Pacifier Weaning: 7 Practical Tips from a Mom Who Has Been There…Twice

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pacifierThe pacifier. The paci. The binky. The soother. The nuby. The wubbanub. Whatever your family calls it, it is the baby item that causes many parents stress when or if the time comes to wean.

My family happens to call it a binky, and we chose to use it as a helpful tool for both of my children when it came to soothing, comfort, sleeping, and naps. My boys are two very different children, as was their journey with the binky. Weaning was also a very different process for each of them. Along the way, I’ve learned some tips and tricks that I hope you will find informative and useful.

Before we dive into details, I need to mention that it is up to your family regarding how/when/if you decide to wean your child off the binky. YOU are the best parent for your child, and I LOVE THAT! We all have different parenting styles, and as always, we have something to learn from each other. This post is solely to provide tips on the weaning process and is not a debate on the whys or why nots. That being said, here is what I can happily offer:

1. Gradually work towards weaning.

For both of my children, we used a combination of methods to wean. First, we gradually worked towards weaning. The binky was a staple of our home. Neurotically, I knew where all of our binkys were at all times. We had designated binkys for the car, for the diaper bag, and for the crib.

The easiest thing to do is to start by slowly limiting the binky during the daytime. This means finding other ways to soothe, distract, or settle down your child as opposed to just popping the binky in.

Our next step in gradually weaning was removing the binky from the car. That proved to be a little bit of a tough move for my 18-month-old. I distinctly remember him desperately searching for his binky in the cup holder the first few times we rode in the car sans binky. Keep those first few binky-free car rides short. A long car ride out to the Hamptons is NOT the time to wean… unless, of course, you are a fan of loud car rides!

If your child sleeps with multiple binkys in their crib like ours did, consider taking away one binky at a time over a few days or weeks. That way, when you can try to soften the blow when it comes time to finally say, “bye-bye binky.”

Contemplate getting rid of the pacifier clip. I know the clip is convenient, especially out in public, because who wants to constantly wipe down a paci that has fallen on the grocery store floor? However, tossing the clip is a good step in the weaning process. That way, the binky is no longer is a fixture of your child.

By the end of the gradual weaning process, both of my boys were very used to waking up in the morning and throwing their binky back in the crib. I would actually have them participate in parting ways with the binky, and my boys knew it would be waiting for them in their crib for their next sleep. 

2. Cold Turkey.

This is like the cry it out version for pacifiers, where one day you just say “adios, binky!” and commit to not having it. Similarly to cry it out, cold turkey is rough for the first few days or week and then gradually gets better. This applies to both nap times and bedtime. Expect crying when they are put down to sleep and also be prepared for nighttime wakings. In my experience, this was the bumpiest part of the road for us.

Consider teething during this time. If your little one is starting to get a few more teeth in, now may not be the time to take away the pacifier. We made this mistake with our first little guy, and let me tell you, it was not particularly pleasant to go directly into teething just as we were getting the hang of life without the pacifier.

3. Let your child lead the way.

Unbelievable as it may seem, your child may decide on their own that they are just done with the binky. Sometimes kids just end up surprising you! We had been doing the gradual wean with our second child, and then he sort of just started throwing his pacifiers out of the crib in an angry protest of his bedtime. He was TOTALLY trying to lure me back into his room, but after returning his pacifier to him for like the fourth time, I decided enough was enough, so to speak. Sorry, kiddo! After some anticipated crying, he was able to put himself down to sleep that night, and we have never looked back. I honestly count my lucky stars for that.

4. The Binky Fairy.

Another option is selecting a specific day to go without the pacifier. Mark it on the calendar, have a count down, and talk to your child to really hype up leaving the binky out for the binky fairy. This can work very well, especially if your child has an older sibling who is losing their teeth and having tooth fairy visits. 

5. Cut off the top of the binky a little bit at a time.

Eventually, they are unable to suck the pacifier and have no more use for it.

I seriously considered this method for my second child, but we never made it to this point. To be honest, I was really dreading taking his binky away from him cold turkey. I was just not mentally ready. I had terrible fears that he would cry for four hours straight, much like what he did at 5 months of age during a terrible sleep regression.

6. Be mentally ready and work as a team.

Choose a time that works best for everyone, such as a weekend or when everyone is home on a staycation. If your child is in daycare or goes to a babysitter, get them involved too since it is likely your child will be doing naps with them. It is important for everyone to be on the same page to be committed and consistent.

Avoid weaning when your child is going through another transition like bringing home a new baby, moving out of their crib, or potty training, to name a few.

7. Expect the unexpected.

Transitions are so challenging on our tiny humans, so patience is key and account for hiccups along the way. Maybe there are more tears and crying than you had anticipated. Perhaps they adjust well the first few nights, but then on the third night, they keep yelling out for their binky. Or maybe the opposite happens where it is no big deal at all. Kids are just so unpredictable, so while we plan, research, and have all the tricks up our sleeves, sometimes it doesn’t even matter, and you end up throwing it all out the window, cursing the lady who blogged about her silly tips along the way.

Each child is different, so what works for one baby may not fly with another. And that is okay. Everyone is learning and adjusting, so give yourself and your child some grace. And remember, YOU are doing a great job, MAMA (and of course the Westchester dads out there too!).

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Catherine currently lives in the Crestwood section of Yonkers. She and her husband moved there in 2015 from the Bronx shortly after they got married to start their family. Catherine is the mom to two very sweet and active young boys, ages three and one, making her very well versed in anything dinosaur, trains, or cars related. Oh, and Paw Patrol. We can't forget that! Before kids, Catherine studied at Pace University to become a Registered Nurse. Catherine currently works per-diem at a local Westchester Hospital in the surgical department. When Catherine is not picking up shifts at the hospital or spending time with her family, she can be found painting and refinishing furniture in her home. She even has a fun Instagram account at instagram.com/thefurniture_rn. Navigating life as a new(ish) mom has presented many joys, challenges, and laughs. Catherine looks forward to connecting with you and sharing her experiences.