When Cullen was a brand new little guy, I totally freaked out during that first week when my mom and mother-in-law were trying to stick pacifiers in his mouth any time he would cry. He needs to learn to breastfeed! He needs to learn to soothe himself! He doesn’t need it yet! And while some of that was probably true, eventually I recognized that the pacifier was exactly that — pacifying, for both Cullen and for me. It became a crutch for grumpy car rides, sleep soothing, and stretching out time between feedings. He was pretty good with the pacifier from the get-go, and I always made sure I had no less than 20 within my reach (in the car, stroller, diaper bag, etc.) at all times.
At the beginning, I didn’t really worry too much about the pacifier habit. He was a baby and we used them when he needed them — car, stroller, sleep, out and about, whenever. Somewhere around his first birthday we transitioned to only using them at certain times — sleeping, car rides, and stroller. It was also around this time that he started majorly protesting the stroller, so the pacifier was key for any sort of exercise or fresh air. As the months dragged on, I eventually phased this out too. And just like the rest of it, the car pacifier died shortly after.
For many, many long months now we have only had one pacifier left, and it has lived in his bed. It is never used for anything else, but boy did he depend on it for sleep. His second birthday came and went, and as much as I hated giving it to him every single night, I also felt like he’d already been through enough big changes — new brother, new toddler bed, etc. — and I knew that losing the pacifier was going to push him over the edge, especially since baby brother now had his own set of pacifiers scattered around the house.
Several months ago, I happened to be listening in while I was making dinner and Cullen was watching Sesame Street. Elmo and Mr. Hooper were singing the “bye, bye binky” song, and the whole episode was all about giving up the pacifier. Television for the WIN! We talked about it, we sang the song, and I starred the episode to save in my DVR. He has watched it several times since, and talks about it all the time. And while I have never actually initiated going for it, I tell him often when he goes to bed and asks for his paci, “remember how Elmo sang the Bye Bye Paci song? We are going to do that soon too, okay?” I figured planting the idea was a good first step.
He turns 2.5 next month, and I had it in my head that any day now I was going to pull the plug. I just needed to order the right “exchange” item (Elmo exchanges his paci for something else in the episode!) and prepare myself for a few days/nights of rough sleep. As it turned out, he pulled the plug himself. I have no idea where it came from or why he said it when he did, but last Thursday we came home from playgroup and got ready for nap just like any other day. He walked over to his bookshelf, picked up the paci, and told me he wanted to sing the Bye Bye Paci song. Um, what? Let’s do it! I’ll follow your lead, buddy.
He sang the song all by himself and then tossed the pacifier in the trash can. I was stunned. He didn’t change his mind and never brought it up again. It was… strange. But like any change, it did not come without some growing pains. He gave up the pacifier and also gave up… sleeping! It’s been a long week with many battles. Bedtime has been okay, but he’s been waking up in the middle of the night and hasn’t known how to soothe himself back to sleep. So he cries and waits for us to come in instead. Saturday night he was up every single hour, and awake for the day at 4 AM. It took everything in me to not dig into the trash and pop that pacifier in his mouth.
Every single nap disappeared. He’d bounce off the walls with energy and run around his room, unsure of how to calm himself down and settle into sleep. We had to put a gate up at his door because he wouldn’t stop leaving his room. It was horrible. Thank goodness it was the weekend and my husband was home, so we were at least going through hell together. In the past few days, it has gotten a bit better. Overnight sleep has gone back to normal with zero wake-ups or crying (knock on wood). Naps have continued to be a battle, but that was already starting even before the paci went away. I think that has more to do with his age than anything else.
And despite not being ready when he pulled the plug, we did go ahead and order that exchange item. I told him it was his special treat now that the paci was gone, and it was a new friend to help him get to sleep. So far, it seems to be working. I knew that losing the pacifier was going to be tough, and the longer I waited the harder it was going to get. I feel so, so happy to have that behind us, as it has felt like a big hurdle for a long time now.
I won’t wait as long to take it away from his baby brother. I definitely think they are useful and comforting for babies and young toddlers, but I’d really like to avoid dealing with breaking such an emotional connection like we did this time. Another toddler transition to cross of the list, and a big deep breath for making through to the other side.