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How To Get Your Toddler To Stop Using A Pacifier/Soother?

When Madi was 8 months old she suddenly decided that she was done with her soother and never looked back. That is, until I became pregnant with our second baby. The past few months I have caught Madi opening up the soothers I purchased for the new baby and putting them in her mouth. If I found her using the soother, I would take it out of her mouth and hide it. But she would repeatedly ask for it back. 

There is research that soothers in an infant’s first year of life may decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, there is also research that shows that soother use can cause problems with breastfeeding and may increase the frequency of ear infections and dental problems. 

Madi is almost 3 years old and I do not want her to using a soother at her age. The Canadian Pediatric Society recommends the following to help stop your child from using a soother:

  • Limit the time you allow your child to use a pacifier. Use it only for sleep time and comfort. Plan to give it up by 4 years of age to prevent dental problems. This is also the age that most children start school and need to develop other coping strategies.
  • Never use punishment or humiliation to force your child to give up using a pacifier.
  • Include your child by asking him to throw it away or leave it under the pillow for the “soother fairy.” This is especially helpful if your child is older.
  • Start a reward chart to mark your child’s progress.
  • Praise your child when she gives up the pacifier. Tell her you are proud that she is growing up and give her lots of hugs and cuddles.
  • Allow your child to express his feelings. If he’s upset or angry, give him special cuddles to help him cope.
  • If your child asks for the pacifier again (and she probably will), don’t give in. Remind her that the pacifier is gone and that she is grown up now.

Graeme and I decided to distract Madi to get her to stop wanting to use a soother. Every time she would ask for a soother I would ask her if she wanted to play a game or look for a stuffie. When she would have tantrums about not having her soother, I would leave her to melt down and then comfort her after 1 to 2 minutes. Within a month, Madi began to ask for the soother less and less. 

This post was co-authored by Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc and Erin Manchuk, BScPharm, BCGP.

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