THE pacifier is the perfect plug for a fussy baby — it helps with everything from crying to tummy aches, and is the perfect soothing agent for bedtime.
But while it's convenient to use to keep your baby quiet and pacified, using a soother for too long can cause challenges, including dental and speech issues.
As such, doctors recommend that by age two your baby should be weaned off the pacifier completely — a recommendation that's easier said than done.
Are you at the stage where ending your baby's dependency on the soother is critical? Here are some weaning tips.
1. Aim to stop pacifier use by the six-month mark, latest by age two. This should be done gradually, and all caregivers should know of your plans so there is consistency, and to avoid confusing the baby.
2. The age of the child is very important. If you're weaning a toddler you may have a more difficult time, as they will challenge you at every go. Be sure that you're not doing other big events, such as potty training, at the same time. For a younger baby, you can start by withdrawing the soother when they don't need it — for example, when they are playing. At that time the child will be in a happy place, so you can start taking it away.
3. Put something bad-tasting on it.
Some Jamaican mothers rub aloe vera on their nipples when they want to wean their breastfeeding children, but we're not encouraging going this route. Instead, applying a food the child doesn't like — like mashed green beans — to the pacifier will discourage the child from sucking on it.
4. Reduce use of pacifiers during the day.
It's much easier to initiate pacifier weaning during the day, because there are so many things to distract your child. Taking away the pacifier at this time is easier than at night when the child just wants to sleep. Note that you should allow the child to use the soother if they're stressed or tired, as this may be the only way to comfort them.
5. Use the 'big kid' talk. Children like to hear that they are not babies anymore, or that someone they admire is not using the pacifier. Tell them that their favourite superhero or friend has given up the pacifier. Children are not just competitive, they want to be seen as responsible and mature.
6. Be patient. Remember that your baby is giving up on something they long depended on, and this can be very stressful. You don't want to make the stress worse by displaying little or no patience, or getting angry that the baby is not adapting as fast as you'd like.
7. Get them a new sleeping partner. If you take away the pacifier, there should be a replacement soothing agent. Give the baby a blanket or stuffed toy to make up for the loss of the pacifier.
8. If all else fails, go cold turkey. Sometimes no matter what you do, some children will be stubborn. If all else fails, tough love will have to be the order of the day. The truth is, if you give in to their resistance with the aim of starting the process at another time, they may push you into a corner because they will be convinced that once they throw a tantrum, you will give in.