To pacify or not pacify.
February 14, 2013 8:20 AM   Subscribe

When should we dispense of the pacifier for our almost 9 month old?

Statsbaby is almost 9 months old and relies on his pacifier to get to sleep. He also has a blanket that he snuggles up with, but it’s the pacifier that soothes him. He’s gotten to the point where he can usually put it back in if he wakes up, but probably once or twice a night he will wake up and need us to help him. He is also still doing one feeding a night but we’re looking to wean him off of that soon as well. During the day (with the exception of naps) he doesn’t use the pacifier but will sometimes suck on his fingers.

We tried going cold turkey on the pacifier when he was about 6 months. After three days he was still miserable and . It would take about an hour to get him to go to sleep, and to get to sleep he started sucking on the tag of his security blanket which didn’t seem to be much of an improvement.

We’re considering trying to get rid of the pacifier again as right now he has a bad cold and can’t both breathe and have the pacifier in. But, we’re concerned that may switch out the pacifier for the thumb. We can always get rid of the pacifier but the thumb is permanently attached.

Any advice?
posted by statsgirl to Human Relations (27 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
Throw four more pacifiers in the crib. That'll help him get one back in his mouth when he wakes up.
posted by bq at 8:24 AM on February 14, 2013

We kept thinking we were going to make our son give up the pacifier ... and now he is two and a half and still using it for naptime and overnight. This made me feel better, since my main concern about this is his teeth. It says, "Normal pacifier use during the first few years of life doesn't cause long-term dental problems."
posted by trillian at 8:25 AM on February 14, 2013

Response by poster: I should add, we already have about five extra pacifiers in the crib. It's helped a bit but not completely.
posted by statsgirl at 8:25 AM on February 14, 2013

We solved the paci problem by simply never giving ours one in the first place. But based on close friends' experience, once they're used to having them, it's an uphill battle (i.e. impossible) getting rid of them until they're ready. At which point they'll let you know by losing it in the couch cushions or something and just never asking for it again. In one case that was at around 1 or 1.5 years, in another it wasn't until well past 3 years.
posted by ook at 8:31 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

One technique is to cut off the end of the pacifier more and more over a couple of weeks.
This is what helped our 2 year old stopped using it.
posted by bottlebrushtree at 8:32 AM on February 14, 2013

With our daughter we told her on her second birthday that the Pacifier Fairy was going to come take her pacifiers away and give them to all the new babies, so she should put them under her pillow. She did, we took them all away and hid them, and she never asked for one again. Never sucked her thumb either. This was a kid who loved her binky. Obviously that's not always how it plays out, but don't automatically assume getting him to give up the pacifier later on is going to be a nightmare.
posted by Rock Steady at 8:34 AM on February 14, 2013 [10 favorites]

My daughter was a big fan of the pacifier. We let her use it whenever she wanted to until she was about a year old and then we started slowly restricting it to sleeping and in the car (and then eventually just for sleeping).

When she was almost 3, a few months after her baby brother was born, I asked her what she wanted to do: Did she want to give up the binky, or did she want to learn how to use the bathroom? She chose to give up the binky. A few weeks before a friend had a baby girl, so we decided that my daughter would "give" her binkies to Baby L. We made a big fuss over it, telling her how generous she was to give her binkies to L, and L's mom accepted them and also made a big fuss, thanking my daughter and telling her that L was really grateful to have such a great gift.

My daughter was suuuuuper proud of herself. The first night was rough - she cried a lot and asked for it all night - but after that, it was fine. She would still ask me about them, not FOR them, just saying, "I gave my binkies to Baby L, right? So she can use them?"

My son never took a pacifier so there's no worry about that for him in the future. But I have seen with my kids that you either have to take away something that's a bit of a crutch (like a binky) at around 6-9 months, when they're going to forget about it in a few days, or you really have to wait until they are old enough to be a little rational about it. There is no way I would take away a binky for an 18-month-old, for example.
posted by sutel at 8:40 AM on February 14, 2013 [7 favorites]

We did the 6 pacis in a bed thing too and it helped her find one.....Then, at about 2 1/2, we made a gift bag of all of our pacis and made a big deal about giving them to a new baby (there was one around both times I did this) It worked well....the first night was rough but then nothing. And I had a dr friend who had also studied dentistry tell me that as long as it's gone by dental problems. Now, my 12 yr old does have braces....but for a different reason.
posted by pearlybob at 8:51 AM on February 14, 2013

My daughter used hers until she was about 4, and then lost it and didn't fuss when a new one didn't magically appear. Her teeth are fine. She didn't suck her thumb, but most kids do, if the pacificer is taken away. I don't know why parents are so keen to force this.
posted by Ideefixe at 8:58 AM on February 14, 2013

If he's only using it at night, I would just leave him be since he wakes up and wants it. Once he sleeps through the night, the need for it just might go away on its own.
posted by shoesietart at 8:58 AM on February 14, 2013 [4 favorites]

If you want to still use it, they have glow-in-the dark pacifiers which we used, then we put 6 in the crib, and it was fine.

