Every Tuesday, we post tips to make family life easier, covering an array of topics from the kitchen, to parenting, to managing your household. Over the next few weeks our tips will focus on childhood transitions, and how to make them as seamlessly as possible. First up: saying goodbye to the binky…
Transitions: Getting Rid of the Pacifier
Pacifier. Nuk. Binky. Wubba. Dummy. Chupon. No matter the name, they all serve the same purpose – to soothe young babies who are comforted by suckling. There is great debate about whether to use them or not, and pros and cons associated with both choices. Many parents ultimately do use one – both my girls have. They actually used different ones. Big M preferred a Avent BPA Free Soothie Pacifier, while Lil’ M refused that variety and would only take a more traditional pacifier.
Before Big M was born, everything I read told me if I wanted to be successful breastfeeding, I shouldn’t give her a pacifier. For the first 3 days in the hospital, we obeyed. For the first two days at home, we obeyed. The second night home, my husband and I, both bleary eyed, sat on the edge of our bed staring at her screaming in my lap at 3AM after she had just been fed, burped, changed and swaddled… we had received pacifiers as shower gifts, and he said, “Let’s just try it.” She was instantly content, hooked and so were we! There was some frustration early on when she would wake up just because the pacifier fell out, but we accelerated her ability to grab it herself with the introduction of the WubbaNub! When Lil’ M wouldn’t take a soothie-style pacifier, I was devastated – no more Wubbas… and then, I found the Paci-Plushie. For both girls, their pacifiers doubled as a lovie with the addition of these adorable stuffed animals. And we never lost any pacifiers either.
Bye, Bye Binky… Binky Goodbye!
While there may be pros and cons to introducing a pacifier in the first place, there is pretty unanimous consensus among medical experts that pacifier use should be discontinued around 2 years of age, as prolonged use beyond this point can cause orthodontic damage. Both my girls slept great… as long as they had their blankies and binky of choice. I was terrified to mess with that, especially when Big M was still using hers when Lil’ M was first born. With a newborn, the last thing I needed was my almost 2 year old waking up all night again too.
Ease the Adjustment
Big M only ever used her ‘Wubba,’ as she called it, for sleeping – it stayed in her crib and came in the car when we intended for her to sleep in the car. Lil’ M (who still uses her pacifier at 17 months) is supposed to follow the same rule… but because her room is downstairs, she has figured out how to go and get it out of her crib and can often be found with it in her mouth throughout the day, especially when she is cutting teeth or tired. As a first step, reduce usage to only for sleeping.
Talk About It
Despite their young age, toddlers comprehend far more than they can say. Talk about how you are going to stop using the pacifier. There is a great Sesame Street episode where Baby Bear learns to give up her pacifier and Elmo tells her all about how he stopped using his. If you have a new baby coming, in your immediate family or even a friend’s, talk about how pacifiers are something babies use, and suggest that big brother or sister might like to wrap up their pacifier to give to the new baby. Tie some balloons to it or put them in a box and hand it to the mailman for a formal send-off. Or poke a pinhole in it and ‘break it.’
With Big M, as she approached 2 and was cutting her second set of molars, she started chewing through hers. Once there is a hole, they are a) no longer safe for use and b) they don’t like to use them anymore because the sucking ability is impaired. Since we weren’t ready to transition her yet, I kept replacing them… like once every 2 weeks… and at $13 apiece, Wubbas aren’t cheap!
Finally, when Lil’ M was about 3 months old and on a decently established routine, and Big M was just past her second birthday, I replaced the last one. I handed her the new Wubba, and very clearly told her it was the last one. When it was broken, there would be no more. Every morning, when I came in to get her up, she would hand it to me for inspection. The morning it was broken, the look on her face said it all. She handed it to me with the biggest, saddest puppy dog eyes and said, “It’s broken… bye bye Wubba.” 🙁
Goodbye, and Don’t Look Back
After she said goodbye, she never asked for it again. I made sure there were no remaining broken Wubbas anywhere; I saved one in a box in the attic for posterity. If you show any signs of being wishy-washy, or let them have it back “just this once,” your transition will be long and painful.
Having an alternative object they use for comfort can be incredibly helpful in easing this transition. Transitional objects are a natural part of childhood, and provide toddlers with comfort as they brave the big world with increasing independence. Both my girls have blankies, and despite the fact that hers is getting too small and she is now in a big girl bed with a comforter, Big M will still ONLY use ‘blankie.’ She also got a stuffed Daniel Tiger for Christmas right around the time she gave up her Wubbas. He came with her everywhere for nearly a year! If all your child uses is a pacifier, I would highly encourage helping them find attachment to something before you end pacifier use.
With all these childhood transitions, I always had such apprehension and fretted over how disruptive it would be to our comfortable routine. Big M took nearly all of them (save potty training) in stride with little fanfare. So far, Lil’ M has too as she races to be just like her big sister. We are about to begin our pacifier transition with her soon – fingers crossed she follows Big M’s lead!
If you are facing your own transition, good luck, be strong and let us know how it goes!