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 to deal with the oncoming onslaught of tears and resistance?
Look no further, as I’ve got some simple steps to help you get rid of the pacifier for good.
Spoiler alert: The most important thing to remember is that this pacifier weaning is a process, and it won’t happen overnight. So be patient, and take things one step at a time. Also, give yourself some grace through this.
It is not easy (or it’s completely simple!) It really depends on your kiddo.
Before we get into the best way to help your child get rid of the binky, it’s important to take a second and get into the why.
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Why Do Babies Have Pacifiers?
Young babies need to experience the sucking sensation early and often a binky is a great way of self-soothing and promoting sleep.
Pacifier use has long been linked to the prevention of the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (or SIDS) and the American academy of pediatrics recommends that newborns and young babies use a pacifier until they’re 12 months old to reduce the risk of SIDS. It’s also helpful and linked to the reduction of ear infections.
Once babies hit the one-year-mark, they no longer need a pacifier at bedtime to fall asleep and can usually ditch it without any problems.
So if your baby is over a year old, then find comfort in that STATISTICALLY he or she doesn’t really need a pacifier and all you are probably doing is delaying the inevitable.
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.
Are pacifiers bad for teeth?
There is no simple answer to this question as pacifiers can potentially cause problems for teeth if they are used incorrectly. However, if you wean your child off of their pacifier correctly, there is no reason why it should cause any long-term damage to their teeth. Best to know this now rather than after the birth of a second child.
How pacifiers affect the growth of your baby’s 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.
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 from 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, or if the child is experiencing excessive pacifier use 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 Old is Too Old for the Pacifier?
If a child is still using a pacifier after two years of age and into three, four, and beyond, the reason may have far more to do with an emotional reason than 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.”
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.
The Emotional Attachment and Connection of a Pacifier and Child
Some kids need a pacifier to help them sleep. They find it soothing to suck on something.
But for other children who are quickly becoming big boys and big girls the emotional attachment of a pacifier may be m ore difficult to navigate than the physical need.
On top of our concerns for baby’s teeth, we noticed that the self-soothing he was exhibiting 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 and even now in kindergarten we will notice him gently pressing a blanket or a stuffed toy to his cheek).
If you have an older sibling who doesn’t use the pacifier it might be helpful to use them as a guide:
See? Big brother doesn’t use a pacifier?
Big Sister uses her lovey when she’s sad and wants comfort. Big sister also always knows she can get a big hug and snuggles from mommy or daddy…etc.
If your child is still using a pacifier at 3 or 4 years old, it might be because they are feeling stressed out about things.
How to Wean Baby off of Pacifier
Since not every child or every parent is different I’ve pulled together several suggestions both from the American academy of family physicians, the American dental association, and as many real-life moms who have had success at getting rid of the pacifier without too many tears.
But universally across the board the first and most important step for any pacifier weaning process is to start limiting your exposure to the pacifier.
If your child still sucks on a binky whenever he wants to, begin by limiting it to certain specific times.
Naptime, bedtime, and a little bit in the car for example.
Have a little patience with the different ways that you can help your child through this transition.
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. If our son ever wanted something to soothe, we’d offer a stuffed animal. Most of the time, there isn’t much toddler hitting or toddler biting reactions from this!
A new toy or dedicated lovey is another good idea.
When Sam was about two years old we began to limit his binky usage (over time) to nap time and bedtime in his room. In fact, the binky wasn’t even allowed to come out of his room.
This proved effective.
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.
When Is the Best Time To Get Rid of the Pacifier?
Do not plan to have your big girl ditch her binky when there are other major life events on the horizon, such as when you’re about to have a new baby, you are moving into a new house, changing schools, starting kindergarten, traveling, or even while visitors in town. (And definitely not when you are potty training!)
The sheer act of getting rid of the pacifier will be disruptive enough to your child’s routine, there’s no need to make it worse for them by adding more stress and change.
You’ll want to dedicate time to help your child stop. Put this act of removing the binky on project status. The pacifier is not something that gets the same attention as say, doing the laundry, or finally going through the mail.
The good news is that when you do dedicate real-time to help wean your child’s pacifier use, you’ll see the results rather quickly.
