Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Tips for Weaning Kids off their Pacifier

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First off, let me tell you that I am a big fan of pacifiers. They were seriously life savers when my oldest son (now 7) was born. I have had one child who was a pacifier addict (he's now 7), one that was a thumb sucker (she's now 4), and one that didn't really suck on anything except his stuffed animal (he's now 2).

One thing that people email me about quite often is about pacifiers. They want to know when they should get rid of them, how to get rid of them, etc.

Today I'm going to share some of my ideas and some of the ideas that folks shared in my Toddler Approved Positive Parenting private Facebook group regarding how to wean kids from pacifiers.

My first comment is usually, why? My second comment is usually, what are you going to replace it with?

Typically the reasons for weaning a child from a pacifier might include night wakings (child wakes up a lot because the pacifier falls out), parents feel he is too old for a pacifier, parents are worried about the child's teeth, the child is having ear issues, or the pacifier might cause challenges with nursing (if the child is still young).

Before you wean your child off of their pacifier think through the reasons your child is using the pacifier and try and consider a replacement behavior you can teach your child instead. 

Many children love to suck on things and a pacifier fills that need. When removing the pacifier you will need to consider other ways to help your child fill that need. You may find that the child starts sucking his thumb instead or sucking on pjs or blankets or even their hair. My pediatrician has always said that he'd prefer kids to use a pacifier because you can at least remove it, versus a thumb or hair.

If your child is using the pacifier for self soothing and it is a comfort object, consider other comfort objects you could introduce to the child prior to weaning the child off the pacifier. Possibly a special blanket, stuffed animal, etc.? 

When is a good time to wean kids off a pacifier?

There is no hard and fast rule. Each child will be different. Some doctors recommend waiting till after a child is 6 months since the incidence of SIDS is lower after that time (and some doctors think using a pacifier reduces the risks of SIDS). 

We weaned our son off of his pacifier when he was 2 years old. Some wait until their child is older and can communicate better and understand a bit better.

I would recommend avoiding weaning a child off of his pacifier during a big transition period- for example a new baby's arrival, a move, family changes, sickness, or other stressful periods. 

What are some ways to wean a child off a pacifier?

Here are a few ideas from several of our community members plus what worked at our house. Each child will be different. Some need to take it slow and have it be a gradual transition while others are fine with it being a quick weaning experience.

1.  Have the pacifier fairy come! 

At my house we put all the pacifiers in a big envelope and put them in the mailbox. Then we went back inside for an hour or so. While we were inside my husband snuck outside and replaced the big envelope with a special gift. When we went out outside to the mailbox we discovered that the pacifier fairy had come and taken all of our pacifiers to new babies and we got a special new toy to sleep with and a treat!

2. Cut the pacifier tip off.

Many mothers recommend you gradually cut the tips off of the pacifiers. Cut a little bit more off each week or each day. Over time the child realizes that they don't work well any more and will stop using them.

3. Have the child only use it at a specific time of day (bedtime/naptime). 

Many parents like a more gradual strategy by using the pacifier only at specific times and slowly whittling it down to just bedtime and then eventually removing them.

4. Just throw them all away.

Some kids are fine with just a warning that on a specific date all of the pacifiers are going to go away. On that day you can have the child help you throw them all away. I would definitely make sure you've come up with a replacement strategy before you do this.

5. Wrap it up and give it away to a new baby friend.

Some kids might love getting to share their special pacifier with a new baby and be a helper. Obviously tell that parent to just throw the pacifier away after you leave :) This strategy works best with older kids who can understand that giving away their pacifier would be helpful for a new baby.

6. Attach a balloon to it and send the pacifier away.

I thought this was a cute idea though don't love sending balloons up into the air to litter the oceans... if you have additional ways to make this work, pass them along.

7. Have the child give it to Santa at Christmas in exchange for all of her presents on Christmas morning.

Instead of leaving out milk and cookies, leave out all of the pacifiers. Tell your child that Santa wants to take the pacifiers to all the little boys and girls who are sad or sick at Christmas.

8.  Stop buying them!

Let your child know that you aren't buying any anymore. At our house they got lost so often so we'd run out pretty quick! :)

9. Trade them in at the toy store.

Put them in a big ziploc bag and take them with you to the toy store. Tell the store staff that you are going to trade the pacifiers in for toys (wink, wink). Pick a toy and stealthly pay for it and ask the store workers to throw the pacifiers in the trash.

10. Get a replacement lovie or stuffed animal for them and have them trade it with you for the pacifiers.

One reader mentioned that she had a pacifier stuffed inside a Build a Bear. She recommend that you NOT do that :) At least it didn't work for her. Her child now hates that bear! LOL.

