None of my babies have taken pacifiers, and it's not because I'm a superhero mom who doesn't feel she needs them. My boys are simply not soothed by anything less than the real deal, despite my best efforts to give my boobs a break. It always seems unlucky in the beginning, but then I've watched others go through the paci-weaning phase with their toddlers later and feel grateful to be spared the trial. When friends ask for advice on how to deal with pacifier withdrawal, I never have anything very helpful to say — it just seems awful to me. So I finally decided to do some research on the topic, and here's what I found.
One quick Google search will prove to you there is an opinion from every angle regarding the best way to navigate this developmental stage, but pediatrician and medical coach Dr. Jarret Patton believes that the best way to separate a child from his binky is to rip the bandaid off, so to speak. "The best advice to get rid of the pacifier is to round them all up and throw them out with the garbage," he tells Romper. "This doesn't mean that they won't have withdrawal from the pacifier, but they won't have access to it; cold turkey."
So what can a parent who opts for this route expect? Quite possibly, a rough couple of days. "The child will ask for the pacifier and look for it during the first couple of days," says Patton. "They may even find one that they stashed away for emergency, which you must also throw away. Acknowledge their effort in living their life pacifier-free, perhaps give them a sticker or a small treat. After a few days, they will have forgotten about the pacifier and will move on with their busy lives."
Whether you follow Dr. Patton's advice and say hasta la vista to pacifiers in one fell swoop or you decide to make the change more gradually, it's not likely going to be a walk in the park for either your child or for you. Unless you won the parenting lottery, the odds are that whatever method you choose will eventually culminate in nighttime crying and despair, with the range of normal extending from one day to several weeks. One mom told Parents magazine that her daughter, "Went through what seemed like the withdrawal of a crack fiend," while her younger son went cold turkey and never looked back.
My friend Kristi can back that up. Kristi has been through the pacifier weaning process three different times with her three children, and tells Romper the intensity of the experience varies drastically with the temperament of the child.
Rather than going cold turkey, Kristi and her husband first took away day time paci usage beginning at age 2. They designated a "wake-up cup" where their child would put her pacifier when she woke up in the mornings and from naps, making it strictly a sleeping comfort. Then at age 3, they would take the child on a special trip to the store to pick out something to replace her paci; specifically something for nighttime comfort, like a flashlight or nightlight. Kristi also laughingly admits that one particular Elmo video "Bye Bye Binky" seemed to help her girls with the weaning process.
No matter the route you take or the clever tricks you employ, some kids simply have a tough time saying goodbye to this particular piece of infancy. If the process turns out to be more exhausting than you expected, remember that losing your cool will only make things worse, but patience and understanding will go a long way. Above all, stay consistent — waffling back and forth will only confuse your kiddo and drag out the process. In time and with consistency, your little one will learn to live his life happily pacifier-free.
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