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How to Break the Pacifier Addiction

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How to Break the Pacifier AddictionOur youngest, Addie, turned two just a few weeks ago. Want to know how we celebrated the big day? We had her throw away her beloved pacifiers. Now, before you think we are the worst parents ever for doing something so traumatic to her on her birthday of all days, let me explain.

To pacifier or not to pacifier is a tough question for many parents. After witnessing our niece struggle with breaking the habit of sucking her thumb even into her elementary years (and after attempting to break the habit with hot sauce, foul tasting nail polish, a thumb guard and more), my husband and I made up our minds: pacifiers over fingers. I will admit that this decision did take some perseverance on our part. Addie especially preferred her fingers at first, but we kept encouraging the pacifier instead and she finally caught on.

Of course by making this decision, we also had to plan for how we would break the habit, especially since all three of our kids became quite attached to the paci. Thankfully we had the guidance of our family doctor to help us develop a plan to break the pacifier addiction. It went something like this:

Newborn to Age 1

Allow them to use the pacifier at any time, day or night, as they desire it. (Of course, as a breastfeeding mother, I made sure there was no nipple confusion at the onset. I didn’t want to disrupt breastfeeding because they preferred the artificial nipple, but thankfully that was never an issue.)

Age 18 months to 2 Years

Limit access to pacifiers, so they are used only when sleeping (napping or at night), or when sick and in need of extra comfort. Also, start setting the stage for the removal. Before handing them the pacifier each time, say, “How old are you? You’re one! And, when you turn 2, you’re going to say bye-bye to pacifiers.” Make sure to say it with excitement. Let them know it’s a good thing!

The 2nd Birthday

As the second birthday approaches, talk about how soon they will be saying good-bye to the pacifier. Get excited and happy. Let your attitude be a model for your child. If you are hesitant, they will pick up on that and be more fearful. On the second birthday, let your child pick out a special treat. Our son chose his first Thomas train. Our middle child wanted a “blue” baby doll and our third created a Build-a-Bear. We allowed the child to lead and guide what it was they wanted to receive, so it was extra special (and desired). Then, in exchange for the gift, they must take their pacifiers and throw them in the trash.

How to Break the Pacifier Addiction
Addie cuddles her newest friend and reward.

Then, we celebrated! We made sure to praise our kids for such a big accomplishment. We told them what a great job they did and we fawned all over their new gift.

Now, I’m going to be honest: as proud as they might be of themselves in that moment, come sleep time, there still may be a hiccup and a desire for that beloved sleep aid. But don’t give in. Did you hear me? DON’T give in!

For Addie, she did an awesome job of tossing her pacifiers. She was pretty attached to them, but she proudly marched to the trashcan and threw them right in. She said they were “icky” and she was done. She went to bed fine that night and slept like a champ.

How to Break the Pacifier Addiction
Sleep success without the pacifier!

Naptime the next day was a bit more of a struggle. She required extra time and cuddles to get to sleep, and it remained that way for a few days as she adjusted to napping without her sleep aids. But, she got there.

You ask her about her pacifiers now, just a few weeks later, and she will proudly tell you how she threw them away and how she’s a big girl. What could seem like a traumatic experience has boosted her confidence and made her a very proud girl.

If there’s one thing I learned through this it’s that a plan is necessary. We often think of plans or goal setting in terms of life and work, but not as often in parenting. But, without this plan and set of guidelines in place, I know the habit would’ve taken much longer to break. Instead, we had steps to focus on. They gave us direction and courage even when we doubted if the kids were ready to toss the pacifiers. The thing is, all three of them transitioned much more smoothly than we ever imagined. That brings me to the second thing I’ve learned from this experience: our kids are more capable than we sometimes realize.

Thank you for visiting! A gift for my {awesome} readers… get your FREE copy of my eBook “Motherhood Doesn’t Come with Sick Days…and other lessons from parenting”

Motherhood Doesn't Come with Sick Days

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