The viral video above of a little girl sweetly giving her pacifier a special goodbye has been making the rounds for one reason: To many parents, this is pure fantasy. A binky dream come true. Yes, it’s possible for a child to watch her pacifier literally float away, just like that. This wasn’t the reality for me or most moms I know; ending a pacifier habit was pure hell — and some of us have the kids with the messed up teeth to prove it.
My son, Max, was never into pacifiers but my daughter, born 25 months later, took to them pretty much from the start. One of Sabrina’s first “words” was “habifier.” Every kid seems to have a special name for theirs: paci, bah-bah, nummy, you name it. Sabrina never had an attachment to a blanket or a stuffed animal, but she had a fierce love for her habifier. Max quickly learned that the best way to torment his little sis was to swat the habifier out of her mouth.
Like any parent who has a kid with a pacifier thing, we had a collection of them because ones were forever going missing. It wasn’t just when we went out to the mall or park; somehow, they constantly disappeared in our house. (I expect that someday we’ll find them hanging out with all those missing socks from the laundry.) We never let Sabrina sleep with the pacifier, but other than that, she pretty much wanted one in her mouth all the time.
I thought the pacifiers looked cute, one of those quintessential childhood accessories. I adored hearing her ask for her habifier. Reading her fave book to her, Binky, was a gleeful event every single time. But by the time Sabrina was getting close to two years old and her habifier habit showed no signs of letting up, I knew that it was time to wean her off. The American Academy of Pediatrics notes that when kids suck strongly on pacifiers beyond 2 to 4 years of age, it can affect how their teeth line up and even the shape of their mouths.
I started by trying to limit her time; she could have the pacifier in the morning for a few hours and in the afternoon. Major meltdowns ensued, and the easiest way to pacify her was, er, with her habifier. I was weak. So weak. But then a few more months passed, and my resolve grew stronger. I offered her a cute chewable bracelet instead of a pacifier. I tried substituting the occasional lollipop. I got her books with no-beating-around-the-bush names like No More Pacifiers! I offered to let her leave it under her pillow and The Pacifier Fairy would take it and leave her a present.
“I don’t want to give up my habifier,” Sabrina would say. “I love habifiers. They taste good.”
You know your child is way too old for a pacifier when they are able to logically reason you out of it.
Meanwhile, I was aiding and abetting my friend, who was in a similar situation. She told her daughter that they were going to make a trip to my house, with all of her pacifiers. I would hold onto them until she needed them again, then we’d have a cupcake party. It worked. (I still have them in storage somewhere, although her daughter is now 12 years old and I assume past the chance of reverting.) When I offered to do the same for Sabrina — we’d bring all the habifiers to my friend’s home and have a party — she said, “I don’t want a party. I want a habifier.”
Potty training was cake compared to pacifier rehab. “I’m sure she won’t go to college with it!” my husband said, not too reassuringly.
My last resort: Disney World. Now, we didn’t actually plan the trip with the purpose of using it as bait, because that would have been the most expensive pacifier intervention in the history of pacifiers. But I realized that I could definitely use Disney to our advantage, and started a couple of months before we left on our trip.
“You know, pacifiers aren’t allowed at Disney World,” I said, lying through my teeth.
Sabrina seemed suspicious. I backtracked.
“The people at Disney World don’t think it’s a good idea for kids to have pacifiers, because if you go on rides with pacifiers in your mouth, it could hurt your teeth,” I told her.
She seemed to kinda-sorta buy that. We talked about it on and off until the day came when we had to pack for Disney. Sabrina did not insist on including her habifier collection, which seemed like a good sign. On the morning we left, she took one last, longing suck on her habifier and let me put it into a case — and put it away.
I saved it in her baby keepsake box. It’s The Last Habifier: As soon as we walked out of the house, Sabrina left it behind, both physically and mentally.
In the years that have followed, I’ve come upon the random dusty habifier – one in an air vent, one in a nook in the basement — though the majority are still AWOL. They make me smile, although I am not that charmed by the orthodontia work Sabrina will be starting in the fall. I’ve never asked whether her habifier could have been the reason for the braces, because really, what good would come of that? The habifier served a need for her, a reassuring piece of rubber during a time in life when she needed that comfort, for whatever reason. What’s done is done or, rather, what was sucked was sucked.