giving up the pacifier

Our son has been very attached to his pacifier since birth. We began preparing him in fall that when he turned 3, he would get a big boy bed and he would need to get rid of them. Last week I went to wash them and noticed they were breaking and could be choking hazard. So I told him we had to throw them out right away, and he did. Then we made a big celebration out of his big boy bed.

He was excited at the time... until bed time. It's been so emotional for me and him. And here it is 4 days later, and he desperately misses his pacifiers. He is constantly shoving his fingers in his mouth and chewing on his shirt (even though he only had them at nap and bedtime), which he has NEVER done, and he also has a rash on his chin because of it.

So my question is... can you help us? Do I get more pacifiers and let him have them back until he is ready to let go of them? Or stick to it and he will find something to replace that sucking habit?

Bless your heart ... it's really hard to see our little guys so upset.

It's totally normal for us humans to feel deeply ambivalent about giving up our sources of comfort, even when we truly believe we are well prepared in advance, ready for the change, and it will be for the best. So I'm not surprised that he was all on board with tossing them, and then went deeply into grieving when bedtime came.

My sense is that what he needs most from you right now is understanding and comfort. Let him know that you understand that part of him is ready to give them up, and part of him really wants to keep them. He will feel tremendous relief at simply hearing that from you. It will ease up a lot of his inner battle with his own 'shoulds'. He wants to be a big boy AND a baby. And don't we all, in some way or another?

If possible, don't try to make him feel better about the situation, or get him to put on a happy face. Offer to hold him while he cries or feels sad. Rock him, carry him, give him lots of extra TLC. What he's doing right now is really hard work. Acknowledge that to him - that he really wants to be ready to do this, and he's so sad at the same time. Let him know you understand it is hard, and you will help him any way you can.

Since you know he finds comfort from sucking, maybe bring out a sippy cup with a small hole and let him drink water from that again for a little while. Or get a tiny cocktail straw for him to drink through. Tell him you are on his team, and you want to support him while he does this hard job. Ask him what would help.

If he says he wants the pacifier back, you could tell him you will help him in any other way than that, and be prepared for lots of tears and upset. He's releasing energy from his system, and the tears are good. Let him be as upset about this as he needs to be. Stay close to him while he cries. Hold him if he wants. If he doesn't, just stay in the same room with him and keep your heart as open as you can.

If you feel in your heart of hearts that he truly is not ready, and you decide to give them back for a while, that's fine. He will give them up eventually on his own. Since you are 4 days into it, and he's done a lot of good grief release, I'd encourage you to stick with it if you can. But only if doing so doesn't violate your maternal intuition! You know him better than anyone else.

And please make sure you get some extra TLC for yourself during all this. It's SO hard to see our children crying without feelings like we should do everything in our power to stop it! Crying is okay as long as you can stay close and compassionate and let him know it's okay to feel sad.

If you start feeling angry while he's crying, it's probably triggering up some leftover grief in you, which happens to all of us. If you can, hand him off to his dad or another adult who can comfort him while you go talk to a friend or cry yourself.

So basically, just keep him company in his grief, sort of like you would with a friend who lost a loved one. It's almost the same for him. He just needs to feel sad. And it can take a while, but it doesn't mean something is deeply Wrong. It's just sadness. Being there for him while he cries teaches him all the right things about love.

okay, I hope this helps.
please let me know if I can do anything else for you.

take care,

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