Do you have a baby addicted to their binky or pacifier (or dummy as they call it in some countries?) Are you stressing about how to wean the pacifier? And how the fuck to deal with the oncoming onslaught of emotional turmoil? Look no further, as I’ve got some pacifier weaning tips to help you separate binky and baby for good.
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Why Do Babies Have Pacifiers?
My first baby didn’t get into having a binky. He rolled over for the first time at 10 weeks old (because I’m convinced he hated being a baby), so once he did that I took away the limited binky use he had.
My second, though, was obsessed with the very first suck.
If you’ve been feeling guilty about your baby sucking on a pacifier take head, you’ve done good momma.
It’s also beneficial for babies who have a significant need to suck and helps teach self-soothing techniques.
As my baby got older, we noticed that the self-soothing wasn’t just from the sucking.
He’d often keep two or three different binkies in his bed to press gently against his cheeks or forehead, in a tactile self-soothing method as well (something he tends to still do with some soft or squishy toys).
Having a binky is beneficial for parents too.
My binky-using-baby was a super sleeper and rarely needed extended rocking times, or even much fuss to help him go to sleep partly because of his beloved binky.
This was great for us with two kids under two. It allowed us extra time to navigate the challenge of a toddler who was finding new ways to delay bedtime.
It also made it easy for him to sleep through the night, feel soothed in a car, and when we traveled he had no issue with pressure in his ears on airplanes or in cars.
I used to tell my husband that I would probably have a harder time ditching the binky than he would.
I think too, because he’s my last baby, and because binky’s are inherently baby-like in their appearance and function, I knew it would be emotional for ME to have him stop using it.
Because that means we’d be officially moving out of a baby stage, and into a more permanent toddler phase.
The Psychology of Binky's for Baby
Young babies need to experience the sucking sensation early and often as a way of self soothing, and promoting sleep and a way to calm themselves.
As I’ve mention, binky use has also long been linked to preventing SIDS.
But if a child is still using a pacifier into ages three, four and beyond, the reason may have far more to do with an emotional reason then a need to suck.
According to this article in Time Magazine, Los Angeles developmental psychologist Claire B. Kopp explains that “Prolonged use of pacifiers into the third or fourth year may indicate that a child is experiencing heightened stress levels, not unlike an anxious adult who reaches for food, coffee or a smoke. "It's best to figure out the cause of stress, such as insufficient Mom or Dad time, erratic sleep or boredom."
It’s extremely possible that had we let Sammy continue using his binky, this habit would continue.
He is very attached to me, and in a perfect world would have me hold him all day every day, and as a busy working mom, insufficient Mommy time seems to be the culprit for some of the self soothing.
Since weaning him, we’ve noticed an improvement in his ability to wind down on his own without long laborious snuggles with his favorite mommy.
When Are Pacifiers Bad for Baby's Teeth?
How pacifiers affect the growth of your babies teeth is a big reason why it’s important to wean them early (if you can).
At my baby’s 1-year-old appointment our pediatrician told us her 5-year-old daughter still had a binky but mostly because her teeth hadn’t been directly impacted yet.
Since Sam still hadn’t even gotten half of his teeth I wasn’t in a rush to ditch it.
If you’ve got a super teether, consult with your pediatric dentist before delaying pulling the plug on the binky.
Pacifier teeth occurs when the pressure of a pacifier, thumb or finger pushes against the growing bones and teeth of the jaw and making them bend outward.
At my son’s 2nd dentist appointment, our pediatric dentist pointed out that pacifier teeth was indeed happening to Sam.
She assured me though, that as long as we were able to ditch the binky by his 3rd birthday when the teeth, jaw, and bones are not totally set, then we’ll be okay.
This felt doable.
This article in Parents.com confirms that as long as the binky habit is done by age 4, you reduce the risk of long term dental issues.
Our dentist explained that if you wait too long, it actually impacts the adult teeth and how they grow in, essentially setting a path for them to grow in the same way that the pacifier teeth have been growing - outward and bent slightly.
How to Wean Baby off of Pacifier
If you’ve ever asked this question in a Facebook mom group, or just standing on the sidewalk in a town with toddlers, you’re going to get all the tips that Mom’s swear by.
What worked for their kids and so on. Cool. But every child is different.
I’m sharing some real mom stories of weaning off the pacifier below to give you a sense of how this whole thing can go down, but before we get to that here are some suggested “ways” of saying bye bye, binky.
