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Toddler » Discipline and Guidance

Pacifier Weaning

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Dear Dr. Susan

My 22 month old grandson wants his pacifier all the time. The dentist says that he should not have it. How do we wean him?

Sidney

Dear Sidney:

Thank you for writing! 22 month olds have really excellent memories don’t they? They also have habits that have evolved since early infancy. They “Think” they have to have their needs met by virtue of the fact thaty are addicted to “love” objects. Some toddlers have “binkees” some have “blankies,” some have a doll or animal. So you can probably gather that a habit is hard to break, even at 22 months. So go glowly, but once you decide on the steps you’re going to take, you don’t give in! Toddlers need parents and grandparents who are in charge. Start wth weaning process by taking any dropped or discarded pacifiers and putting them in his bed or crib. Explain quickly that 22 month-olds can have pacifiers only in his bed/crib when he’s resting or sleeping. If he cries for it, help him understand by taking him to his crib and saying, “See it’s right there for you when you are tired.”

Substitute another sucking activity for the pacifier. Say “ let’s get your sippy cups. You can suck on that or here’s a cracker to lick the salt from or here’s a cookie to eat because pacifiers stay in the bed.”

Learn to ignore. Walk away, don’t pick him up, cuddle him, find a book to read, but don’t talk about the pacifier – ignore his pleas. He didn’t get the habit overnight, so he can’t stop the habit overnight, but he is also entitled to want it and to miss having it. So be kind and gentle, and get him interested in something else. Toddlers need to use their hands, eyes and mouths all at the same time; so don’t plop him in front of the TV, that only makes him "think” about his problem more!

If he’s really unhappy after ½ hour or so, go with him into his room and lie down with him, let him have his pacifier and then say: “your not ready for  bed, let’s practice saying bye, bye binkie – we’ll see you in a little while.” The idea is to control the boundaries. The car is very good place to have a pacifier (only one) to reassure him while you’re weaning him, but if he drops it, don’t pick it up; if he throws it, take it away and tell him “see you don’t need it, you have lots of them in your bed.”

Slowly he’ll “distance” himself from the “all the time" need to have it, to fewer times he needs it, to just when he rests or sleeps, By the time he’s 2, you can rely on healthy eating habits and lots of other activities to replace the pacifier.  Good Luck!

Dr. Susan Turben

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