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Saturday, August 1, 2009

Off the Pacifier (or fingers)

I originally posted this in March when F was 9 months old and we were weaning her off of the paci. She is now 14 months and hasn't used a paci for several months, not even at night. She is my fourth child, and we've followed this process with all four children who either sucked on a pacifier, their fingers, or both, and it has worked like a charm. I also breastfed all four babies, and the paci didn't interfere with feedings at all.

I decided to repost this because of the new video in my JuiceBoxJungle widget that you can view by scrolling down on the right hand side (click through to my blog if you get this via email or reader). It's called "Suck On This" and talks about paci vs. thumb and when and how to wean. I was surprised that they didn't mention taking the paci away earlier rather than later. If you wean baby off the paci earlier, you obviously won't have as much of a fight on your hands than if they are two years old and in the middle of tantrum-stage. But if your two-year-old is still sucking on a pacifier, never fear, JuiceBoxJungle has some ideas for you!

How do you wean your child off the pacifier, or off of sucking their thumb or fingers?
I can tell you what has worked for us for our past three children, and what we are currently doing with F, who is 9 months old. Once we decide they are old enough and don't need to depend on the pacifier (or sucking their thumb/fingers) as much, we start to make it into a game. When they put the pacifier or their fingers in their mouth at a time they don't really need it, we pull it out and say with a smile, "you don't need that right now!" Here's what I mean:

(Sorry about my annoying baby voice!)

We usually begin the process of weaning them off of the pacifier (or their fingers) before they turn one year old. We've found that the earlier we start the process, the easier it goes. This doesn't mean that they need to be off the pacifier completely, but that they aren't using it all day and aren't dependent on it. We start the process as above, and then start limiting the pacifier to in the crib, in the carseat, and in the diaper bag (to be used by church nursery workers or in emergencies!).

Some say it's harder to break the habit of sucking on thumbs or fingers since you can't take them away. It's true that you can't take them away completely, but we had a finger-sucker and we used the above process every time we saw her fingers in her mouth. "You don't need those, no you don't! You're fine right now!" and then redirect them or distract them with a toy or something else to put in their mouth (like Cheerios). Again, the younger they are when you start this process, the easier it will go!

I am not against pacifiers in any way, in fact I was glad when F finally started taking one, but I also don't want my kids to be dependent on it for too long. Babies can benefit from sucking on something when they are younger, but I've found that the need for non-nutritive sucking seems to decrease around 9 months of age. Children need to learn how to soothe themselves eventually, and you want their mouth and teeth to develop normally, too. It also helps them to develop clearer speech when they aren't talking through a pacifier or around their fingers.

If you'd like to share a tip or have a parenting question you'd like me to try to answer (not that I'm an expert!), please leave a comment! I'll do my best to help, or maybe others can help, too!


cookiesandmilk said...

My older child used a pacifier until he was nearly two which was too long, but I didn't know how to take it from him. What eventually worked for us was him trading all of his pacifiers for a toy. My younger child never took a pacifier because I was her pacifier. It was harder to break her than him because I had to fight engorgement to not overfeed my baby (which I probably ended up doing anyway because she looked like the Michelin man until after she weaned). It’s a tough topic, but I like your advice. I think it would have been pretty helpful six years ago when my first was giving up his pacifier.

Saph @ Walk With Me said...

Great tips for my next baby when he have another. My 4 yr still sucks her thumb but mainly during bedtime. We tell her to take it out at any other time other than bedtime.

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