Sayonara Suckers

pacifier weaning guide
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*The* Pacifier Weaning Guide For Parents

The pros and cons of every method, explained.

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Binkies, soothies, bobos, pacis — whatever you call them, pacifiers all have one thing in common. At some point, they’ve got to go. Pacifier weaning is a big deal for your child and for you, and it’s OK if you think it’s time to wean while also having no idea how to go about it. And if you’re hesitant to start because you’re already wincing over the tantrums it’ll cause, well, you’re not alone.

When it comes to pacifier weaning, there’s no foolproof way of doing it, no best method that will work for everyone. You could quit pacifiers cold turkey and just throw them all away. You could throw them a farewell party (yes, it’s a thing). There are plenty of unconventional methods too, like bribing your child with something they want (for example, a manicure), or trimming the pacifier down until there’s not so much as a nub left. What’s important is that you choose an approach you think will work best for your child (and your sanity). First, you’ll need to know all your options.

When should you start pacifier weaning?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that using a pacifier beyond 2 to 4 years of age can alter the shape of a child’s mouth and how their teeth line up. Often the problem corrects itself once they wean, but sometimes orthodontists have to get involved. But the AAP doesn’t specify a certain age they think you should ditch pacis altogether. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD), on the other hand, promotes “discontinuing or limiting pacifier use when canines emerge at approximately 18 months of age.”

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Experts say there’s no universally agreed-upon age you should start pacifier weaning, but that not doing it sometime in toddlerhood has its risks.

“The forces placed on the upper front teeth during pacifier use causes significant flaring out of the teeth and narrowing of the upper jaw, which can lead to chewing difficulties, speech difficulties, and changes in facial appearance,” says Dr. Judy Yip, a board-certified pediatric dentist. “This can self-correct if parents help their child wean off the habit by the age of 3. Anything past age 3 has shown more complicated dental changes that might require orthodontic intervention in the future.”

“Anytime between 18 months and 36 months should be when you take the pacifier away, but I’d recommend closer to 18 months personally,” says Dr. Lisa Bienstock, board-certified pediatric dentist. “At 18 months, toddlers no longer need the non-nutritive sucking to soothe themselves. Also, the 18-month-old is young enough that they will not remember having the pacifier.”

Aside from affecting their teeth, pacifier use can impact other aspects of your toddler’s health. “The best time for weaning the pacifier is not clear-cut. In general, most recommend weaning between the ages of 2 to 4,” says Dr. Darby McElderry, a pediatrician at Children’s of Alabama. “One review of studies found weaning by 12 months may reduce chances of ear infections. As children typically begin talking around 1 year of age, continuously keeping a pacifier in the mouth could potentially slow language development.”

With all that in mind, don’t feel like you have to start weaning early just to be ahead of the game. That too can have its risks.

“If you take it away too soon and they start to find their thumb or fingers, then give it back. Finger and digit sucking is a much more difficult habit to break than the pacifier because you can’t chop off their fingers,” says Bienstock.

What if we use orthodontic pacifiers?

Many pacifier brands make pacis that “support healthy oral development” or have similar orthodontic claims on the packaging. They usually have nipples that are round on top and flat on the bottom. Even if your child uses these, they will still need to wean eventually.

“Compared to conventional pacifiers, orthodontic pacifiers can help lessen the negative effects on the teeth but do not completely prevent them from happening,” says Yip. “My advice to parents is that if you start seeing changes in the position of your child's teeth, to start weaning them off the pacifier completely.”

How do you phase out a pacifier?

When you’re thinking about pacifier weaning, experts agree you should start gradually, especially if your little one uses their paci for most of the day. Start weaning by:

  • Limiting pacifier use to bedtime, nap time, and stressful situations (like a doctor’s visit).
  • Discussing the pacifier going away for good before you start trying to wean completely.
  • Offering another comfort item for your child to keep with them instead of the pacifier. If they use a pacifier with one of those little stuffed animals attached, cut off the pacifier so they can keep the stuffie.
  • Rewarding or praising them when they soothe themselves using something other than a pacifier.

You might try these gradual steps toward weaning off the pacifier and find your child just drops the it altogether. Or, you may need to take things a step further to help them really kick the habit.

“No method is proven or ‘the best’ — parental preference, the age of your child, temperament of the child, and other factors should be taken into consideration in choosing a method that feels comfortable for your child and family,” says McElderry.

