How to Break a Pacifier Habit

Updated on March 31, 2010
A.F. asks from Bellmore, NY
17 answers

My daughter just turned one and she is attached to her pacifier. She needs it for naps and bedtime and it often calms her when she if fussy. About how old is a good age to start breaking the habit and how should I do it? I've heard sometimes a toddler will give her pacifiers' away to a "pacifier fairy." She has to be older than one to understand that. I want Alyssa to break the habit before she goes to high school! Thank you!

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So What Happened?

Thanks to all who responded. I can't say for sure how long Alyssa will have her "pacifier addiction" but I hope she can learn to self-soothe before age 2. It's only 7 am now and she is sucking a pacifier after her first of three bottles. She found it in her pack 'n play when I had to put her down for a minute. So I think it is just habit except for sleeping where it's a real comfort to her. I like the idea of cutting off the tip. I think I will try that one first. Thanks again!

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answers from New York on

She will stop no one ever started 1st grade with one. We went to the zoo and left all the bottles and pacifer there for the baby monkeys at age 2 ish



answers from Rochester on

3 of my 5 kids used pacifiers. At age 1 I took their pacifiers away. Just threw them in the trash. When it was time for bed, we mad a big deal about looking for them and when we couldn't find them they were told we would look again in the morning but they would have to sleep without them that night. Yes, they cried for a little while but finally fell asleep. One even cried for a few nights. But once they were over that they never thought about them again. My youngest found one at his grandmas house a few weeks after I took his away. He popped it in his mouth right away. Then spit it right out like it was disgusting! Even made a face. He threw that one away!

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answers from Indianapolis on

I tend to have a different opinion. Our son is a thumbsucker - never took a pacifier, so we didn't have that habit to break, but our pediatrician basically advised us to let him grow out of it. He's 3.5 and only sucks his thumb when he's tired.

Our daughter, on the other hand, is a pacifier sucker. She just turned 2, and we're not taking any action yet because she's very prone to ear infections despite having tubes last year (already has had 4 infections this winter). We believe she has another one right now, and will get confirmation tomorrow - our thought is that the sucking on the pacifier helps alleviate the pain of the infection.

She's not allowed to have it unless she's sleeping (nap or bedtime).

Using a pacifier can become a habit, but it can also be a soothing mechanism. If it's not that, what will it be? I'd rather it be something I can control for the time-being.

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answers from Missoula on

My son is almost 2 1/2, and he uses his "sucker" for naps and bedtime only. Both our pediatrician and pediatric dentist agree that it needs to be gone by the time he is three. I think that this summer we will collect all his pacifiers and leave them for the pacifier fairy to take to babies who need them. The pacifier fairy will leave a "big-boy" toy for my son to replace the pacifiers. This is the method that was suggested by the dentist. I like it.
Good luck to you!

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answers from Portland on

I have yet to hear of a high school student with a pacifier. ;) I know it seems like the pacifier will never go away. With my older son it was a no go until he turned 3. For a month ahead we told him that when he turned 3 he would have to throw them away. (Luckily it was garbage pick up day so there was no getting them back!) He carried them out to the big can and tossed them all in. When the truck came we waved good bye to the binkies. He hated the garbage man for months, but at least we were spared the blame. LOL At age one I can only suggest using a different comfort at naps/fussy to start (new baby doll only for that time) and gradually add it to bedtime.

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answers from Dallas on

Our pedi recommended to cut the tip off, then 3-4 days later cut a little more off, and keep going like that until there's nothing left. My son lost interest after the 2nd cutting, tossed it down, and didn't go back. But make sure she has a lovey - blanket or doll or stuffed animal - to have if you go this route. They need something to hold onto and love. And toss all other paci's away and just have the one to work with. I think we did this when mine was 15-18 months old.

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answers from Honolulu on

just keep it for use at certain times like you are already doing.

make a hole in the tip.
Cold turkey. Those are the usual techniques.

With my son, he was a binky lover. But he used it ALL day and all night. Constant.
When he turned 3... at his well-child check-up, the Ped said he has to stop. By this age, the binky was affecting his mouth formation... and even when his mouth was "closed" there was a gap between his upper and lower teeth... essentially a gap in the shape of the binky. His mouth didn't shut/close completely. But... at this age or younger... the mouth will revert back to its original shape... over time. It can take about 1 year. For my son's case... it took about 6 months for his mouth to now be normal shaped... and the deformation of the binky upon his mouth is no longer there. But sometimes it can affect a child's bite... and teeth alignment.
So... this is sometimes something that can happen, with prolonged pacifier use. But not all children are affected this way.

