Gently Weaning From The Pacifier

Last month, my two-year-old daughter had an MRI. She has an eye condition called strabismus, for now she uses the daily disposable lenses, but in the future she will have to undergo surgery to correct the problem. Prior to surgery, she needed the MRI to rule out any neurological causes behind the eye condition, and because she is only two, the procedure required sedation.

In my bag, along with a change of clothes and her special blanket, I also brought her pacifier. She takes it to sleep with, and it’s an instant soother for her when she is upset, so I figured I should have it in case the procedure was frightening.

She did wonderfully, until it was time to take her back for the sedation part. Nurses and doctors bustled about, and there was a lot of equipment and flashing lights and beeping, and she started to look a little nervous, so I gave her the pacifier.

The nurse caring for her made a comment about it and said she could tell from looking at her that she is a pacifier child. “My son took a pacifier and his teeth looked like hers,” she said.

The comment made me think. Is there something wrong with my child’s teeth? They look fine to me. Should I have weaned her from these pacifiers by now? She only takes it at naptime and bedtime, it’s not like it’s in her mouth all day long. We made that decision some time ago. She talks well too, so I hadn’t seriously considered weaning her from the pacifier until now.

Part of the reason for that is because I very strongly believe that you shouldn’t take away a child’s comfort object just because the experts say “it’s time.” How is it beneficial to abruptly remove a child’s bottle because they have turned one, or take away a school age child’s teddy bear because “only babies sleep with stuffed animals?” In my house, transitions are usually done a little later than recommended, but they are done slowly and gently, so the effects are long lasting.

My daughter went down for her nap today as usual, with her pacifier in her mouth. Still though I’m wondering if it’s time to start thinking about the best way to wean her from her pacifier use, and I could use some advice for the gentlest way to do so.

Did your child use a pacifier? How did you wean them from it and at what age?

19 thoughts on “Gently Weaning From The Pacifier”

  1. My son is will be 26 months next week and still very much needs his pacifier for comfort. I’m in no rush to wean from it – even though we’re getting a lot of pressure from our families. He’ll wean when he is ready, I’m very confident he won’t be using the pacifier in middle school 🙂 Thanks for acknowledging this issue!

  2. First, I wish you good luck for the strabismus surgery in future. Since I did not know what it was, I read up on it a little. From what I understand, it is not very invasive; yet I am sure it can be a stressful experience for a young child.

    I agree with you on taking it slow when taking away a “comfort” object. However, in case of a pacifier, you may want to reconsider.

    We did not have this exact same pacifier problem with our twins. Their habit was going to bed with a bottle even if they were not hungry. We heard the same concern from our pediatrician about the teeth. She advised us to go “cold turkey”, which is what we decided to do. It was a tough couple of days, but within a week, they were off and were drinking milk not from a bottle but from sippy cups. And there were no more problem at bed time.

    I realize that this may not be exactly in sync with what you are comfortable with. We were not either. If it were any other comfort object, we would not have done it this way. Even now at 2 1/2 yo, my son is attached to his bunny and his sister has a favorite blankie. We have no intention of taking them off of them.

    Good luck.

  3. You could try poking a tiny hole in the pacifier with a needle. It won’t be as appealing that way. When I took my daughters pacifier away she became more attached to her blanket, which I wont be taking away from her. We used the cold turkey method as well. I sucked for a couple days but she was over it quickly. My friend used this method and explained to her daughter that the pacifier was broken. She said said it was a peaceful transition. Good luck.

    1. i did the poke a hole, and my kid did not care at all but now i had to throw all out bc it made me nervous

  4. Both of my children self-weaned from their pacifiers someday during their first year; however, they held onto their nighttime bottles.

    With my oldest, I listened to their experts and weaned her off the nighttime bottle shortly after a year. She did OK with it. Now, at 2 1/2 years old, she takes a stuffed horse toy with her to bed.

    My second is 16 months old and I breastfed her for about 8 months and then gave her a bottle of formula until a year old. At about the time she weaned from the breast to the bottle, I started giving her water in a bottle at night. Perhaps because she was breastfed and her sister was not, my second likes to comfort suck on her bottle. I have no plans to wean her off myself, as I figure that in many homes, a 16-month-old could still be breastfeeding.

    I think you got to do what feels right for you. Research the options, make a plan, and be prepared to deviate from that plan if things do go well with your child.

    By the way, I sucked my thumb when I was a child for far longer than most children do and my teeth ended up with a huge gap between the top two teeth and a bit of an underbite. If you’re not concerned with her teeth, then it may not be anything to worry about; but perhaps something for you to watch as time goes on.