Quitting pacifiers cold turkey

Perhaps the most tried-and-true method of pacifier weaning is just gathering them all up and tossing them out at once. McElderry recommends you go about it like this: “Set a date and explain that the pacifier will be taken away at that time. Remove all pacifiers on that date. Be sure to have other comfort objects available, such as a stuffed animal, blanket, or favorite toy. Talk to your toddler about how they are big enough or old enough to throw out the pacifier. Encourage them with lots of positive talk directly to them or that they overhear — let them hear you bragging about how they can do without their pacifier. Praise goes a long way!”

“Out of sight, out of mind,” says Dr. Randolph Thornton, pediatrician with Jacksonville Pediatrics and Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “That’s probably the easiest and quickest way. Maybe have them latch onto a security object, like a stuffed animal. For my daughter, it was a sock.”

Alexandra Choquette, a mom of two, weaned her second child off of pacifiers cold turkey around age 2. It took a few nights and cost a little sleep, but it worked. “The first night was awful; it took probably three or four nights with her. She would fuss and just require a little bit more rocking. We just held her and worked through it with her. I don’t know if there’s any way to get around them actually losing their mind the first night.”


  • It’s free.
  • It’s fast.


  • That first night can be a doozy.

The paci fairy & growing a paci garden

Consider these methods quitting cold turkey, but with pizazz. The paci fairy is a tooth fairy-like figure who visits overnight to collect your child’s pacifiers and leaves behind a toy in their place. There are a few different paci fairy books on the market, so you can pick one your child will like best and read it to them in advance to prepare.

Then, there are paci gardens, another form of weaning off the pacifier in exchange for treats. You take your child outside and plant their pacifiers before bed time. Give them plenty of water and leave them be. When your kid wakes up the next morning, you take them outside to see what grew in their place. Parents online have placed cake pops on sticks, small toys, balloons, and more where the pacis were planted.

What age is best for the paci fairy or paci garden methods? “Age 2 is where bribery pays off huge,” says Thornton. “I’m not sure a younger child would appreciate the trade aspect. Usually 2 is when most people are starting potty training, and they quickly associate that with rewards, so 2 makes sense to me.”

With her older son, Choquette used the paci fairy weaning method just before he turned 2. (She didn’t do it with her daughter because, frankly, she didn’t want anymore toys in the house than they already had.)

“He was only using the paci at night for maybe three months when we decided to do the paci fairy,” she says. “We prepped for three weeks prior. We bought a book, read it to him, and then had him gather up his pacis that night. The first night was awful. I feel like no matter what you do, the first night is always awful. Then when he woke up, he saw his gifts from the paci fairy, so he was better about it. And then that second night was better because he understood he had made a trade. After those two nights, he didn’t ask for it, it was over.”

If you’re not up for all the fairies and gardens, you can skip straight to the heart of these methods: bribery. Mom of three Samantha Darby says it worked like a charm for her second daughter.

“Lucy was over the age of 3 and I was pregnant, so we kept thinking we probably needed to get rid of the pacifier soon so she didn't steal the baby’s. We literally had one left and lost it, so we told her we didn’t have her paci, but if she fell asleep without it, we would go get strawberry ice cream the next day. She was super into that idea and talked about it all night and it was the first thing she asked for when she woke up. She never took the paci again.”


  • Experts say the reward system involved in these methods works well for toddlers, so maybe you can bypass some of the tantrums.
  • Parents say this method helped weaning feel final for their kids, and they didn’t ask about their pacis ever again.


  • These methods cost money, anywhere from the price of a few cake pops up to whatever toy your child might want.
  • Weaning this way takes longer, since you have to prep your child with the story behind it all.

Have a goodbye paci party

If you think your child is ready to wean but needs an extra nudge, a goodbye paci party might be just what you need. Jamie Kenney, mom of two, had tried a few different weaning methods before leaning in to her daughter’s love of parties to help.

“My husband and I decorated the living room with balloons and we had a dance party and sang her a song as she blew out candles on a cake,” she says. “She was so happy she went to bed without her pacifier. The next day we celebrated by going to Build-A-Bear. She put her pacifiers in a lovey, which she has to this day.”


  • This allows your child to keep their pacis, but not use them, by incorporating them into a new security item.


  • This one requires more prep, both in talking up the party to your child and in decorating.
  • The party supplies and Build-A-Bear trip will cost you.

Trimming the pacifier

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Using this method of pacifier weaning, you’ll round up all your child’s pacifiers and snip the ends off the nipples with a pair of scissors. After a night or two, you’ll cut off a little more. Every other night you’ll trim down the pacifier until the rubber mouthpiece is completely gone. The idea is that the pacifier becomes less and less satisfying to suck, and your child will basically stop bothering with it.