Before You Wean Baby, Wean When Baby Gets a Pacifier
Because Sammy has been in daycare since he was an infant (and from the age of about 14 months old, he did not have a binky at school).
This made it easier to wean him off the binky at night, I feel, because it wasn’t something he was attached to all day every day.
If your child still sucks on a binky whenever he wants to, begin by limiting it to certain times. This is a marathon not a sprint.
Naps, bed, and in the car for example.
Calmly explain that he’s a big boy now, and the binky has to stay in his room or in the car and can’t be used outside of either location.
When Sam was about two years old we began to limit his binky usage (over time) to naps and at night in his room. In fact, the binky wasn’t even allowed to come out of his room.
This was effective in our long game.
He surprisingly learned how to fall asleep in the car without a binky during this time and that gave me hope that eventually, he would be able to be sans binky entirely.
Time the Pacifier Weaning Appropriately
Do not plan to have your baby ditch her binky when there are other major life events on the horizon, such as when you’re about to have a second child, changing schools, starting kindergarten, traveling, or even while visitors in town.
This will be disruptive enough to their routine, don’t make it worse for them by adding more stress.
You’ll want to dedicate time to this transition.
Plan for at least a week to handle any additional night wakings, emotional breakdowns (if they happen) or pitfalls to your plan.
For some babies, a binky is as much a part of their comfort and feeling of safety and attachment as a well loved stuffed animal or blanket (or parent!).
Poking or Cutting a Hole in the Pacifier
My speech pathologist friend swears by this method, and it’s also the one my pediatrician recommended.
You’ll commonly see the hole poke as a recommended method on Facebook mommy groups as well and for good reason as for many, it’s highly effective.
Poking a hole in the pacifier with a little needle impacts the suction function of the binky. For many babies, continuing to offer the binky as you normally would holds less joy for them.
The suction is gone.
My pediatrician recommended, “snipping the tip” (LOL, Sigh.)
This provides the same displeasing sucking conditions for your toddler or baby.
He also recommended periodically cutting a bit more off (every few days/week) so that there is less and less for your baby to put in his mouth.
With the suction totally gone, and less of it, it’s not the same binky it used to be and thus, they tire of it and don’t want to use it anymore.
The Three Day Pacifier Weaning System
There’s a lot of content on the internet, Pinterest and Facebook that recommends this plan (and we actually did a version of this because I loved the no-stress positive reinforcement of it).
According to the book, Pacifiers, Blankets, Bottles, and Thumbs: What Every Parent Should Know About Starting and Stopping, by Mark Brenner, the three-day pacifier weaning system consists of the following:
When your baby wakes up and right before bed, explain to your child that you can tell there are a lot of things that he wants to do that will make him be a big kid and grow older. Encourage him that this is a really good idea! And in three days it will be time to say goodbye to his pacifiers.
Empathize with him, and explain that you know he can do it, and say goodbye and you’ll work on it together. Keep the pep talk short and sweet (30 seconds or so) and be sure not to come off as asking permission. You’re telling him this is going to happen.
If your child tells you “I don’t want to,” reflect back and offer empathetic statements such as “I know you don’t want to,” or “it’s hard to give up something we love” and move on.
Your child may become anxious with the warning of this, but not to worry.
Like adults, children like to be prepared for upcoming change and get their mind’s wrapped around what’s going to happen (just like we do).
Change is hard, but with preparation and awareness, it can be a whole lot easier.
Repeat the same pep talk in the morning and at bedtime, and change “in three days” to “tomorrow.” This is happening. Don’t try to pitch him on the idea, or convince him of it. This is just something that’s happening. It’s important that you check yourself and your tone and take deep breaths so you come off as calm and composed when you have these little pep talks.
Its day three! Have your child help you gather up his pacifiers. Go on a scavenger hunt and ask if your child would like to help. We put all Sam’s pacifiers in a plastic ziplock bag. Some parents will put them in a backpack or favorite box or some other container.
Even if your child protests, continue with the plan. You’ve set this in motion and there’s no going back. At all. (Promise yourself this).
Brenner recommends setting them on the front porch for the recycling truck to pick up but this wasn’t going to fly for my kid (if I even mentioned something like this he would protest and say “binkies are not trash, momma!” )
Although Brenner clarifies that recycling is “not trash” in his recommendation, my two year-old-son still saw a plastic bottle and trash as the same.
Which is why we put our own spin on this and traded them in at Target for a big boy toy of his choice. But more on that in a bit.
