Are you #teambinky or #antibinky?! There are so many questions surrounding the pacifier! Truth be told, different sleep consultants and specialists will have different opinions on this topic. At the end of the day, as your child's parent, you need to take the information and make your own decision about what is best for your baby and your family. I, however, am #teambinky!
There are so many benefits to using a pacifier, such as:
- Soothing a young baby. Sucking triggers the soothing reflex, so using a pacifier may help calm an upset baby.
- Distracting your baby after vaccinations.
- Sleep prop association that doesn’t keep the baby awake all night long.
- Good for the ears during a flight.
- Easier to take away, as opposed to thumb-sucking.
- Decreases the risk of SIDS.
Here are some reasons why parents may decide NOT to use a pacifier:
- They don’t want to create a sleep prop association. If a baby can’t replace the pacifier on their own, the parents will need to wake up several times per night to help the child soothe back to sleep with the pacifier.
- It may be very difficult on the parents/child to discontinue use of the pacifier at an older/toddler age.
- Children who use a pacifier for an extended amount of time might develop dental health problems.
“If I offer my baby a pacifier, what age should I take it away?”
Like most things in parenthood, there is no RIGHT answer to this question. But there are two specific ages where I’ve found it EASIER to discontinue the use of a pacifier:
- If your baby isn’t attached to the pacifier by 6-months-old, you will likely be able to ditch it! If it’s not a bad habit, don’t try to make it one. At this point, just stop offering it. When you make the decision to take the pacifier away at this age, don’t turn back. Stick with cutting it cold-turkey and your child will forget about it within a few days!
- Waiting until your child is two-and-a-half-years-old. By this age, your child can have a "toddler conversation" with you, understand what you’re telling them, and be a part of the process of getting rid of their pacifier.
IF you are going to continue offering a pacifier after 6-months-old, you should ONLY allow your baby to have it in the crib, and during sleep times. When you get your baby up in the morning and after naps, make it part of the wake-up routine to drop the pacifier into the crib and say “bye-bye” to the pacifier until nighttime.
Once your child is around two-years-old, you can start planting seeds of the idea that the pacifier isn’t forever. The best way to introduce this concept is to read books! I love reading books with toddlers. They open up a world of imagination and conversation. Reading books about real-life situations also takes the pressure off of the parent. When the words originally come from a book, kids might be more willing to accept it. There are many different ones on Amazon that you could purchase. Make it a fun activity for you and your child. Sit down with your toddler and show them the cover of a few different ones and let them choose one or two!
So now you may be wondering HOW to actually get rid of the pacifier. Well, I have a few options for you:
- Binky Fairy: Just like the Tooth Fairy, have your child collect all of their pacifiers and leave them in the special spot for the Binky Fairy. Overnight, the Binky Fairy should come collect the pacifiers and replace them with a gift for your child.
- Switch Witch: Similar to the Binky Fairy, the Switch Witch will take all of the pacifiers in the house and leave little gifts in their place.
- Balloon Send-Off: Bring your child to the party store to pick out some balloons. Tie the pacifier to the string and send them off!
- Garbage: Have your child put all of their pacifiers in the outdoor garbage can on garbage night. Let your child watch the garbage collectors take the pacifiers away. This will help your child know that they are GONE and this is a final change.
- Mailbox: Place the pacifiers in a small box with a note to the new babies. Send them off to new babies who need pacifiers and remind your child that s/he is a big kid now!
- Build-A-Bear: Bring a pacifier to a Build-A-Bear workshop with your child and place the pacifier in the bear before it gets stuffed with fluff and all tied up! Remind your child that their pacifier is special and even though they can’t suck on it anymore, it’s still always near them at bedtime.
Remember, it’s important to use a method that is going to work for your child. If your child is obsessed with garbage trucks, that will be a great option for your child.
The first few nights might be tough. You might see a sleep regression and you may see more tears than you would like. Stay consistent with the method you choose and support your child through this major change. Your child is losing a security item that they’ve known for likely their entire life. Your child CAN and WILL get through this and so will you.
Author: Missy Yandow is a certified pediatric sleep consultant and dual-certified potty training consultant, owner of Slumber and Bloom. She is an energetic mom of 3, living the dream with her husband, Tim, in Rochester, NY.
Missy has dedicated her career to helping little ones grow and blossom. With degrees in Early Childhood Education and Child Life Psychology, Missy is passionate about sharing her knowledge about child development with families all over the world. You can find Missy providing expert sleep and potty training tips on the last Friday of every month.