Bye-Bye Binky!August 15, 2014
By Jennifer Eckert
My son’s pacifier is more than just your average piece of silicone. An ingenious invention called a WubbaNub, it is a small stuffed cat with a green pacifier attached to its mouth. We call it Fluffy Kitty, and it has been with my son since the day we brought him home from the hospital. For the past year and a half, it has been his source of comfort and the preserver of my husband’s and my sanity.
Pacifier use is one of those parenting issues that EVERYONE seems have an opinion about, but there’s really no right or wrong answer. On the pro side, pacifier use is thought to reduce the risk of SIDS, and it’s a great way to satisfy a baby’s sucking reflex. On the con side, prolonged pacifier use can lead to problems with speech development and may affect the way a child’s teeth line up. And then, of course, there is the question of when to take it away.
For my son, that moment came last month at his first dental appointment. The dentist pointed out his slightly protruding front teeth and told me that if he stopped the pacifier now, it wouldn’t affect his permanent teeth when they came in.
The thought of saving thousands of dollars in orthodontist bills was enough to convince me that Fluffy Kitty needed to go. However, the idea of depriving my son of his comfort object made me reluctant to cut him off cold turkey. So after doing a little research, I came up with the following steps to gently wean him off the pacifier.
- Out of Sight, Out of Mind. Upon observation, I began to realize that my son’s pacifier use during the day was a subconscious habit. If he saw his pacifier lying around, he’d just scoop it up, put it in his mouth, and go about his business. So when he was distracted, I started hiding it where he wouldn’t easily spot it. Sure enough, he didn’t seem to notice it was missing!
- Crib Confinement. Once my son didn’t seem to rely on it as a crutch anymore, I instilled the rule that the pacifier never leaves the crib. We made a game out of it—he would have the pacifier in his mouth when I picked him up out of bed, but then I would say, “Hi-ya!” and he would fling it back into the crib with a big smile on his face.
- Paci-Free Naps. The next step was to try to get my son to take his afternoon nap without a pacifier. I have to admit I had some help with this step since my son takes most of his naps at daycare. His teacher would lay him down on his cot and pat his back until he fell asleep. It took awhile the first day, but after a few days, he was napping like a champ—no backrubs necessary!
- A New Bedtime Routine. The final step toward a pacifier-free lifestyle involved removing the pacifier from the bedtime routine. I made a point of letting my son pick out a different stuffed animal to snuggle with when we read bedtime stories each night. My goal was to help him find a different comfort object that didn’t go in his mouth. He eventually settled on a plush white cat that my husband and I have jokingly named Fluffy Kitty 2.
We’ve only recently transitioned to this final step, and bedtime can still be a little rocky at times, but I know there is smooth pacifier-free sailing on the horizon.
Jennifer Eckert is a supervising editor at National Geographic Learning and a freelance writer. She lives in Chicago with her husband, son, and three cats.