Surprisingly most kids “get over” their paci addiction within 48 hours with this method and I found that to be the case too.
Opperation Bye Bye Binky - The DGAF Mom Edition
When it was time to wean our baby boy from his binky, I knew two things based on his personality: He needed to be an active participant. I couldn’t simply cut a whole, or throw them away or tell them they were going to be recycled.
Sam is a bit s and very strong willed and has been that way since he was in the womb, but I knew that if I could have him feel excited about wanting to do this, then he’d be more likely to go through with it.
I also knew that he needed to find a replacement that was just as exciting.
I read this post from another mom blogger, who recommended a similar three-day method.
So for three days, we prepped Sam and told him that he can bring his binkies to Target, and in exchange for all of them, he’ll get to pick out whatever toy he wants.
Big brother, of course, was a bit jealous of this toy for binky thing, so we ended up caving and saying he could get a toy too for being so supportive and helpful of Sam turning in his favorite things: his binkies.
The morning of the binky weaning came, we told him today’s the day! Let’s get all your binky’s and gather them up and go to Target!
And then the resistance happened.
He planted himself firmly on the ground rolling around with his binky’s systematically sucking on each one.
My husband works with young children and helped coach him into putting all the binkys except one into a ziplock bag.
And then we had a parent pow wow.
We decided that Sam could keep JUST ONE binky. And when he’s ready, he can get another toy when he turns that one in.
This kid hit the jack pot with us, because we somehow gave in to two toys and two rounds of binky drop offs. But, like I said, we knew our child wouldn’t be open to just going through with it the way other parents had explained.
You can watch the full story from this experience on my Instagram Account here.
Of note is the incredible Target check out employee who fully was on board with our entire plot and rolled with it.
She congratulated him on being a big boy, and took the bag of binkies from him as if it was cold, hard, cash.
That first night, Sammy said he wanted his binkies. We kept reminding him that he gave them to Target. And that they’re gone now. We didn’t dwell on it. We also didn’t try to ignore it or pretend it didn’t happen.
We had to skirt the line between acknowledging that it was sad and also help him move past it.
About three weeks later, he was ready to get “another toy from Target.”
HE was ready.
He told us he wanted to turn in his binky to Target.
So we did exactly that, with no delay!
This time he got a giant pack of 10 dinosaurs for one binky.
That night, again, at bedtime, he told us he wanted his binky’s and we reminded him that he got a bunch of really cool dinosaurs in exchange for it.
He was sad and cried a little but we hugged and I let him take all his dinosaurs to bed with him. On the monitor, we watched as he played quietly in his crib and eventually fell asleep.
By the next night, he didn’t even mention it.
About a month later, he asked again, in a moment of sadness and needing comfort. And again, we reminded him that he gave them to Target.
Since that time he hasn’t even mentioned it when he sees other kids with binkys when we’re out and about. I’m so impressed with him and with his resilience and ability to make this change, and you will be too!
In fact, that’s an important tip to remember when you’re going through this: Your kid is changing, and who she will become after she says goodbye to that pacifier, is different than who she was.
It’s hard on us moms to see that though.
A Word about Binky Fairies or Other Magical Binky Takers
There are stories and lore floating the internet that suggest a magical mythical character that will come and take your baby’s binky in exchange for a “dream toy.”
As you’ll see from some of the stories from real moms below, binky fairies bye and large result in a massive fail for any operation bye bye binky.
I’m not sure what it is about the idea of a binky fairy or in the case of one mom a magical mythical bobo fairy, but kids are super amped about the IDEA of the fairy but don’t necessarily make the connection of having to give something up, and namely, they’re most beloved prized possession to receive a toy.
In fact, starting out my real mom stories of pacifier weaning, is this one from Liz from Worth Writing For:
We told our daughter the Binky Fairy would come and take her binky and trade it for a special toy. We built up to it for weeks. With a book about the binky fairy and excitement about the toy.
We left her binkies out one night and traded them for a stuffed puppy.
Kiddo was devastated not to have her binky and started hiding toys and other favorite things out of fear the mean binky fairy would come and take them.
It did get rid of the binkies but was unnecessarily traumatic.
Real Mom Stories of Pacifier Weaning
I asked some mom friends to tell me what worked for them when it came to weaning their toddler’s off the pacifier.
Christina from Raising Biracial Babies:
My daughter was OBSESSED with her pacifier and I wanted her to be done with it but didn't want to traumatize her either.
