Parting with the Pacifier

How to break the habit

Whether they’re crystal clear, neon-bright or covered in rhinestones, pacifiers are the modern baby’s accessory of choice. Thanks to studies that show that pacifiers reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, most pediatricians have given pacifiers the green light. A study in Pediatrics found that a whopping 68 percent of parents give them to their babies before six weeks of age.

Babies aren’t the only ones who love them; parents quickly become addicted to the pacifier’s soothing effects on their offspring. Unfortunately, it often becomes a habit that overstays its welcome.

Ready to help your child give up a pacifier? Here are some tips for navigating the tricky transition.

Why wean?

While some children give up non-nutritive or comfort sucking on their own, others cling to the habit well into the preschool years, which can contribute to dental problems, including deformation of the palate and shifting of the teeth. Many doctors and dentists recommend ending the habit before permanent front teeth begin to emerge, which can happen before kindergarten.

Potential problems extend beyond the teeth. Pacifier use also is associated with otitis media, or middle ear infections. Minor health upsets like gastrointestinal infections and oral thrush also affect pacifier users more often.

Read a book

Before embarking on a pacifier-purge, check out some children’s books on the topic. After listening to stories like The Last Noo-Noo by Jill Murphy or Pacifiers Are Not Forever by Elizabeth Verdick, your child may be more receptive to the idea of ditching the binky.

Make a momento

When 3-year-old Violet was ready to give up her pacifier, her mom took her to a popular build-your-own-stuffed-animal store. Violet deposited her last pacifier safely inside the teddy bear before it was sewn up. The bear now serves as both a cuddly friend and a unique reminder of Violet’s younger days.

Pass it on

Your child may be willing to donate her pacifiers to a good cause. Gather up the pacifiers, and pay a visit to a friend with a new baby. Have your child “gift” the baby with the pacifier collection, and shower her with praise for her generosity.

Introduce the Pacifier Fairy

Steal this idea from Supernanny Jo Frost: Have your child place his pacifiers in a large envelope to mail to the Pacifier Fairy. Put the envelope in the mailbox together before bed. Once he’s asleep, swap the envelope for a new toy. When he wakes up, excitedly take him to the mailbox to find his new treasures.

Make the cut

Snipping a small hole in a pacifier can help it lose its appeal quickly, which encourages a child to give it up on her own. Be sure to dispose of a broken pacifier promptly because it can harbor bacteria or become a choking hazard if a child continues to use it.

Toss it

Parents who want the quickest route to pacifier freedom can simply throw them all away. Kelly Stallings opted for the cold-turkey approach with daughter Taylor. “The first night was rough, but after that, she didn’t care,” she says. Just make sure to get rid of each and every one so your child isn’t tempted to relapse (and you’re not tempted to cave).


No matter how stubbornly your child clings to a beloved binky, eventually it will be a thing of the past. Once your child is free of the pacifier habit, you’re free as well — from relentlessly search- ing for them, washing them and buying them. Enjoy your well-earned liberation until the next must-have item comes along!


Malia Jacobson is a nationally published sleep expert, health journalist and mom. She blogs about sleep and family health at

Categories: Babies, New Moms, Toddlers