Pacifier weaning tips?

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Pacifiers can have health benefits and help babies learn self-soothing, but weaning can be difficult. Dentists recommend weaning after age two. Gradual reduction and rewards can help, but expect some grief. Hidden pacifiers can be an obstacle.

Until recent years, many doctors and dentists concluded that it was best to avoid pacifiers because pacifier weaning can be very difficult. Recent research suggests potential real health benefits of using pacifiers, including that they can reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Of course, many parents also know that pacifier use can help calm some babies and provides them with an opportunity to learn self-soothing methods. Pacifiers or binkies can help everyone in a household get a little more rest.

On the other hand, weaning from the pacifier can be very stressful for both the child and the parents. It can be difficult for a child to give up something they depend on to calm them down. Many parents initially want to know when to start weaning. Dentists usually recommend that children not use pacifiers after the age of two, as this can affect the shape of the mouth and the alignment and bite of the permanent teeth. Some recommend starting pacifier weaning gradually a few months before a child turns two.

There are several strategies for weaning the pacifier. Some people prefer a cold turkey approach, where the pacifier just goes away. Two- and three-year-olds are sure to ask and understand that this beloved comfort device is missing, so other people recommend a more gradual approach to weaning that first reduces pacifier use.

Once a baby is about a year old, you should limit pacifier times, potentially only using the binkie during sleep hours. When your child is out and about, watching TV or playing, he shouldn’t have a bin at his disposal. After your child adjusts to the initial reductions, see where you can reduce further. For example, sneak in and remove the pacifier at night if the baby sleeps through the night. Alternatively, wear a pacifier at night, but not for naps.

This gradual method can help babies become less pacifier dependent, which makes pacifier weaning slightly easier. It’s much more difficult to wean it off when a child uses a binkie at all times of the day. It is recommended that when you decide that the pacifier should go, you discuss it with your child. You can plan a special party, a gift for when all the binkies are gone, or have small rewards in place. Don’t schedule pacifier weaning around the birth of another baby, as this could increase tension between siblings.

It is normal and to be expected for babies to grieve the loss of a pacifier, especially during the times of day when they need it most. If the pacifier was used at night, expect a few sleepless nights. Children can be very upset and have difficulty falling asleep. As heartbreaking as it is to see babies endure this loss, giving in won’t help with pacifier weaning. Make sure you have all the pacifiers out when you start, so you don’t give up when you’re exhausted and just wish your child would stop crying.
Parents who have successfully helped babies give up the pacifier note that the first two or three days are the hardest. Babies may still talk about their binkies thereafter, but have usually learned to sleep without them. Offer lots of support and love to the children as they bear this loss, but don’t bring up the subject of binkies unless the child mentions it first. Within a week or two, the conversations about binkies are likely to end.

One potential obstacle to pacifier weaning is hidden binkies. Make sure you have deleted them all. Your path to breaking the habit won’t be easy if your child has a secret stash of binkies, and some children hide one away if they’re aware they need to give up pacifiers.

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