Dummies, pacifiers, binkies, or soothers – whatever you call them, they can be a great source of comfort for lots of babies. Many parents use them to settle their little ones when they're upset because babies find the suckling reflex relaxing. Plus, it can help when they're colicky or windy.
But as they grow, there will understandably come a time when you'll want to transition your mini-me away from them their pacifier before they become too reliant on the reassurance it gives.
Many parents find moving on from using a pacifier stressful, and it can be hard to know the best approach to take. Don’t worry though, little ones are very adaptable, and they should adjust quickly to having their pacifier taken away and their new routine. To help, we've gathered a few tips and techniques to make the whole process a little smoother.
Why do you need to get rid of the pacifier?
Little ones who continue to use a pacifier and depend on it for comfort for too long into toddlerhood can experience issues with the growth of their teeth and their speech development. They can also be affected as pacifiers prevent their tongue from moving freely.
Helping them to say goodbye to their pacifier will support the development of their langue skills and personality.
When to get rid of the pacifier
Babies are usually ready to start babbling their first few words around the time they turn one. So if you want to start early, it's a good idea to begin weaning them off their beloved pacifier at around six months old by reducing the amount of time they have it little by little.
The Lullaby Trust recommends that parents stop giving a pacifier to their baby between six and 12 months of age. This will help lower the possibility of longer-term problems that are sometimes associated with pacifiers, including ear infections and misalignment of teeth.
If your little one continues to use their pacifier beyond the age of one, the chances are that they will have formed a strong bond with it. So it can be a good idea to let them know that they can't have their pacifier forever. Talk to them about the time when they'll eventually say goodbye to it to help them prepare.
Most children are emotionally ready to wean off their pacifier altogether between two and four years of age. But you know your child best, so trust your parenting instincts and don’t put pressure on them or yourself – every journey is unique!
Top tips for ditching the pacifier
These tips and tricks may help your mini-me to make the move to a pacifier-free life…
Use distractions and alternatives
You can give your little one a new cuddly toy or a soft blanket to help comfort them in place of their pacifier. Talk to them and tell them that they can swap their pacifier for a lovely new toy.
Give them rewards
As they get older, you can try to introduce a reward chart and give them a sticker for not using their pacifier. Once their chart is full, offer them an extra special treat!
Introduce the Pacifier Fairy
Toddlers love magical stories, so talking to them about the Pacifier Fairy and how she's going to come and give their pacifier to the baby fairies will build excitement.
If the timing is right, you could hang their pacifier on the Christmas tree for Santa to take or leave it out for the Easter bunny to swap for a sweet treat.
Encourage them to communicate and self-settle
When you're trying to move away from the pacifier, it's a good idea to consider why they're crying before instantly rushing to give them their soother. If you can teach them to communicate their needs and tune in to their emotions, they'll be more likely to self-soothe without reaching for their pacifier.
Get the timing right
Little ones build a strong bond with their pacifier and use them to manage stress and self-soothe if they're upset. For this reason, it's best to not take their pacifier away from them during a time of change or when their routine is unsettled. This could include times when you're moving house, transitioning from cot to bed, having another baby, or if they're feeling unwell.
Out of sight, out of mind
Keep their pacifier hidden and out of reach to help them avoid temptation.
Read bedtime stories about saying bye-bye to the pacifier
There are tons of children's books out there that are designed to support little ones as they give up their pacifier.
Have patience and stay strong
Remember that the process of moving on from their pacifier can be difficult and stressful for little ones and parents. So try not to put too much pressure on yourself (or them) and be patient – you'll get there in the end!