  5. I know this isn’t an answer to the pacifier related question, but I felt I should reply. I was diagnosed with strabismus when I was two as well and need surgery to correct my crossed eyes. That was more than 30 years ago and my newest eye doctor told me he wouldn’t have known I had ever had strabismus if I hadn’t told him. The road ahead will be difficult, with patch therapy and lots of eye doctor visits, but it will be well worth it. The biggest challenge you will face is keeping your little girl from touching her eyes while wearing patches and reminding yourself it will make a difference. When I was 2 the doctors then told my parents I would be legally blind before my 18th birthday. With a great doctor, wonderful parents, and a whole lot of faith, that couldn’t be further from the truth. I am back in glasses after several years without them, but that has more to do with age than a disease. Best of everything to you and your family.

  6. When DD was 2 w went on vacation and we just tried not to leave one around for her to see – she was so distracted by the new surroundings she didn’t obsess over it as much. She was so tired she fell asleep without it.

    From time to time she does ask for it -but I give her a cuddle and usually she drops the chant in less than a minute. Just do whatever you feel is right — hugs, S

  7. when i was pregnant with my daughter, my son was going to turn two. we started with keeping them out of sight during the day, but letting him have it at nap time and bed time. over the course of about a month, they went away at nap time and eventually bed time. he stopped looking for it at bed time on his own after a week or so of not having it at nap time. he did have a blanket and stuffed animal to cuddle with whenever he needed them.
    i wouldn’t worry too much about her teeth until she gets adult teeth in. so what if a baby tooth is a little wonky? they are going to fall out anyway. as long as it’s not hindering her in any other way (which it sounds like everything is good) i’d let her keep the pacifier for now especially if she is going to have to have any more tests or procedures done for her eye in the near future.
    both of my kids still have their security blankets at ages 13 and 11. they mostly sit at the end of the bed, but they are still around when needed. 🙂

  8. I just came across this blog. I wanted to tell you that according to a pediatric dentist, her teeth shouldn’t be affected from the pacifier until she’s around 5. I nannied for a girl who took a paci (almost all the time) until she was 4. She’s 6 now and her teeth are fine. Not sure what you are doing, but I hope it’s working out for you guys.

  9. I’ve always made my kids leave their binkies in their crib when they’d wake up. They rarely walked around with them in their mouths unless they were sick or had some other special circumstance. My son was almost 2 years old, I took a tack/push pin to all of his binkies (mam pacifiers), secretly placing several little holes along the seam line of the nipple (and tested them myself for lack of suction). I never said a word to my son about it, just did my usual routine giving him one at naptime or whenever. Because of the slight lack of suction the binky was not as inticing to him anymore and after a week or two, I put him to bed for a nap, he requested his binky and I told him they were all gone. Surprisingly he understood and fell asleep without one. After that we had a few more requests for the binky and I just reminded him that they were all gone. We did redirect his binky attention to his soft blanket which helped. I think the small holes in the pacifier with a tack, verses the big cut or slit with scissors is a better, milder approach.

  10. I was born with Strabismus and underwent surgery at 18 months old. I was actually just talking with my mother today about it. I am in the same boat as you right now with the pacifier issue. As I type this my 3 year old son is upstairs above me losing his mind over it. Is this horrible? It doesn’t feel right. But, his teeth are all screwy from it. HELP!

    1. My daughter is 3,5 yrs now and I think I’ll let her keep hers, hoping she will give it up some time soon. She seems tio really need it and they’re only young for such a short amount of time so why should I force her to part with such a beloveth object that gives her great comfort. The dentist said she will need braces regardless of what we do (my husband and I both had braces too) so I’m letting my little girl keep her paci until she feels secure enough in this big world to go to sleep without it.

  11. I’m going to try the hole poking method. My daughter is EXTREMELY attached to the binkie and I think I’m more touted of it than anything. Let me know how it works for you! Good luck!

  12. What do u guys do when they cry endlessly when night-weaning? Do u eventually give in? My daughter can out last both of us when it comes to sleep so we’ve given in… I would not be trying this so abruptly but fir the dentists warnings that she already has a considerable overbite and the top of her mouth isn’t spreading out properly. She’s 2.

  13. My 2 1/2 has perfect teeth and has had a Nuk paci since she was about 6 months old. We are “giving it up” when she turns 3 although she now only uses it in bed. My 1 1/2 has an over bite and will need braces and has had a paci since birth, so I don’t really think the paci is the cause of teeth probs. I think its primarily genetics!

  14. My son held on to his binky like it was a lifeline! We actually started out by only giving it to him during naps and when he was real fussy, but as time went on, he seemed to want it more (it went from a suckle need, to a want). My mom found the bye bye binky method, printed it and suggested that we go with it. At first I was a bit mad at my mom, but I soon got over it. The method worked amazingly well. My son stopped sucking on it after 4 days! He proceeded to carry it around for another week, but never put it in his mouth. He then got tired of carrying it and simply lost interest. Mom was right, it worked, highly recommended!

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