So I told her that there were other little babies and toddlers who needed pacifiers and suggested we send hers to them. I told her it would be so kind of her to share the pacifiers that she loved with other kids because it would bring them happiness.
She was reluctant but I sweetened the deal by having her pick out a "no more pacifier big girl" toy.
I reminded her several times as she picked out the toy, as we were going home with it when we got home, and before bed that her pacifiers went to the other kids who needed them and now she had her big girl toy instead.
She ended up being sad the first night but after that, she was ok with the arrangement
Anna - Abrazo and Coze
When Cat was 3 I decided it was time to get rid of the pacifiers. She had a large collection of them, often one in her mouth and one in each hand.
Spares in case any got lost, and a few in various locations so we wouldn't have to go looking for one when it was wanted.
I told her I wasn't going to buy any more pacifiers, so she had to take care of the ones she had.
If they got lost, I wasn't going to get her a new one. She accepted that. As she lost them, one by one, I'd remind her that we weren't buying anymore and once they were all lost she wouldn't have any.
As I found the lost ones, I secretly put them in a drawer she didn't have access to. When she had only one left, I reminded her again and pointed out this was the last sucky.
Well, it too got lost. She was okay with it during the day when she realized she didn't know where it was. That night, she was sad and with much hope, she suggested we buy one and continued to be sad when I reminded her we had an agreement not to buy more. I let her talk about the sucky and she told me about how she lost them all and now she didn't have any and told me we weren't buying more.
She told me she was feeling sad. And then she went to sleep. For the next few days while she would occasionally tell me again about losing her suckies but that we weren't buying more.
And soon enough, she never mentioned the pacifier again.
I was always kind and empathetic when I reminded her of our plan before they were all lost, and also once she had none.
And although it took a bit of time, there were no tears, and no fight to wean from the pacifier habit.
Dela from Brown Skin Momma
My eldest child used to use a pacifier all the time and I hated it.
I only gave it to him because I thought that's what you had to do with babies. When he got to about the age of 1 I decided I'd had enough.
He was so attached to it and would turn it around every few minutes. I was concerned that it was becoming a bit of an OCD thing but not only that I could also see it was affecting his front teeth too.
One day (when I was brave enough) I punched a little hole it in that you could barely see. Each time he went to suck it, it would just go flat. He HATED it, every time I gave it to him, he would just throw it on the floor.
After the first day or 2, he stopped looking for it. It was so easy to do and with minimal tears too!
Liz from Playspired shared this incredible (and creative idea for a community helping their kids!) story from Cornwall in England:
There's a dummy tree near us where people take their kids to hang the dummy up and leave it behind.
Cornwall has quite a few trees where people leave offerings, or tie ribbons, make wishes, etc. I think the dummy tree is just a weird modern extension of that.
You can read more about the Cornwall dummy tree here.
Rebecca - Collecting Clovers
My daughter was 3 before we were able to pry her binky from her mouth. The dentist advised us it was time. Her teeth were suffering from her binky addiction. Her front teeth were coming in crooked.
Except no matter what we tried it was an all-out war to remove the binky from her daily routine. We tried for weeks. In a last-ditch effort, we invented the BoBo fairy. Yup, a magical fairy who exchanged a wish for all of your binkies.
We built up the BoBo fairy until my daughter was bursting with excitement. We decorated a shoe box with sparkles and pictures in anticipation for the exchange. My daughter decided her wish was a pink Dora The Explorer 3-wheel tricycle.
The night came and we placed the shoe box filled with every binky she owned outside the door. We got ready for bed, read a story with things seemingly going well. But right about the time between goodnight kisses and lights out, all hell broke loose. See, though my daughter was excited about the gift she would receive she just didn’t quite understand the ramifications of what she was giving up.
We tried to console her. We tried reasoning with her. We tried bargaining with her. And then when nothing else worked, we just had to let her cry it out. She eventually fell asleep heartbroken for her long lost binkies. The BoBo fairy was an epic fail—she just didn’t have enough magic.
She awoke in the morning to the gut-wrecking reminder her binkies were all gone. We made a big deal of going to look for her “gift”. There at the door was her hot pink Dora the Explorer 3-wheeler. The excitement lasted until naptime. Then all she wanted was her binkies back.
After about 3-4 days of sadness and withdrawals, my daughter accepted her binkies were gone and settled into her new way of life. A life sans binkies.
For our family, steely resolve and cold turkey binky removal was the only thing that worked.
So what’s it gonna be? Comment below if you have any other helpful no-tears tips for weaning baby off the pacifier.
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