- Make the good-bye to binky a ritual. With your child, collect all the binkies in the house, place in a box, wrap, and send to a designated new baby in the neighborhood or a new cousin. Let your child present the package to the baby or take to the post office. This method requires the child to quit cold-turkey, which may mean a few sleepless nights for your child and yourself. (On average it takes three to four days before your child has adjusted to life without a pacifier.)
- Use a gradual approach. This method can work well for the child who has a pacifier in his mouth all day. At first, limit pacie usage to certain rooms or for a specific amount of time or only when he is going to sleep. Gradually add more limitations. Then after discussing with your child, take the plunge to no pacie at all.
Remember that your child is going to need a lot of support during this transition. And certainly don’t try to wean your child when other major changes are happening in his life, such as a move to a new home, starting a new childcare, or introducing him to a new sibling.