This is the method I used with my strong-willed toddler right after he turned 2. My hope was that, if he thought his pacifiers were no fun anymore, he’d feel like he was deciding to be done with them, and we’d be spared an all-out battle. We had already limited pacifiers to nap times and bed time, and after about three nights with the stumpy paci (we gaslit him and told him they were shrinking because he was getting bigger), he stopped sucking on them altogether. He liked to have one to hold in bed, but by the end of the week, he didn’t want them at all, and they all went into the garbage can. He never had a tantrum, a difficult time falling asleep, nothing — we were delighted. What we didn’t think about was, is cutting a pacifier safe?

“From a safety standpoint, I would be concerned about choking with cutting the pacifier,” says Jessica Winberry, prevention coordinator with THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital. “I would think that the manufacturers may not recommend altering them. An infant under the age of 1 has a very small airway, so it does not take much to block it. I would be concerned that with cutting there could be a chance there could be a loose piece that could come off, running the risk of choking.”

For Kenney, this became a real concern when she tried trimming her daughter’s pacifiers (they tried this before the paci party). “She just kept on using it and so I think I wound up getting new ones because I didn’t want her to choke on the snipped ones.”

Trimming down pacifiers isn’t recommended by any major medical bodies, McElderry adds. But there are products that offer the same concept without hacking away at any pacis.


  • It’s free.
  • Your child might feel like they’re choosing not to use pacifiers instead of feeling like you’re the mastermind here.


  • Altering any baby product makes it less safe. Trimming a pacifier could create a choking hazard.

Frida pacifier weaning system

As you now know, the trimming method doesn’t have much science behind it yet. But, if you think it might work for your child, you should also consider the Frida Paci Weaning System. It comes with five pacifiers that get gradually smaller, making them less satisfying to suck until your kid finally says “to heck with it.” There’s not a ton of science behind whether a product like this works or not yet.

“There are commercially available systems that advertise a gentle weaning concept by gradually decreasing the length of the nipple part of the pacifier to reduce the stimulation in the child’s mouth from sucking on it, but these have not been studied adequately to make formal recommendations that this method is superior to other methods of weaning,” McElderry says.

“I have recommended Frida Baby’s Paci Weaning System. From the feedback I’ve gotten from parents... it’s hit or miss,” says Yip.


  • You can achieve the trimming method without worrying about safety.
  • If you want to save your child’s pacifiers for a next child, you don’t have to slice and dice them.


  • You’re buying a product just to throw it away when you’re done weaning.
  • The system states it is most effective on children 12 months and younger.
  • The packaging specifies that it’s only for weaning from orthodontic nipple pacifiers.

Letting them outgrow the pacifier

OK, maybe this is controversial but... can’t you just let them grow out of it? No one uses a pacifier forever, right? It’s actually an option, if you think it’s best for your child.

“You may also choose just to let nature take its course (up to a certain age, of course). Many children will break the habit on their own between the recommended ages of 2 and 4,” says McElderry.

“Most children stop their sucking habits before they get very far in school. This is because of peer pressure,” states the AAP website. “While your child might still use sucking as a way of going to sleep or calming down when upset, this is usually done in private and is not harmful. Putting too much pressure on your child to stop may cause more harm than good. Be assured your child will eventually stop the habit on her own.”

Darby’s oldest daughter sort of weaned herself. She fell asleep for a nap one day without her pacifier and... that was just the end of them. For some kids, pacifiers will go out with a whimper, rather than a world-ending bang.


  • It requires no effort from you.
  • It will put no stress on your child right now.


  • You might run into those tooth- and speech-related concerns.
  • Your child could face peer pressure or bullying at school.

Whatever method you choose, McElderry encourages parents to “be committed.” Comfort your child as they get used to life paci-free, but don’t cave and give it back. In the end, most parents agree — pacifier weaning is much quicker and easier than you think it will be.


Dr. Judy Yip, board-certified pediatric dentist

Dr. Lisa Bienstock, board-certified pediatric dentist

Dr. Darby McElderry, pediatrician at Children’s of Alabama

Dr. Randolph Thornton, pediatrician with Jacksonville Pediatrics and Wolfson Children’s Hospital

Jessica Winberry, prevention coordinator with THE PLAYERS Center for Child Health at Wolfson Children’s Hospital