For both kids, though, I took their pacifiers on their first birthday, period. It was only four days of hell for each, but everyone is happier for it in the long run. My wife couldn't handle it, so it was up to me, but she thanked me later. Same with the bottle...first birthday, cold turkey, done, and they have been pretty normal kids so far.

And my kids never sucked their thumb. It isn't about teeth problems (weird how that ever started in the first place). It's about self-soothing, emotional security, etc.
posted by TinWhistle at 9:06 AM on February 14, 2013

My 18-month-old daughter has never used a pacifier or sucked her thumb (she was weaned at 15 months) and it hasn't caused any problems, so I don't see any reason you *can't* take it away, if you're willing to live through the adjustment period. I don't know what the real world benefit to that will be, though.
posted by tylerkaraszewski at 9:13 AM on February 14, 2013

My parents really wanted to get my brother off his pacifier, and he is 2 years older than me... so when we moved from Canada to the US they told us that they were illegal in the US. Thus prematurely removing my pacifier from me as well. And starting a lifetime of war between the two of us.

don't worry, we're friends now!
posted by Grither at 9:14 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

I let my eldest use with his pacifier until he was about 2 and a half. Like sutel, we just started restricting where it could be used - only in the car and in bed, then only in bed. It doesn't cause harm, so why take it away? It's comforting for a little one and helps them sleep. Once he was old enough, we did the pacifier fairy trick too, and he got a great gift in exchange. He was sad the first night or two, and then it resolved itself.

His younger brother would never take a pacifier, and sucks his fingers. This is much harder to break, so for that reason alone I would say stick with the pacifier in case you accidentally create a thumb/finger sucker!
posted by Joh at 9:25 AM on February 14, 2013

With my sons, I went pacifier in bed only at around six months or so, and cold turkey around a year. Worked out okay.
posted by Chrysostom at 9:38 AM on February 14, 2013

Seconding that weaning by cutting off the end a little bit at a time was hands down really easy (but my son still sucks on his shirt when he's relaxing AND he's 14, so I don't know what that means).
posted by kinetic at 9:53 AM on February 14, 2013

I may be confused, but does the cutting-off-the-end recommendation mean you actually take scissors to the plastic part that goes in baby's mouth? I worry that doing that could lead to pieces of plastic coming off and being swallowed.

It's my understanding that that is the reason you're supposed to inspect pacifiers regularly to be sure they don't have any cracks or tears.
posted by Sock Ray Blue at 9:58 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Yeah, don't cut off the pacifiers. Depending on the material, that could be dangerous for your little one's mouth, gums, tongue, etc.

My 14.5 month old still uses her pacifier at bedtime and naps. A couple of months ago, it was bedtime, naps, and car. Right now, we're working on taking it away for naps -- she hasn't had it at daycare for naps in a week or two (though she doesn't sleep well there, so I'm not sure I'm helping things).

I think the time to take it away is before he develops an attachment to it. Like, you don't want the pacifier to become a lovey.
posted by devinemissk at 10:14 AM on February 14, 2013

My daughter was just about three (and fwiw, seems to have mostly dodged orthodontia concerns).

When her big girl bed arrived, she excitedly watched it go into place, pacifier in mouth.

I said: Wasn't the new bed awesome? And wasn't it great that she wouldn't need a pacifier anymore, because she had a big girl bed now? She took it out, handed it to me, and that was it.

I didn't think that would work, either. Not in a million years.
posted by gnomeloaf at 10:23 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

We took our little guy's "baby cork" away cold-turkey when he turned 1. We noticed that was about the same time that he decided on a favorite blanket. So basically he traded one comfort for another, but my wife was much happier with him having a blanket to love instead of a pacifier, because as they get older kids are less likely to be teased for having a blanket than a pacifier, and we could actually see his face in photos.

It went well with him, really. Surprisingly so. But expect a few days of Very Much Not Fun. Start a week or so early, explaining that s/he is growing up and very soon will not need the pacifier any more. (Does this help? Who knows, but we have always taken time to explain things to our son and it seems to help him adjust to changes.) On Pacifier Removal Day, put kid to bed as normal, explain that s/he is a big kid now and does not need a pacifier, kiss and hug, tuck in, leave room rapidly and shut the door. Do Not Re-Enter The Room. The screaming will not last as long as you think it does but it will sound like it lasts forever. You will feel like a horrible, horrible parent and will question why you never before realized that you truly are a heartless bastard. This shall pass but it is not fun.

If your little darling wakes in the night and gently screams for your attention, enter if you dare, hug and kiss, re-explain that yes, pacifiers are now gone for Big Boy/Girl, tuck in bed and leave. As before, do not re-enter the room. As before, you will be racked with guilt and likely suffer from insomnia, jolting awake at each tiny sound out of sheer anguish over the terrible thing you are forcing your child to endure.

