If you’re like our family, you have a baby who LOVES their binkie aka nuk aka chup aka pacifier aka plug aka pacy aka soother. Have you ever wondered how in the world you’re going to break your little one of their habit? How you’re going to get them to stop using a pacifier without crushing their world?
When our oldest was almost 1 year old, we decided that her first birthday would be about the right time to take away her binkie. We were nervous that we would have a terror on our hands, that she would be inconsolable, that she would never sleep again. But in the end, it was a piece of cake.
When our third daughter was almost a year old (our second daughter is a thumb sucker), we decided we needed her to keep her binkie a little longer. So we let her have it until she was 18 months old. Again, we worried that it would be hard to stop the habit, especially since we gave her 6 extra months of it. But, again, in the end, it was a piece of cake.
This week, we nipped the binkie habit in the bud with our fourth daughter, now 18 months old. And you know what? It was a piece of cake.
First, I believe in cold turkey. There are a lot of people who think that is cruel. But I believe that dragging it out is worse. Your baby is young and resilient and will get over this very quickly, as long as you can handle going cold turkey.
Second, your baby has to know how to put themselves to sleep to begin with. If you are still rocking or nursing your baby to sleep, taking away the pacifier will only make a worse nightmare for you and your baby. And when she wakes up in the nighttime, frustrated that she can’t find her binkie, she’ll need your help to go back to sleep. So, if your baby hasn’t learned how to fall asleep on her own, you’ll need to cover that basic step first.
Third, you have to be comfortable with letting your child cry. They are not going to die over crying. Well, unless your child suffers from severe asthma or something like that. Crying is normal and fine and your child can cry for a while without harm. And I mean like 10 minutes or more. If you aren’t comfortable letting your child cry at least for a little while, again, you’re going to have a harder battle.
Fourth, age matters. The magic time to kick the habit is between 12-24 months, preferably earlier. Your child is very resilient, very forgiving, and will get over this very quickly the younger they are. Once you’ve crossed the 24 month line, you’ll have a much more difficult task, with a child who understands much more.
Fifth, I believe in the magic of three. Three nights to train a baby to sleep thru the night. Three nights of potty training. Three sleep cycles to kick the pacifier habit.
I prefer to lose the pacifier at the first nap of the day. For our 18 month old, that meant her morning (and favorite) nap. I told her to say goodbye to her binkie and put it in the cupboard. Sure, you can send it to the pacifier fairy or wrap them up to give to other babies. But at 18 months, she’s not going to grasp that concept. So I just didn’t give her the pacifier at her nap.
And boy, was she MAD. Furious. She cried, she screamed, she yelled. I went in to her after several minutes and told her I knew she was mad, she was just fine, and that she can do this. She, of course, retorted with “no, no, no.” But, I reassured her again, and left the room. She continued to cry. But this time, her cries were weaker, less furious, and would stop every once in a while and then pick up again. I didn’t go into her again until I got her up from her “nap”, which of course, she didn’t take.
That afternoon, when it was time for nap, we repeated the process. Again, she screamed, but, after a little while, gave up. She looked at a book, played with a doll, but did not fall asleep. Fine. That’s good.
When it was bedtime, I told her again that we would have no binkie and she said “no, no, no.” And when I laid her down, she screamed again. But only for a few minutes. I didn’t have to go into her. She’d scream, she’d cry, she’d whimper. I listened to her cries, listened to how they sounded, and knew she was just fine. She was just working thru it. And within 10 minutes, she was asleep.
Around 1:30 am, she woke up, mad that she had no binkie. After a few minutes, I did go into her and reassure her and lie her down again. She screamed at me when I left, but then stopped and went back to sleep.
The next day, we weren’t able to have any naps. We had two doctor’s appointments and by dinner time, she was exhausted. So when I laid her down for bed, she babbled and told me she wanted her binkie, but I told her that we don’t have a binkie anymore, and she said “no, no, no.” When I laid her down, she started to cry, but stopped after a couple seconds and didn’t cry again. Just went to sleep.
You know the most interesting part? All three girls were HAPPIER the day after they lost their pacifiers. They didn’t scream more, like you might expect. They weren’t louder. They were more pleasant, more content. They sleep better at night and play better during the day. While having the pacifier seems like salvation when they’re using it, getting rid of it helps me realize that this is one habit that is more for me than for them. And it is worth kicking.