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Family Matters: Giving up the pacifier


When your baby was little, a pacifier may have been his or her – or your– best friend.

But if your baby is approaching a year and still using a binky, you may feel it’s time to take it away. And even if you don’t care, you may be feeling outside pressure, from well-meaning family or friends.

For some babies, that’s easier said than done. That’s because the pacifier is often one of the earliest and best ways a baby learns to soothe himself. To a young child, it often represents familiarity and security and helps them calm down and even fall asleep. No wonder some don’t want to give it up without a fuss!

If your baby still has a binky habit, however, there’s some good news.

  1. Most give it up on their own – when they’re good and ready. For most  toddlers, it will happen naturally between the age of one and two years – even if you don’t do a thing.
  2. There’s no rush to eliminate it by age 1, no matter what the neighbor or your mother-in-law says.  In fact, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry doesn’t think you really need to worry about it until about age three. If your child is still relying on one after that, however, you should step in to help eliminate the habit. Otherwise, your child may develop teeth, gum, and bite problems.
  3. Relying on a pacifier is no worse than sucking a thumb – and it might be better. For one thing, it’s often easier to get a child to give up a pacifier than to quit sucking his thumb, which, after all, is always right there.
  4. If you’ve decided the time has come to banish the binky, many choose to go the cold-turkey method. Depending on your child’s age and personality, you may choose to make a big deal of it, explaining that they are now a big boy or girl and don’t need a paci anymore. You might even make a celebration of it, gathering up all the binkies in the house and making a show of tossing them away. For other toddlers, a less-direct approach might work better: During naptime, hide all the pacifiers, and then play dumb when your child asks for one. Either way, experts say, most children will be upset for only a day or two before moving on.
  5. For other toddlers, a weaning approach works best. First, limit pacifier use to your home; then to just naptime and bedtime; and finally just bedtime. After a few weeks, the habit will be less ingrained, and your child will probably quit on his or her own.
  6. Don’t stress!  Your baby won’t go off to college – or, most likely, even preschool – still using a pacifier. If your family is going through some other stress, like a move, a family illness or a job loss, postpone the pacifier problem a few weeks until the other situation is under control.
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