But all this is necessary. Little Mefite-in-Training needs to learn how to comfort him/herself. You will find yourself doing much, much worse things to your child as s/he grows, and you will know deep down that it is all for his/her own good, no matter how bad it makes you feel. Remember innoculations? When unsuspecting, sweet little infant is repeatedly jabbed and s/he sits there, shocked, before exploding into a screaming, cringing mess and you begin to hate yourself for putting him/her though it? Yeah, it's like that. But it is NEVER as bad for the kid as it is for you. S/he will not grow up resenting you for these actions. S/he will likely not even remember them at all. Do you remember when your parents took away your pacifier? Your kid won't remember this either. Steel yourself for the worst and stay strong. You will get through this, and nearly all of the emotional scars will be your own. That's a parents job - enduring this self-inflicted damage to ensure that the next generation grows up happy and healthy.
posted by caution live frogs at 10:24 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Best answer: My kid refused to take a pacifier (actually, he disliked ALL plastic nipples -- wasn't too keen on bottles, either, which was a picnic for me when I tried to go back to work, let me tell you). He sucked his index finger instead. Despite concerted efforts, I wasn't able to break him of that habit until he was past 3. As you noted: fingers! You can't take them away!

You already tried once to remove the pacifier, and it resulted in your kid sucking on other things, which says to me that your kid has a strong desire to suck as a self-soothing mechanism. If you take the pacifier away your kid might well switch to fingers.

So I say don't worry about the taking the pacifier away until the baby is a little older. Your problem isn't really with the pacifier anyway, is it? It's with the baby waking up at night and expecting you to come in and offer comfort in the form of a pacifier. What you really want to do is teach your baby to self-soothe, with or without a pacifier, right? So maybe you could try just not coming in for a bit, stretching the time out longer each night, to see if your baby learns to hunt a little more for a pacifier before asking for assistance?

Of course, I understand your current concern about the pacifier and the cold; you may want to take it away for the time being to make sure he can breathe well. But your baby may also surprise you by just giving up the pacifier after a few days on his own if he finds it's currently annoying to use it. (Kids are nothing if not endlessly surprising.)
posted by BlueJae at 10:29 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

If you're looking to phase out the night feeding, I humbly suggest this is the worst possible juncture to also phase out the binkie. Your son will learn to re-attach it as he gets older.

Sucking on the tag of the blanket is perfectly acceptable - children need some form of overnight comfort and oral soothing is entirely developmentally appropriate.
posted by DarlingBri at 10:52 AM on February 14, 2013 [2 favorites]

Our now-18-month-old was just like yours at 9 months. We didn't take the pacifier away, but I can tell you that he got way better at finding it. Now the only issue is when it falls out of the crib.
posted by that's how you get ants at 11:28 AM on February 14, 2013

Please disregard my cutting off the end of the pacifier advice; I had no notion it was a bad idea.

However, if your son ever comes up with a special name for his pacifier (my son always called his "Neenee, he also called milk "bomp""), write it down somewhere.

I can't tell you the hours we've spent trying to remember, "What was the weird name you had for your paccie?"
posted by kinetic at 11:55 AM on February 14, 2013 [1 favorite]

Our son used a pacifier while sleeping until he was a little over two. It was great for soothing him to sleep, though we were concerned about it pushing his teeth forward and also concerned about him replacing it with his thumb. We read some books about characters giving up their pacifiers around the time he turned two, which didn't seem to motivate him much, and then one day after he had been sick and coughing for what seemed like forever (during that lovely early preschool era of almost constant colds) we told him we thought the pacifier was holding germs that were making him sick and he agreed that we could take it away. He struggled with it just a little bit but never tried sucking his thumb instead, and then he went to the dentist shortly afterward, and got heaped with praise (plus a special toy) for giving it up, which made him very proud. His overbite is totally back to normal.

I think it's one of those "pick your battles" issues - we really valued his (and our) sleep, so we were reluctant to force the issue, but waiting until he could sort of understand logic seemed to work with his personality. And the very excited dentist was a big plus.
posted by eseuss at 2:16 PM on February 14, 2013

We waited with both our kids till they were two and did the cut-off-the-end thing. Daughter put it in her mouth for a minute, then took it out and handed it to me saying, "Pacie broken." The first couple nights were somewhat fitful but there was no drama. Showing my age (or theirs) we also read a Muppet Babies book over and over and over about Piggy giving up her pacie.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:45 PM on February 14, 2013

You want him to suck to his heart's content now, when it's appropropriate--or in adulthood, when the herero male fixation on nipples is a real PITA.

Make sure your decision is for your child, not for you.
posted by zo219 at 4:35 AM on February 15, 2013

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