Saying bye-bye to the binky

Whatever you call it, the binky, pacie or nuky, a pacifier is a very important part of some babies lives and - parents sanity!

Whatever you call it, the binky, pacie or nuky, a pacifier is a very important part of some babies’ lives and parents sanity! Infants have an innate need to suck, even beyond feeding times. That is why so many parents introduce a pacifier during the first few weeks of life. With some infants it satisfies their need to suck which helps soothe and comfort them. Some babies take to it right away and some don’t. The tricky part isn’t the introduction, however, it is when and how to break the binky habit.

So when do you take the binky away? Experts seem to be all over the board on this one. Some say before the age of one year, some say between two and three years. Some say to wait until they get to preschool age and let peer pressure do its magic. It is easy for experts to set a hard date for this major event, but not so easy for the parents who know their child goes to sleep easier when they have their pacifier. Sleep can be an elusive thing when you have little ones and most parents struggle to get their kids to sleep, so they can sleep. Sleep deprivation is not a good thing for anyone, so what is the ideal age to nix the nuk? Best advice is to ask your pediatrician and go with what they say.

Now, how in the world do you help a child part from their pacifier without causing undo stress to them or to you? It is important to keep in mind, whenever you decide is the right time, that the pacifier fills an emotional need for your child so proceed with caution and lots of sensitivity. Avoid the ‘disappearing’ cold turkey method. It is better to prepare your child for the separation, acknowledge that it might be difficult and be there to comfort them while they go through the loss. This will help empower your child and work to build resilience and trust.

The most family friendly method seems to be the gradual one. Start by limiting the time and places the pacifier is allowed to be used. Some parents find that limiting it to night time is a good first step. If your child is in day care, don’t send it for nap time.

Always, talk with your child about what you are going to do before you do it. Sometimes offering a toy or other incentive when the process begins can be helpful. “You are getting bigger now and big kids don’t use a binky. You can’t take your binky to day care anymore, but you can take your new book/teddy bear/doll to hold during nap time to help you go to sleep without the binky.”

Remember that a pacifier is just one soothing method for a child that is introduced early on. As your baby grows, try to introduce other ways of soothing like hugs and kisses, snuggles, soft songs, lap reading and just talking. You are helping your child develop a life-long habit of healthy ways to calm down.

For more information, programming and articles about early childhood development and other family topics, visit the Michigan State University Extension website.

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