Plan for at least the first week to have to navigate some additional sleep regression, night wakings, tantrums, and for your child to have a hard time and revert to some old negative behaviors with this transition. If you’ve completely potty trained, for example, you might expect to see some new accidents or a sudden full stop on being able to go pee in the potty.
This is temporary and shows your child has a strong will but she will get through this (And you will too! Maybe stock up on your favorite treats to reward yourself too!)
Expect the worst, but hope for the best and I swear good things will outweigh these temporary negative effects.
What Time is the Right Time To Wean your child off the Pacifier?
When you time this is a personal preference, but a general rule is to pick a time when a lack of sleep won’t be the end of you.
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!).
There are a lot of strategies for helping your child get rid of the pacifier and let’s get into some of those now:
Poking or Cutting a Hole in the Pacifier
My speech pathologist friend swears by this method, and it’s also the one our 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. I wish there was am ethod as easy and efficient as this for weaning night feeds too!
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.
This provides the same displeasing conditions for your toddler or baby.
He also recommended periodically cutting a bit more off (every few days/week) so that it 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
This is ultimately the system that worked for us with a twist (keep reading!)
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 minds 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 the next day at 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.
It’s 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.
This 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 for our son too.
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 hole, or throw them away or tell them they were going to be recycled.
Sam is equal parts sweet and very strong-willed. 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.
So we latched onto the idea of the three day weaning system as we felt it was the best approach for our kiddo.
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.
Our oldest son, of course, was a bit jealous of this toy for the binky thing, so we ended up caving and saying he could get a toy too (he ended up picking out a dinosaur toy) 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 chat.
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.
The next morning he woke up with no issues and didn’t even mention it, but still was using his one remaining binky.
A few weeks passed and suddenly he was really ready.
He told us he wanted to turn in his last binky to Target.
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 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.
As our pediatrician recommended, weaning the baby from the pacifier by creating a smaller and smaller nub of a pacifier is a simple and typically rewarding way of helping your baby wean from the binky.
The Frida Pacifier Weaning system helps parents do this by providing the pacifiers pre-made and ready to hand over to your baby.
This system is relatively affordable (about as much as new binkies would be anyway) and straightforward. The tricky part is if your baby is already partial to a different “type” of binky as this one relies on a slightly different “bulb” feel.
If you think your baby has no preference or might like this shape/texture then go for it!
A Word of Caution About The Pacifier Fairy
There are stories and lore floating the internet that suggest a magical mythical character that will come and take your baby’s paci in exchange for special items.
I’m not sure what it is about the idea of a paci fairy or 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’s 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.”
More Real Mom Stories of Getting Rid of the Pacifier
I asked some mom friends to tell me what worked for them when it came to weaning their toddlers 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.
What is the best age to stop using a pacifier?
Most pediatricians and pediatric dentists agree that for most babies, weaning off of a pacifier is important to do, usually between the ages of two and three. If your baby is still paci addicted, never fear.
This blog post has tons of helpful tips and tricks for helping your baby wean from the pacifier without the tears.
How long does pacifier withdrawal last?
The short answer? A few nights to a few weeks.
The longer, more complex answer is it really depends on your baby. This post goes into several methods about how to wean your baby off the pacifier without tears (hopefully) but the truth is there will likely be some (or at least one) night of tears from withdrawal.
Comforting your baby and reminding them that they are safe, or providing them with replacements that aren’t binky’s are a good way to help them through this transition.
Experts agree, though, that in the end a little bit of discomfort can go a long way to helping your baby’s future teeth and save you money on orthodontic care down the line.
How do I wean off pacifier?
You have choices when it comes to weaning your baby off the pacifier. This blog post goes into all the different tried and true methods that parents have used to have success. Help your baby say bye-bye to the binky for good without (hopefully) the tears and drama.
How do I get my 2 year old off the pacifier?
Two years old is the perfect age to start helping your baby wean from the pacifier. They are old enough to understand object permanence, but still young enough to prevent permanent dental damage to their teeth that are still coming in. Hopefull this post has provided you with a few tips to help your two year old wean off the pacifier.
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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