getting rid of the pacifier

My child is now 3, and I'm ready for her to be done with using a pacifier. What do you suggest?

First, let's get this out of the way: Kids don't go off to college with their pacifiers. If your child is still super attached to it, assume it is meeting a valid need for comfort, for now. As her nervous system matures, and she learns to comfort herself in other ways, she'll naturally let go of the pacifier.

That being said, here are a few ideas that might gently help the process along:

* When kids fear that their pacifiers will be yanked from them before they are ready to let them go, they often cling to them far more tenaciously. Talk in a neutral and matter-of-fact way about your hunch that soon she simply will not want it anymore, and that she can probably even feel that change happening inside her little by little already. This sets it up as a natural part of growing up, rather than a power struggle or a battle of wills.

* Suggest that someday she'll want to trade it in for a 'big kid' toy of her choice. Bring it up casually every few weeks to see if she's ready yet. I promise that at some point, she will be!

* Progressively restrict its use to inside the house, then inside her room, then only in her crib. Even if it takes a while for her to totally let go of it, it's not interfering with her social skills if she's only using it when she's alone in her crib.

* Some parents dip the pacifier into vinegar or another nasty tasting but harmless foodstuff, and then sympathize authentically with their child that it tastes so icky. It's a bit underhanded, and you wouldn't want your child to spot you doing the dipping, but it can be effective. Pretty quickly, the child 'decides' to let go of it on her own.

* Even when she is ready to voluntarily let the pacifier go, she may miss it for a little while. After all, it was a very consistent, effective, and reliable source of comfort to her. To ease the transition and replace the soothing effect that sucking provides, be sure to offer plenty of other forms of physical comfort instead. Hold her more often, rock in the rocking chair together, let her sit on your lap to read stories, or give her backrubs/footrubs.

If you'd like some guidance and support to ease the transition, contact me to schedule your own phone or email parenting consultation:


Happy Family said...

Ha ha - the vinegar trick sounds like a dog training technique I used to get my dog to stop jumping up on me! I'd step lightly on her toes or knee her belly (again, not hard - just enough to surprise her) and sympathize with her strange new experience. It wasn't me who did that - just something that happens when you do this thing. I also gave her a "hug" command so she had a time and place to show her abundant affection. It worked. After 3 times, she no longer and has never again (7 years later) jumped up on anyone who didn't ask. So, if it can work with a dog, can't it work with a human? One can hope...

Anonymous said...

Thanks for contributing this article to this week's Carnival of Family Life, hosted at, the so-called me, on Monday, December 10, 2007! We have many other wonderful entries, so stop by and read a few!

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