11. The Elizabeth Pantley method

This is one strategy to break the pacifier/sleep association. Elizabeth shares her strategy in the book The No-Cry Sleep Solution.

I'd love to hear what has worked for you as well? Any tips you can share?

One thing people don't mention is that often by weaning kids off of their pacifier they have a hard time going to sleep, especially at nap time! If I had it to over again I would wait LONGER to take away my child's pacifier. He was a very oral kid at age 2 and really needed that pacifier. He would've had a much more successful transition and would have slept better if we had waited longer. My son stopped taking naps completely once we sent his pacifier to the pacifier fairy, although the transition was super easy and he never really asked about it again. That doesn't happen to all kids, but it did with my oldest.

Whether you wean your child cold turkey or gradually, please remember that the pacifier has served a need and has been a very important item in your child's life (in most cases). Be emotionally supportive and acknowledge how hard it is and give lots of hugs and extra love to your child during this transition. 

Also, if your child loves pacifiers, what are your favorites? We loved the Nuk pacifiers and the Avent pacifiers (pictured above) that we got at the hospital.

Come join our Toddler Approved Positive Parenting private Facebook group to ask questions and discuss other parenting topics.

Jackie at Happy Hooligans has also shared some pacifier weaning tips that are helpful if you are looking for additional ideas. 


  1. Cutting the tip of the end of the pacifier could pose a choking hazard.

    1. Hello! I recently took my daughter to the dentist. Shes 1.5 years. I asked about this... she said its a perfect idea. So did the doc. Thought I'd share! :)

    2. It actually doesn't pose any choking hazard. All you are doing is cutting off small bits at a time, so the child can no longer suck as well as before. It is recommend to cut a V shape.

    3. Actually, once you compromise the structure, it can break off and become a choking hazard. That's why there is a warning on the packaging to throw them away when they show signs of wear.
      Not really rocket science.

    4. Ridiculous you clearly don't understand. Definitely not a chocking hazard and actually a great solution. We did it and told her the "wubby" fairy did it because she is big now. The fairy also brought big girl surprises for the next few mornings since she slept without it. Worked great and helped through the heartbreak (she really lovesd it)!

  2. Hi there,

    Do you have any ideas on how to stop sucking thumb? Thank you

    1. Provide a pacifier?
      Whatever you do, don't use the cut-off-tip tip.. :-)

    2. Bribery. My daughter wanted her ears pierced badly enough to stop.

    3. I promise your child won't suck their thumb forever. Perhaps a small jar that you could add cotton balls to, when you remind your child not to suck their thumb, and they listen. When the jar is full, they get a small toy or colouring book. When it becomes habit NOT to suck the thumb, it will stop.

    4. Actually, thumbsucking CAN last forever and it can lead to thousands of dollars in dental work. As embarrasing as it is to admit...I am a 37yr. Old wife and mother of two amazing little girls and I still suck my thumb. I have both my girls a pacifier without any hesitation because I knew first hand that though it may be a struggle, you can throw away a pacifier a thumb is not so easy to throw away.

    5. I have the same issue. I am 26, and still suck my thumb. My daughter is 2 and a half and I keep letting her have her paci just so she doesn't start with her thumb.

    6. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

    7. Put something nasty tasting on the thumb. .like 'stops it'. One taste was enough for me in kindergarten.

    8. It definitely can last forever. I have a 34 year old family member who still sucks his thumb, and hasn't found any successful way to stop. It becomes a habit they do unconsciously when asleep.

    9. I realize this is an ok article but for anyone reading this later on, try a tiny but if straight cocoa powder on their thumb. It's extremely bitter. Extra points I they expect chocolate lol

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  4. A friend told me too put a little alum spice on the thumb or pacifier. I haven't tried it yet. My 20 month old is transitioning from an Advent (hard plastic) to the Molar Muncher in the daytime this week. He bites the regular pacifier and then won't use it! He still uses it fine for sleeping so we'll keep them for that. But no more during the day. So far so good.

  5. The one that worked well for my 1 1/2 year old is to take it away during the day and tell her its only to sleep with and I dud that gradually however since my youngest was born her progress hass all gone down hill as she saw the baby jave one so she wanted one so I gave it to her till she was more comfortable with out it now my youngest id 4 months and my oldest only has the dummy in the car now as she always winges for no reason now im thinking of just throwing all hers in the bin but im still worried if I do and she sees my youngest still with one will she want it back? What if she screams for it? How would I deal with it if there are no dummys to stop her with this?