As a child, I sucked my thumb. For a long time.... they say that thumb sucking is worse than pacifiers, upon the impact of the teeth/mouth.

Anyway, not to scare you. But just added information per my son's case.

For us, the way we quit his pacifier is, we told him that Santa needed it to help other kids. Then we, with him, gathered up all his pacifiers and put it in a bag... for Santa. This worked for my son... given his age.
He adapted fine and slept fine, despite not having it. I expected a lot of anguish over it and him not having it... but he did real well. It only took about 2 days for him to adjust. He didn't tantrum or get fussy or upset. He handled it well. He would just ask for it... and I said we gave it to Santa... and he would say "oh yah... " BUT... my son also has a Lovey to sleep with.... so that helped.

Your child is still young... and its good she only uses it at certain times. Then gradually you can adjust when she uses it... or give it to her only if she asks for it, versus just as a default routine.

All the best,

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answers from Dallas on

i cut the nipple off almost at the bottom and told her it broke...:-)

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answers from Phoenix on

My daughter was the same way. It got to the point where she needed one for her mouth and one for each hand almost all day. We quit cold turkey when she turned 2. It was a little rough for an hour or two the first night, less the second night and by the third she handled it very well. There were a few times during the days of the first week where she would whine for it but we were able to distract her with toys and activities. I simply told her she was a big girl and didn't need them anymore and that if she wanted her teeth to grow in nice she could not have a pacifier stuck in her mouth all the time. I threw them all away and that was that. We have never looked back!!

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answers from Norfolk on

I took my first son's away at 13 mos, and my second son's away at 15 mos. The sooner the better! I had them throw them in the trash and that was the end of it. Make a commitment to yourself to get rid of it now because it only gets harder as they get older. It make take 1-3 days for her to forget about it and the first few naps and bedtimes might be rough, but it is so worth it. Good luck to you and your daughter!


answers from New York on

Hi A.,

You've got lots of great answers (I haven't seen them yet tho'), so I just want to lend a bit of perspective to the issue.

My oldest son was FIVE when his dad finally took his pacifier away from him. Of course, he wasn't using it much by then, and it looked just awful. I was going to have it bronzed (but didn't).

And my daughter was almost three when I pinned hers to her dress the
day she tried nursery school. (One try only.) She would often wear it around her neck. I think she was three or four before she let it go.

And they both turned out just fine as adults! Go figure! ;)
I'm sure Alyssa will hand it over before she starts school.

from the Pocono Mts. of PA



answers from Provo on

My last boy was the only one of my children who would take a pacifier. I know it is a lifesaver. I started weaning my son from his binkie when he was six months old. I would only give it to him at night. When he was two and wanted the binkie to go to sleep I just told him that I could not find it. He got out of bed and helped me look. We never found it and he just went to bed. I have heard that it is not so easy sometimes and I have had friends that just cut the top off of them. Good luck!!



answers from Pittsburgh on

She won't take it to the prom, I promise! LOL I have heard to snip the tip off and they loose interest. I took my son's away at about 6-7 months b/c the longer they have it, the more attached they get. I did it cold turkey--like removing a band aid--quick and relatively painless!



answers from Denver on

Roughly age three is easiest...they don't have the urge to self soothe with an object, they're old enough to understand what's happening and they won't look for a replacement item -sucking fingers, clothes, toys, thumbs, etc. The paci you can remove, fingers, you can't -er, well, shouldn't, remove. It's much easier than age 1 or 2 when they think you're just being mean.



answers from Florence on

I threw both my girls away at age one. They need to learn to self soothe at one point and time without a crutch like the pacy. If need be, replace it with a blankie or a doll. My babies love their "babies". I'm sorry but it really irritates me to see a 5 yr old with a pacifier. The sooner it is gone, the sooner she can forget it.



answers from New York on

Heck she is only a year. If it is a comfort to her, let her have it. She
won't start school with it LOL. You can just limit it to bedtime and
naptime if you want. Just enjoy your little one.



answers from Binghamton on

As long as you set limits on when she can use her pacifier (nap and bedtime) I don't think it's a big deal at her age. My son just turned 3 and still has his only when he is going to bed. At this point, I don't think it's the right thing to do to take away something that is so comforting to him. Just like kids who suck their thumb I'm sure he will not have his paci by the time he starts school. Good luck!

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