Google Something Clever 2.0: How We Gave Up the Pacifer

Aug 28, 2012

How We Gave Up the Pacifer

I figured I’d share some parenting advice, in case anyone’s looking for it. I certainly don’t claim to be an expert, by any means, but this is one example of a time where my method worked, so there. Sorry that this post won’t be funny, but if you have a baby, I think you’ll find it useful.

We introduced pacifiers to the boy at birth (actually, day two, since we didn’t realize that the hospital didn’t provide them). Like most babies who are into pacifiers, he had it in his mouth almost constantly as an infant. As he got older, maybe 15 or 18 months, it became slightly less of a fixture, but it was always there when he was sad, sick, tired or bored.

He was very addicted to them when he slept. If it ever fell out in the middle of the night (and it did, like, twice every night), he would wake up and wail until we located it in the dark corners of his crib and replaced it. When became more mobile, we started keeping a cache of extras in the corner of the crib, and trained him to find a new one himself. That made life a little easier.

About a month before he turned two, we decided it was time to give up the “fi,” as he called it (yes, I know that’s later than recommended, but unless you have a time machine, scolding me will not do any good). He was old enough to talk and understand basic concepts, so we figured we could use a little reason to make it easier on him. We chose a quit date. I was staying at home with him by that time, and my husband took a few days off from work, since we knew nobody would be getting a good amount of sleep for a while.

We’d read that you should only tell a toddler about a big change two days in advance; any longer and they might get overly worked up about it. The trickiest part was what to say. Many people suggest coming up with a story about the “binky fairy,” or telling the child that you’re giving his old pacifiers to a new baby, maybe one you know, who “needs them more.” But we have a strict policy of not lying to him, ever. The concept of misaligned teeth was a little beyond his grasp, so what should we tell him?

We taught him about recycling. For two weeks leading up to the event, we would take him with us to the recycling bins outside, and make it a point of labeling materials every chance we got. “That magazine is made out of paper! This is an aluminum can!” We also instituted a new only-at-bedtime rule for the pacifier at that time. He did not care for that, of course.

Two days before the big day, I told him in the morning that he was a big boy now, and he would be giving up his pacifier soon. I brought up friends of his, older and younger, and emphasized that the babies used pacifiers, and the big kids did not. I told him again that night. The next day, same thing- once in the morning, once at night. I kept it light and simple. When he woke up on the last day, we gathered all the pacifiers from his crib. We reminded him that we were getting rid of them today, because he was such a big boy now. We brought them to the recycling bin, and talked about what they might be made into. Yogurt cups? Maybe toy dinosaurs?

We brought him to the children’s museum that day. We made a big stink about him being a “big boy” every five minutes. On the way out, we stopped in the gift shop and got him a toy robot, again, “for being such a big boy.” We did not mention pacifiers at all, just kept hammering home the “big boy” message.

That night, at bedtime, he asked for his “fi.” We reminded him again, short and sweet, that they were gone, because he was a big boy, and “Hey, look at this robot!” He cried, of course. It was rough for three or four nights. He’d ask for it at bedtime, we’d finally get him down, and then he’d wake up a couple more times in the middle of the night looking for it. We were definitely right to take time off.

But that was it. Just three or four days (plus the two weeks of prep time), and he was over it. And this was not a kid who was just casually into his pacifier. He had brand loyalty. He’d ask for specific colors. And a few days was all it took. Again, I’m no expert, but I think we really nailed that one.