Saying goodbye to your baby's pacifier, or "pa," (as some babies call it) can be a monumental task. After all, your baby may be emotionally attached to it and use it to self-soothe. However, just as the tooth fairy comes for baby teeth, so too does the pacifier fairy arrive for pacis! In this article, we’re teaming up with pregnancy and postpartum experts, Kaylan Sharp, RN, BSN, BS, CLE, PCD(DONA), and Kiera Davis, MS, RN, BSN, BA, from Baby Mama Co to provide helpful tips and tricks to make the pacifier-weaning journey a little smoother for both you and your little one. Keep reading to learn our top methods for retiring your baby’s pacifier once and for all.
Deciding when to wave goodbye to your baby's cherished pacifier can be a bit of a puzzle. However, by the 24-month mark, it's wise to start curbing habits like thumb sucking and pacifier use. By 36 months, it's generally recommended to bid a fond farewell to the pacifier altogether, as dental issues can occur. As the Baby Mama Co founders point out, “Extended pacifier use can lead to dental challenges, such as a narrow palate or cases where the teeth protrude forward and apart. It can also affect the development of the jaw.”
If you notice your baby developing a rash near their mouth or experiencing dental troubles, don't hesitate to reach out to your trusted pediatrician or pediatric dentist for guidance. It's also worth noting that prolonged pacifier use may increase the risk of middle-ear infections.
Your little one might drop hints when they're ready to move on from their paci. As the Baby Mama Co founders observe, “When a child bites the pacifier's nipple, leaves it lying around, or shows no interest in holding or asking for it — these are all good opportunities to stop offering it. Keep the pacifiers out of sight and out of mind.”
To make the pacifier transition smoother, consider phasing it out before your child reaches 24 months. As they blossom and become more perceptive, their bond with their paci can intensify. Below, we’ll dive deeper into the various routes to do this, such as redirecting your baby's curiosity to new foods or bravely going cold turkey.
Pacifiers can work magic for your little one, offering moments of tranquility and soothing bliss for your precious bundle of joy. They serve as a self-soothing tool, offering a sense of security and becoming a cherished comfort object for your little one. Pacifiers can work wonders in helping your baby drift off to sleep. As babies have a natural instinct to suck, pacifiers come to the rescue, providing a satisfying outlet for this urge in-between feedings.
Moreover, studies suggest that pacifier use may help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), offering an added layer of reassurance.
Additionally, pacifiers can be a source of relief during minor procedures, providing a means to alleviate discomfort. For example, if your baby has a tongue-tie surgical procedure, some dentists may recommend the use of a pacifier for their aftercare.
Our Silicone Orthodontic Pacifiers are available in packs of two or four and are tailored for various age groups (0-6m, 6-16m, 16-24m). The silicone nipple design helps to keep your baby’s tongue forward and their airway open while the handle is easy to hold.
Our Silicone Mini Orthodontic Pacifiers come in packs of two and are available for different ages (0-2m or 2-6m). They are lighter and more compact than our PhysioForma Silicone Pacifiers and offer a barely-there feel on your baby’s face. The lightweight design enables the paci to stay in place, which could potentially make them more fitting for newborns. Plus, these pacifiers feature one-piece construction that allows parents to insert one finger inside the nipple for extra bonding and connection!
While pacifiers offer significant soothing advantages, it's crucial to ensure they don't postpone a feeding, regardless of whether your baby is bottle-fed or breastfed. In the case of breastfeeding, milk production depends on the removal of milk from the breast. Thus, it's vital to ensure the pacifier doesn't disrupt your baby's feeding routine.
Navigating the journey of weaning your baby off the pacifier can be a delicate task. After all, your little one may have specific times of the day when they rely on their pacifier for comfort, such as during car rides, bedtime, or nap time. Understanding how to gradually "phase it out" can present a challenge, as every baby responds differently to weaning. While some may resist the transition, others may show less attachment to their pacifier. Keep reading for our top tips to help wean your baby off their pacifier.
Wean Them Gradually
When it comes to pacifier weaning, a gradual approach can be incredibly effective. Start by selectively removing the pacifier when your baby is at home and in a happy state (maybe when they’re playing patty-cake or stacking blocks?). You could also try limiting pacifier use to certain times like nap time or bedtime. This allows them to explore alternative soothing techniques and adapt to moments without their pacifier. However, if your baby gets especially stressed out in a new environment like daycare, it may be helpful to let them use their pacifier on occasion.
Communication plays a key role in this process, so take the time to explain to your toddler why they can't have the pacifier whenever they desire, reassuring them that you're there to support them.
Distract Them With Something New
When it's time to say goodbye to the pacifier, offering your baby a new attachment object can work wonders. Consider a soft and cuddly stuffed animal or a cozy blankie that they can develop a special bond with. If you used a pocket buddy from the start, let your baby know that their pocket body will stick around even after the pacifier stage has ended. You can also have engaging activities readily available to help distract your little one. Consider an outing to your local Build-A-Bear for a new stuffed animal. As little ones have a wild imagination, consider “planting” their paci in the garden and watching as new flowers or toys grow in its place. You can also keep a book or another fun reward handy to keep them busy and occupied.
