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Parenting Tip of the Month
By Heather Totten

Weaning From the Pacifier

The infamous pacifier. It gets so much publicity, both positive and negative. The Pediatricians are starting to think it reduces SIDS. Some dentists say it ruins teeth. Others say a child can have it to age 4 and still be fine. The parents are stuck in between. But, many parents that have children who take a pacifier love the benefits but hate the removal of the habit. So as a new expectant mom, what do you do? Well, I don't have the answers, but I can give you my reasons for using it and three different ways I weaned it successfully from them. Some ways were easier then others, so you can be the judge as to what would work best for you and your toddler. By the way, my fourth child is still on a pacifier.

Of my four children all have taken the pacifier. Two had colic. I found when they got fussy, the pacifier was the only thing that would calm them down. They soothed themselves with the sucking motions. The other two children probably would not have needed one, but I was already used to parenting with a pacifier and would use it to help soothe the baby while I got things done for the other kids. I did not always have to pop in the pacifier, but usually when I was in the middle of getting dinner served, or getting backpacks and lunches set, or just switching out the laundry the baby would need my undivided attention. The pacifier would usually buy me at least 5 minutes, and occasionally the baby would put herself back to sleep. By no means is the pacifier used in place of snuggling, loving on, and giving attention to your infant. But, as I add more kids to the roost, there are times when I really need to get things done. When I am finished I can go and wait on the baby.

Alex was my first and from what I read at the time, it was a must to get rid of the pacifier before age 1. I am not sure what was supposed to happen, but I got rid of it. When Alex turned 1, I began cutting his pacifier. I talk about the specifics at the end of this article. At age 1 he thought his pacifier was broken and went to find his 'stash' of other pacifiers in the house that I had also cut. After about a day he figured out that a pacifier with a hole was not fun and all he did was hold it, one in each hand, for about a week when he went to bed. He soon began to forget it ever was such an important thing in his life. Before long, they were all gone. If I had any advice for you, I would go with that method. It was the easiest for me and for him. But when your child turns one, things are not always conducive to pull the pacifier away. I never do two major things at once in a child's life. Taking a pacifier away is a major change to them. So you must evaluate what is going on in their lives at the time. For my others, the first year just did not work out. Take the case with my second, Maria.

When Maria turned a year, she had major changes in her life. We moved from Virginia to my parent's house while we house hunted and then moved again a few months later when we finally bought a house. Then I became pregnant and we decided to move her out of her crib and into her brother's room. I kept justifying reasons to allow her to keep the pacifier and before you know it, she was turning two. Wouldn't you know it, we moved again and she was uprooted from living down the road from my parents and shuffled to another state. I again justified not taking it away due to the move. Then one day, a few months after she turned 2 and a reasonable time to settle into her new home, I decided I had had enough with looking at the pacifier in her mouth. I thought the cutting of Alex's pacifier was so easy I would just repeat the process. It did work, but it was the worst of the three kids that I have weaned. Having it a year longer and now being a two year old, she took the loss much more to heart. She still did not associate the weaning to me, but just broke down and cried as if her best friend was broken. She wallowed. She ached. She grieved. It was so horrible to watch. I was so tempted to just go out and buy her a new one, but I knew then I would never get rid of it if she figured out they came from the store. So, I listened to her broken heart for about two days and before long it was all over and the pacifier was gone never to return.

Finally, Sydney had the pacifier the longest. I took her pacifier away when she turned three, which was just recently. And for a long while, Sydney only used her pacifier for naps and to sleep at night, so you never really saw she had it and it was easy to forget, except if we forgot to take it on a trip. (Uggh!) But, I did not take it away at a year, because Maria still had hers (they are 17 months apart). Then Isabella was born when Sydney was two and she regressed for at least six months. Then there was the fact she was such a good sleeper and I just could not imagine her without it. She even knew where we kept it and would go and get her pacifier and her blanket and wait at the bottom of the stairs for nap. At this point, this sleep deprived mom of four was just not daring enough to mess with something that was working so well, so I ignored it again. Well, inevitably I knew it was going to have to go and about a month before she turned three, we started talking up how she will be a big girl when she turns three and big girls don't use a pacifier. After a short time she began saying the same thing. So, her birthday came and that night we took the pacifier away. Actually, we never gave it to her. Taking it from her might have really started a huge fit. The first night she protested a little, but nothing too bad. It was more a struggle of something she knew she had been saying, but now wanted to back out on her words. She still went to bed. The second night she asked for it. We said, "No, you are three." And she gave an 'okay' and shrugged her shoulders as if to say 'I tried.' Then every night since then she has forgotten about it. Every once in a while she'll proudly tell a total stranger that she is three and she doesn't need a pacifier anymore. She is so proud of herself and she did it all on her own.

To better explain the cutting of the pacifier, I'll go into a little more detail here. My pediatrician gave me this advice. He said it was a great way to separate the child's association from you taking it away to the pacifier just breaking on its own. I thought anything to feel less guilt was good, so I gave it a try. To start the process, make sure you collect ALL the pacifiers. Check under the crib and under toy boxes which are wonderful hiding spots. Then take a sharp pair of scissors. The first week cut a very small hole in the top of the pacifier. It will immediately feel different to your toddler and they will pull it out of their mouth in wonder. Some will just put it back in and continue to suck on the new pacifier. Just leave it alone and allow them to keep the changed pacifier. The following week, cut a little more off. Now the pacifier is really different with its top missing. Leave it that way for a week, and cut a little bit more the following week. Don't allow it to become a choking hazard, but usually cutting it twice is all it takes.

Hope some of that helps those of you who are weighing the pros and cons of the pacifier and for those of you who have a toddler and can't imagine taking away that best friend. Good luck!

Heather Totten is a stay-at-home mom with four children and a busy husband. She is incredibly organized, and shares her sense of family, parenting, and organization with us in her monthly parenting tips column. Read what's new with her family in Heather's Parenting Journal.

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