Dummy. Binky. Paci. Whatever your family calls it, your little one probably loves their pacifier. Pacifiers are a classic soothing device for newborns, sometimes given minutes after birth to settle crying. Dummies can help babies self-soothe back to sleep, saving you a nighttime coo or two. They can be a toddler’s best friend and provide a valuable sense of safety. But this can’t last forever.
Dumping the dummy isn’t always easy for you or your little one, but there are ways to help manage this transition. Pacifiers quickly become figures of attachment for babies. Dummies represent comfort, safety, and feel good for that instinctual part of them programmed to latch and suck (as though breastfeeding).
The matter of when to wean the dummy is a personal one for your family. The advice goes that the earlier, the better – some parents aim for six months, while others keep binky around for years.
The consensus is that sucking a dummy beyond four to five years of age can lead to dental issues or speech problems down the line. A school-age child may feel affected socially or mentally if their binky is still important to them and nobody else seems to have one; sometimes it’s okay to be the last person with a pacifier. Sometimes the decision to remove the dummy for good comes down to helping healthy development. Whatever stage your family is at, here are some tips for lovingly taking away your child’s pacifier.
Denying an infant their binky won’t exactly be like taking candy from a baby. Remember what a pacifier means to your infant and try to build these associations and feelings in new ways.
Your baby’s binky might be part of going to sleep. You can replace the binky with new positive sleep associations. Establishing a new bedtime routine might distract from the lack of a dummy. Try a baby massage and a soothing song or story to wind your baby right down.
Be attentive to your baby’s early tiredness cues and try to get them to bed before they’re over-tired and crying.
You may already have a nighttime routine and don’t wish to change it. Replacing the dummy with a new attachment object can be a good swap out. Try giving your baby a new soft toy or blanket for comfort before removing it from the cot during sleep.
Infants don’t understand ‘night’ and ‘day’. Emphasizing the difference of night time might help your little one settle down at night without an attachment object. Keep their bedroom dark and quiet – use a dim nightlight if you need to, and avoid turning on bright lights if your baby needs you throughout the night.
Toddlers understand more of what’s going on, which can be a good thing and a bad thing when it comes to dummy weaning. Your tot might push back more or have more of a ‘tantrum’, but you can also reason with them and explain what’s happening.
Building up to the big day with your toddler can help them feel more active in the process. Decide a date ahead of time and count down to it – your tot can mark off days on a calendar. This process isn’t the easiest for toddlers, so a reward could be helpful and well-deserved. Explain that when we give up the dummy, we’ll buy a new toy, or have a fun family member visit, or go on a trip or to their favorite restaurant. Negotiating with your toddler could minimize their sense of lack of control and get them more on board with ditching the dummy.
During this build-up period, gradually reduce dummy-time. Suggest dummies are only for car-trips or falling asleep, and then slowly reduce these instances too. Point out role-models who are ‘too big now’ for dummies, like other family members, other toddlers on the street, or TV characters.
Alternatively, you could take it out of everyone’s hands completely – blame the dummy fairy! Explain it like you would the tooth fairy. Consider leaving a dollar or a treat under your little one’s pillow the night you take the dummy.
Avoid removing the pacifier during a period of stress. If you’ve just moved houses, or schools, or your toddler is experiencing any trauma or challenge, it’s okay to leave them with a dummy for now and take it one thing at a time. Don’t take the paci away as punishment – this could be confusing for your little one, as it could feel partly like their safety is being taken away.
Your child might not appreciate what’s happening now, but eventually, they’ll thank you. No toddler grows up to resent their parents forever for taking their dummy – don’t worry! You are doing the right thing, even if it hurts to see your little one sad for now. You know what’s best for your baby; sometimes what’s best isn’t what’s most fun. Be proud to be keeping your child healthy and happy in the long run.