  6. I got really lucky. My son gave up his dummy really easily at 5 months and the minute I saw that he didn't' care for it I took it away. I think if I didn't use that opportunity to take it away when he was ready that he would have ended up back on it with a much harder habit to break.

  7. After returning home from a uncle's house where my nephew had something hit him on the head. We told him we left the pacifier at uncle's house and of course he didn't want to go back! He was 2. He was okay by the way!!!!

  8. We are giving it to the Easter bunny. I explained to my 2 year old that babies can't eat candy and if she still uses a paci, the Easter bunny will think she is still a baby and won't leave her any candy. We had been weaning to nap and bedtime only, and about a week before Easter I started the Easter bunny thing. Its working great so far!! When she asks for it I just tell her its gone and remind her about candy.

  9. I used Santa ... Santa came and brought gifts and took all the pacifiers away (they only used them for sleep and were 2y rs 3 mths and 2 yrs at the times... only asked once for it that night told them Santa would have to come take all the new things back if he came to bring the paci back... never heard another peep about them

  10. Of my five kids, the easiest was when we went on a trip and honestly forgot to bring a paci. He was only using it in bed anyway by then. He was sad the first night but that's all. By the time we got home a week later he had forgotten all about it.

  11. I had a three year old severely paci-hooked (how many times did I hear the war cry 'BEE BEE! BEE BEE!' over those years??). When it was time for her to move into a preschool class, I took all the bee bees and put them in a ziploc bag. Then I went and got a bunch of sparkly pink princess crap from the dollar store (about a $6 investment) and put that stuff in another ziploc bag. I told her that it was totally up to her, but that one of the bags had to go into the trash. The first go round she picked the bee bee bag. I asked again a few days later, and she picked the princess stuff and put the bee bees in the trash herself. There were a few days of 'WHERE BEE BEE?' but really, it was pretty painless and totally her choice.

  12. I had 4 that used them, but one gave it up on her own about 6 months. For the others, I cut the bulb off (pretty much the whole thing) and left it for them to find. By then 18-24 months, they only used it in their beds. My daughter sobbed for hours! If I'd had a car, I'd have gotten her another, I felt so awful. But we toughed through it. My sons tried to suck on it, turned it over, tried again, and threw it away from them with a disgusted yell, and it was over. I don't know that it's the best way, but it worked for us!

  13. my son's dentist told me to cut a hole in the tip of it... not cut it off, but slice it, so that it would look normal, but it would collapse when my son put it in his mouth. it did, he said a bug broke it, he threw it away and that was that.

  14. My 19 month old and I co-sleep and every morning, the paci would be on the floor behind the headboard. One morning, a month ago, he woke up and didn't immediately ask for it. I quickly took him out to the kitchen to get his morning cup of milk and start our day hoping it would distract him from asking for it. He still hasn't asked for it and it's still on the floor under the bed! LOL

    I should add that since that happened he's started bringing a small stuffed animal to bed with him.

  15. My children are now 7 & 9 so this all seems so long ago but I remember it well. We started with restricting the dummy (as we call it in the UK) to the bed. They could have their dummy when they wanted it but they had to go on their bed. We called it 'dummy action'. Then I planted the seed that when they were ready to give up their dummy they would get a really big pressie. This happened for both of them at around 3 and a quarter. It coincided with the age that they started wanting things. My son was desperate for a Ben 10 watch. I explained it was big gift and he would need to wait until his birthday or if he was happy to send his dummy to the dummy fairies then he could have it straight away. My daughter wanted a Barbie I think. Both of them thought about it over a few weeks then agreed. On both occasions I asked them to be sure. It's a big thing and they have to be ready. When they agreed, that was it. Dummies sent to the dummy fairies and no turning back. First week was hard, second week better. Then it was all over. I believe this approach worked for us because it was their idea, they called the shots and I helped them. Their teeth are beautiful, no damage done and they sleep great. Good luck

  16. I took my 2 year old on a play date with some kids that were slightly older between 3-5 and after that she wanted to be a big girl so bad like the other kids and she happens to have a baby brother so I sat her down and had her brother and told her things that make a baby different from a big girl. This has also helped with potty training. This won't for all children but it's a thought. Kids normally think older kids are so cool and they are great at teaching each other provided they are a good influence.

  17. Only my 6th (and last) used a pacifier. She was addicted to it. About one year we went cold turkey at bedtime. She wasn't using it constantly during the day but we'd always give it to her at bedtime. One night we tucked them in and said goodnight and started walking out. She looked at us like aren't you forgetting something? But then lay down and went to sleep. And just like that we were done. And yes, I know how incredibly lucky we were. We were expecting a really hard time.


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