The soother, pacifier, sucky or binky… whatever you call it, weaning off it can be challenging. The pacifier is both a blessing and a curse for parents, as is the process of getting rid of it! However, it is an important step towards their development. Too many years of a soother can lead to dental problems and speech delay (unfounded scientifically, although it does limit the opportunities to babble, resulting in late talkers).
Here are some unique ways to wean off a soother/pacifier, including a few ideas you haven’t tried!
Word of warning: it may not be fun.
When is the best time to wean off a pacifier/soother:
Sleep experts show that weaning between 6 – 9 months of age is the easiest time. Beyond that, the child may have developed an emotional attachment to the soother, which can make it harder to remove.
After the age of 2, watch for chewing. If your child starts chewing on their pacifier, it can be a safety hazard, and it’s time for it to go.
The American Association of Pediatrics says before age 4, so don’t panic, parents; you’ve likely still got time!
Before you get overly creative, try these basic, cold-turkey tips to wean off the soother first:
- Start by reducing the amount of time your toddler spends with their soother. Limit the use of the soother to only certain times of the day, such as nap time or bedtime.
- Distract your toddler with other activities that they enjoy. Encourage them to play with toys, read books, or engage in physical activities like running around.
- Offer your toddler a replacement for their soother, such as a stuffed animal or a blanket. This can help them feel comforted without the need for a soother.
- Offer other ways to help them soothe, especially at bedtime, rubbing their back, deep breathing, snuggles, and cuddles.
- Cut off the tip of the soother or poke holes in it; without the ability to properly suck, it becomes much less appealing. They’re unlikely to know you’ve done anything to it, but they’ll just become less interested in using it.
Remember to be patient and understanding with your toddler. Weaning off a soother can be difficult, and your toddler may experience some resistance or tantrums. Be supportive and offer plenty of love and encouragement.
This all seems too easy, right? Often, parents need to resort to more unique ways to ease off the pacifier.
Here are some unique ways to wean off the soother:
The pacifier fairy:
The pacifier fairy visits overnight and removes all soothers/ pacifiers. In return they leave a special gift. For added touch, leave some glitter and a special note saying how proud they are of your little one being so brave and passing along the pacifier.
The Cake-pop plant:
This is a fun an unique way to trade-in the pacifier. Take the soother and plant it in the garden with your toddler. The next morning, take them to the garden and watch their astonishment as they discover the soother has grown into a cake pop!
Let your child pick out a helium balloon at the store, then tie the pacifier to it and send it up into the air. The bonus of this one, is that they watch it disappear which leaves little confusion or question about whether it comes back.
The day they give up their pacifier, allow them to have a special day to do things they’ve never been able to do before. Maybe that’s riding on the lawn mower with dad, buying ice cream, watch a movie, or stay up a little bit later.
Mail it to a new baby:
Put the pacifier into a new box, wrap it up and “mail it away” to a new baby who needs it.
Toy store trade-in:
Take the pacifier or soother to the store and do a trade-in. Let your child choose a toy, and when they get to the cash register, they must “trade-in” their pacifier for the toy.
Tips for parents when giving up the pacifier:
-The earlier you wean off, the easier it will be. Studies show that between 6 – 9 months is ideal.
-Choose the right time, don’t do this during any time of transition (new baby, new daycare, or busy holidays, etc.). These times will be harder, as they’ll be more stressed and looking for comfort.
-Keep it positive, lots of reinforcement
-Validate their feelings; it will be hard.
-Stay strong; the more times you give in, the longer the process will be.
Mentally prepare yourself for some long nights and lots of tears.
Remember, the goal is to wean your toddler off their soother in a gentle and supportive way. If you choose to make it creative and fun, that’s great! If you choose to go cold turkey or slow and steady, it’s also cool! With patience, persistence, and support, you can help your toddler make the transition to a soother-free life.
Related: Best pacifiers for babies who spit them out.