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Break Free of the Binky

When the time’s right, here’s how.

As children grow and develop, their need to suck usually goes away. But for some, a pacifier is comforting and its use becomes a habit that lasts for years. You may wish to talk to your child’s doctor and dentist about the best time to give up the binky. Once you’ve decided the time is right, here are some tips that can help.

• Have a strategy. Although some parents prefer to take the pacifier away all at once, many find a gentle transition to be easier. You could start by limiting its use to your home (this is especially helpful if your child is entering a child care center that discourages the use of pacifiers). Next, limit its use to certain rooms or times of day. For example, you could say the pacifier is only for bedtime. Never use punishment or threats. Turn the limit setting into a game to keep it positive: “Let’s see if you can use your binky only in your room — you’ll feel so proud.” You may want to try a chart with small rewards.

• Plan the good-bye. Some parents plan a special visit from the “Binky Fairy,” gathering up all the pacifiers and putting them in a box that the fairy will then “take to all the babies who need them.” In return, the fairy leaves a special toy or treat. Choose whichever good-bye story or ceremony best suits your child. And be sure to pick a time when your child is calm and isn’t coping with other transitions or changes.

• Stay busy. For a smoother transition, plan some fun activities to take your child’s mind off the pacifier and prevent boredom. Spend time outdoors, go on fun outings, or invite friends to play. Help your child to keep his mouth busy: sip drinks through crazy straws, blow bubbles, get out the horns and kazoos. Talk, make up rhymes, sing together, practice whistling — have fun!

• Offer comfort. Your child may need extra soothing during this time, so be sure to let other caregivers know what’s going on. Notice when your child is tired, hungry, thirsty or frustrated, so you can respond to those needs quickly. Offer extra hugs, kisses and cuddles; provide other comfort items such as a blanket, a teddy bear and favorite books or photos. Praise your child often for this sign of growing up.

Adapted from Pacifiers Are Not Forever by Elizabeth Verdick ($7.95, Free Spirit Publishing, www.freespirit.com). Used with permission.

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