How and When To Get Rid of the Pacifier

April 7, 2021

Clinical Contributors to this Story

Nicole Pantano, D.O. contributes to topics such as Pediatrics.

During your baby’s earliest months, pacifiers may seem like a lifesaver, if the “binky” helps your child fall asleep more easily at naptime or self-soothe during fussy moments. Pacifier use in the breastfed infant should be delayed until breastfeeding is well established, usually around 3-4 weeks of life. Many kids lose interest in pacifiers between the ages of 2 and 4, but you may want your child to drop the habit sooner. If your child is attached to pacifiers, you may have a struggle on your hands when you think that it’s time for them to quit. Fortunately, there are several age-appropriate strategies which parents can use to transition away from pacifiers.

You shouldn’t try to get your child to quit a “paci” habit before they’re 6 months old, because pacifiers can be beneficial for infants. Binkies may help to improve sleep quality, and they’ve been shown to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

You may find it preferable to stop using pacifiers before your child’s first birthday, rather than waiting until they’re older. Long-term pacifier use sometimes may lead to:

  • frequent ear infections
  • dental or orthodontic problems
  • speech problems

When you decide that it’s time for your child to give up pacifiers, be prepared for a fussy child for the short term. You may become irritable, too. It’s important to stand firm, though; don’t backtrack and reintroduce the binky after you’ve decided to get rid of it.

Here are different ways to help your child stop using a pacifier:

  • Go cold turkey, or quit in stages. Some children can make a clean break; others may use pacifiers so often, it’s better to eliminate binkies at certain times of the day before getting rid of them altogether. If your child depends on one at bedtime or naptime, keep binkies out of reach except for that time of day. Eventually, give them up at that time, as well.
  • Have a countdown. Let your child know that at a set time in the near future, like a birthday or milestone event, they’ll be too old for binkies. Make it sound like exciting news! Your child may relish the idea of being old enough to outgrow pacifiers, if you talk about the perks that go along with being older.
  • Give lots of praise. If your child sleeps through the night or calms down without a pacifier, give hugs, kisses and praise for being so grown up.
  • Offer fun distractions. During the daytime, when your child typically reaches for a pacifier, distract them with enjoyable activities which will keep their mind off of binkies. Offer arts and crafts projects or a favorite TV show. Give a gentle massage, read books together or sing favorite songs.
  • Cut off the tip. Some parents transition away from pacifiers by creating an incredible shrinking binky. When your child isn’t around, cut the top quarter or third off of the end of the pacifier, using a straight, clean cut. Your child won’t enjoy sucking on the paci as much, because it won’t provide the same sensation. If they continue to use it anyway, cut another quarter or third off of the tip every week or so, until there’s nothing left but the handle.

You can reason with an older child who’s resistant to quitting pacifiers. Get creative with ideas like:

  • Trading it in for a toy. Have your child pick out something special at the store and “pay” the cashier with the pacifier.
  • A visit from the “paci fairy.” If your child leaves the pacifier for the fairy, the fairy will trade it for money or a gift, like the tooth fairy.
  • “Donate” it to a baby who needs it. Let your child know that a younger baby needs the paci more than they do. They can draw a picture or write a note to give to the baby who will “get” the binky.

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The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.