Ah, the binky! You once revered this tiny object for its soothing magic, but now you wonder if your little one is too attached. In our article about the pros and cons of pacifier use, we note that prolonged pacifier use may have some downsides, including decreasing your toddler’s opportunities to practice speech. If your walking, talking tot is still using one, you’re certainly not alone! It can be incredibly difficult to watch your child wail in agony when all they want is their binky. But if you’ve decided it’s time to say goodbye to the binky, paci, or whatever name you’ve ascribed to this once magical piece of plastic, here are some popular methods to try:
The Phase-Out System
Phasing out the pacifier is a popular method for parents who want to gradually wean their little ones. The phase-out system can work in a number of different ways. You can start with designated time periods when the pacifier is allowed and not allowed. You can set rules or boundaries on where the pacifier is permitted (not in the car or not when playing outside, for example). The goal of the phase-out system is to allow your child to experience more time without the pacifier and soon realize that they can live without it.
The Cold-Turkey Approach
This method isn’t for everyone, but it has proven to be effective. The hardest part of getting rid of the pacifier cold-turkey is the fact that there will be tears, tantrums, and lots of begging for the binky to come back. While this can seem overwhelming, the outbursts are usually temporary. Parents like this approach because of its absoluteness. Once the paci is gone, it’s gone! Soon, your little one quickly forgets they ever had a binkie in the first place. However, in order for the cold-turkey method to work, you can’t waiver. Once the decision has been made, you have to stick to it.
The Trade-Up Method
The pacifier begins its journey as an object that satisfies the suckling reflex, soothes, and supports the early development of the tongue. However, over time, it can turn into an emotional attachment. Parents and caregivers can use this to their advantage by replacing the pacifier with a transitional object, like a small blanket or a stuffed animal. Remind your toddler that even though they can’t bring their binky to the park, they can bring teddy! Teddy can be used to slowly replace the pacifier while providing comfort and security.
The Creative Story Strategy
Some parents like to use storytelling to ease the pacifier out of their toddler’s life. Read your little one a book that can help them use their imagination to let go of the binky. For instance, The Paci Fairy, a book by Melissa Burnett, tells the story of a pacifier fairy that appears at night, collects all the pacifiers from children who don’t need them anymore, and delivers them to new babies. This story works much like the tooth fairy in the sense that the pacifier disappears one night and a special “big kid” toy is left in its place.
The Bye-Bye Binky Ceremony Technique
Saying good-bye to the binky is a big deal, so why not make a big deal out of it? Some children benefit from a ritual or ceremony that signifies the importance of moving on. This is especially true for preschoolers with lingering attachments to the pacifier. After preparing your toddler for the good-bye, set a date, and plan something special. Maybe throw a bye-bye binky party, compose a letter and “mail it” to a baby who needs it, or try a magic trick where they close their eyes and when they open them, it “disappears,” officially making them a big kid. Whatever you decide, make sure to use a lot of positive reinforcement about the decision to celebrate the pacifier’s departure. “Wow! Wait until Nana hears that you were so brave when you said good-bye to binky!”
Good luck on your paci-weaning journey!