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I can distinctly remember the first night in the hospital with our new baby. It was tough, as I was super exhausted, and the baby wasn’t sleeping. She was crying on and off, and it didn’t help that the nurses would be in and out so much. At one point, our baby couldn’t be soothed no matter what we did, so the nurse came in and popped a pacifier in her mouth. And from then on, my daughter loved her pacifier and a habit was born. Little did I know how hard it would be to get rid of the pacifier for good later on.
Pacifiers are great for helping babies soothe themselves, and it also helps reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It’s not fully understood as to how pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS, but it has been suggested that they reduce the chances of the baby rolling onto their stomach, increases arousal, and helps keep their airway open. Because of it’s ability to reduce the risk of SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pacifiers be used for those under the age of 1 when they are sleeping (but start after the first month of life).
Pacifiers may change the alignment of the teeth, so dentists recommend that parents ditch the pacifier by the age of 2. Like any habit though, it can be hard to stop using a pacifier especially if it does soothe a child.
Also, we ended up going into our baby’s room for what felt like a million times to put her pacifier back in her mouth when she’d cry about it falling out. So, this meant we lost sleep, which was hell on our bodies. She had the ability to sleep through the night, but not with that pacifier!!! The pacifier also had become somewhat of a sleep prop, in that she couldn’t go to sleep without it.
I read articles about how to ditch the pacifier, and we tried a few suggestions. We tried weaning her off of it, by not allowing her to have it during any other time except for sleeping. This was difficult, because she’d wake up with the pacifier in her mouth, and I knew she’d go into tantrum mode if I took it from her. We also tried cutting the tips of the pacifiers off, but she looked at us like we were stupid and then started crying for a pacifier.
While I knew she wouldn’t turn into an adult walking around with a pacifier in her mouth, I was anxious to help her stop using it. She was past the age of 2, and I felt as if I could see changes in her teeth already because of the pacifier.
My daughter started attending preschool when she was 2 and a half. Well, I really didn’t want her to have it, while she was at school. So, when she was helped out of the car during the carpool line on the first day, one of the teachers asked me if I wanted my daughter to keep her pacifier. I said no. Surprisingly, there was not a word or a fight about it, probably because this was a stranger that had given the pacifier back to mom.
From then on, my daughter would actually give me her pacifier right before she got out of the car. I knew at this point that if she could go for several hours without the pacifier, this can happen for a lot longer. She would, for a while, cry about getting her pacifier back when she got into the car after preschool, however.
I could tell at this point that my daughter was starting to let go of it. So, I tried to encourage my daughter to sleep with a favorite stuffed animal, so this could be something that could comfort her at night time. Children usually do make that progression from being soothed by a pacifier or thumb to something such as a stuffed animal.
We decided that we would just continue to use the pacifiers that we had left until there were none. We also noticed that if we kept our daughter busy, such as by going to the park on and on outings, she wouldn’t always ask for it.
Then one day, we finally ran out of pacifiers. We told her we had no more left and that we couldn’t find anymore. This was the only time she was very upset about it. And again though, distraction and keeping her busy worked! It wasn’t long until she forgot about the pacifier. She even slept fine that night without the pacifier even though she asked for it 1-2 times.
In the end, I think it’s important to consider when your child is ready to get rid of the pacifier. For us, the solution was keeping her active, but also substituting her pacifier for something else that is comforting.
One other tip is that it may be easiest to ditch the pacifier between 4-6 months of age, which is right before the baby starts to develop a full sense of object permanence (the idea that objects continue to exist even when out of sight). So, at this age, the baby may not even “miss” the pacifier if it’s taken away. However, you have to balance the positives with the negatives, as the pacifier can still help prevent SIDS even past the age of 6 months.
Do you have any other tips for getting rid of the pacifier? If so, comment below!
Risks and Benefits of Pacifiers. (2009). Retrieved from https://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0415/p681.html.