The Cold Turkey Method
If you're ready to take a bold approach, the cold turkey method can be an option for pacifier weaning - especially for younger babies. Gather all the pacifiers in your home and car, removing the temptation to give them to your little one. For toddlers, communication is key in this method, so be sure to explain to your toddler why their pacifiers have been thrown away without negotiating their return.
Some parents choose to tell their toddlers that the pacifiers will be donated or that the "pacifier fairy" will collect them. If you opt for this approach, make sure to communicate the plan in advance and think about a "gift exchange" for your toddler to help occupy their interest. While this method may lead to initial resistance, consistency, and support will help your child adapt to this significant change.
Cut the Tip Off
If you're looking for another fast approach, one method is to cut a small hole in the tip of the pacifier. By doing so, you remove the pacifier's ability to provide the familiar suction sensation. You can then give the modified pacifier back to your tiny tot, allowing them to discover that it no longer works as it used to. You should always supervise your baby while using a modified pacifier to ensure their safety. This method can help your little one gradually lose interest in the pacifier, as they realize it no longer provides the soothing effect they are accustomed to.
Transition to Solids
One prime opportunity to wean off of the pacifier at a younger age is doing so when you start introducing solids. As the Baby Mama Co founders advise, “Solids can be a really fun way to explore their world. Offering them new treats like cheese, mashed or sliced banana, or avocado that are suitable for their developmental stage lets them experience new textures and flavors.”
Your baby should be at least 6 months old and be able to reach other developmental milestones like proper head and neck control.
Every transition comes with its own set of butterflies, especially for parents. Sometimes, it feels like these transitions tug more at our heartstrings than our kiddos'. We've sprinkled together some fairy dust tips to make this pacifier parting as smooth as a bedtime story. Ready to turn the page?
- Stay Positive: Phasing out your baby’s pacifier can be challenging. Use positive reinforcement to encourage their good behavior and understand that this process may take time.
- Stay Firm: Consistency is the key to weaning your baby off their paci. If you only let your baby have their paci during certain times of the day, stick to your routine and don’t budge.
- Stay Calm: Keep calm as you explain to your baby why you are taking the pacifier away from them. Your baby may feel sad so be sure to support them or distract them with something new.
- Try New Soothing Activities: Encourage your little one to learn how to self-soothe with new techniques like hugging a stuffed animal or doing deep breathing exercises.
No matter where your baby is in their pacifier journey, it’s always important to follow safe practices. This way you can let your baby use a pacifier with confidence! Check out some of our exclusive tips from the Baby Mama Co team below:
- Don’t Give Your Baby a Pacifier Too Early: If you are breastfeeding, only offer a pacifier after breastfeeding is well established. This is when your baby has mastered a deep latch and is receiving sufficient milk for growth. Introducing a pacifier prematurely might hinder their latching ability. Typically, for full-term babies, this would be around 3-4 weeks post-birth.
- Don’t Force Your Baby to Use a Pacifier: Your baby might squeeze their mouth shut and refuse the pacifier outright. You can entice them to try it out by dipping it into a small amount of breastmilk or formula, however.
- Prevent Suffocation: Never tie a pacifier around your baby's neck or crib, as it can twist around them. Instead, use pacifier clips that safely clip to your baby’s shirt or pocket buddies that they can hold.
- Replace Pacifiers Frequently: Replace pacifiers every two months for safety and hygiene reasons, as they can get worn out over time. As babies start to get their teeth, their teeth can cause microtears in the silicone nipple part of the pacifier, which can lead to an increase in bacteria.
- Pick Safe Pacifiers: Make sure the pacifier you buy has a wide, ventilated shield with air holes. Pacifiers with a separate plastic shield can break apart and become a choking hazard. This is much less likely to happen with pacifiers made with one-piece construction.
- Clean Your Pacifiers Frequently: Babies tend to drop their pacifiers on the floor at home, in restaurants, and at the playground so you’ll need to sterilize your baby’s paci frequently to keep germs at bay. At Chicco, each of our pacifiers comes with a reusable sterilizing case so you can easily pop your pacifier in the microwave and sterilize it in just 3 minutes!
- Choose the Right Size: Choose a pacifier that corresponds to your baby’s age (e.g. 0-6 months, 6-16 months, 16-24 months, etc.). Some pacifiers come in multiple sizes so if you found a pacifier your baby loves, you can purchase the next size as they grow!
- Inspect the Pacifier: Always inspect the pacifier before giving it to your baby before every use. Pacifiers can tear or crack so it’s a good idea to make sure it's in safe condition before handing it off to your little one.
Knowing when to take away the pacifier can be a big step in your baby’s life. You can go the cold turkey route or try the “paci fairy” routine. Either way — consistency is key! Follow our tips to stay motivated and continue to encourage your little rock star every step of the way. Follow our Baby Talk Blog for more parenting tips and tricks. Visit the Baby Mama Co website to learn about their upcoming classes and additional resources.
About Baby Mama Co
Baby Mama Co was founded by registered nurses, postpartum doulas, moms, and twin sisters, Kaylan and Kiera. They offer evidence-based education, classes, and in-home postpartum support in the Denver metro area and provide compassionate and tailored care in the fourth trimester. Their mission is to guide, empower, and support pregnant women, new moms, and their families during this beautiful yet challenging life transition.