How to Get Your Kid Off the Pacifier Once and For All

Oh man, I have a love/hate relationship with pacifiers. I mean, my kids don’t use them anymore, but when my oldest was a baby, she loved her paci. I would go out on a limb and say she loved it more than she loved me at times. She took one immediately, and became instantly addicted to it. Her pacifier didn’t interfere with our nursing relationship, but it did offer her comfort and some sucking action when my nipples needed a damn break. She went from one paci to like, seven. When she got old enough to hold it and put it in herself, she required no less than three at a time, at all times. One in her mouth, one in each hand. Her crib was a literal pacifier graveyard, with little rubber suckers in every nook and cranny. We went through HUNDREDS of them in 3 1/2 years.

But after she was weaned off my boobs at around 3 years old, I knew it was also time to say goodbye to the pacifiers. I stressed about for weeks, wondering how the hell we were going to make the transition. The thing is, there’s one way to use a paci. There are like thirty ways to get rid of it, with varying degrees of success. It wasn’t easy, but we did it, and you can, too. Here is what worked for me and my girl, and a couple other options for the pacifier pass-off.

Pacifiers are amazing, until you don’t want your kid to have one anymore. Then, they’re tiny little sources of stress and anxiety. I decided to do chuck them cold turkey, which is one way to do it!

We didn’t cut down on usage. We didn’t ease her off of them. She was 3 1/2, so when we explained that pacis were for babies and she wasn’t a baby anymore, she understood. She didn’t like it, but she comprehended the thought behind it. So my then-husband and I picked an arbitrary day, and that was THE DAY. We went with bribery, which is always a good choice.

When she woke up, I told her, “OK baby, today is the day the Paci Fairy makes her rounds, and she’s stopping at our house tonight to collect your paci!” My kid was … skeptical. But I took it from her, and she didn’t use it for the whole day. When bedtime rolled around, we did our routine, then we placed her paci(s) in a small box with a bow and left them for the Paci Fairy! Surprisingly, she went to bed just fine that night, and when she woke up there was a toy she’d been jonesing for where the box sat the night before. The next night was considerably harder, and I almost caved when she cried for her paci at bedtime. She looked so sad and sounded so miserable! But we stayed strong, and after that rough second night, it was smooth, pacifier-free sailing.

Cold turkey doesn’t always work that well, though. You may want to take a more gradual approach, for your own sanity.

You can start by taking the pacifiers away during low-stress times at home, like play time at home or bath time. Once you’ve effectively removed it from being used around the house, move onto banning them for outdoor use. Just set some random rule, like No Pacifiers Outside the House. They’re toddlers, what’re they going to do, ask for a reason? BECAUSE YOU SAID SO.

Once you’ve conquered that step, move onto a new rule. No pacis outside of the bedroom, for example. Then, paci doesn’t leave the crib or bed. Finally, you’ll have worked your way up to taking it away during sleep. This will probably be a bit of a struggle, but just remind your kiddo how awesome they’ve done without it every other moment of the day! Lots of positive reinforcement, and you know, some bribes help.

If you want to do something that is faster than the gradual approach but isn’t ripping away their one comfort item without warning (like … I did), try the 3 Day Plan.

On the first day, when your child wakes up, tell them that you see how big they’re getting and how much they want to do “big kid” stuff. Then explain that in three days, they’ll be saying goodbye to their pacifiers. Don’t dwell on the details, and don’t offer much in the way of an explanation or plan. Short and sweet and to the point! If they push back, reflect their feelings and say something like, “I know you don’t want to give up your paci”, and then change the subject. Repeat the same talk that night before bedtime.

On the second day, give the same talk, but instead of saying “in three days”, you’ll say tomorrow. Same thing as the first day: matter-of-fact, don’t dwell.

On the third day, when they wake up, tell them that today is the day they give up their pacifier. Involve them in gathering up all their pacifiers, and put them in a bag. What you do with them after that isn’t as important, but you could say they’re going to new babies who need them, or the Pacifier Fairy will collect them and turn them into toys or something. Be prepared for your kid to rage, because they probably will! But they will get over it (after an unpleasant few days). Now would be a good time to bribe them! Just sayin’.

Pacifiers definitely serve a purpose, and I, for one, am very grateful for the time they kept my kid asleep and let my boobs heal a bit. But all good things come to an end! This is a lesson kids have to learn early and often, starting with their pacis.

(Image: iStock/KrystynaTaran)

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