5 Days to Ditch the Pacifier

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Have you met the Binky Fairy? She’s pals with the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny and the like. And she wants to do your child a little favor ...

It’s traumatizing to the whole family when, at long last, the paci needs to go. It’s so easy to just pop that ‘lil plug in the mouth! Meanwhile the American Dental Association says it should go by age 4 so it won’t impede speech development or make a wonky bite in your child’s mouth leading to … braces, kerching. So here you go: 5 days to the end of the paci:

Day 1 — Let your child know that the binky has to go away. When she asks where, you can let her choose: send it to a new baby as a present, plant it to see what grows (have a bouquet at-the-ready for the next day); tell her the paci fairy will come and leave something else in it’s place for the big girl she’s become.

Day 2 — Begin substituting favorite toys in place of the pacifier.

Day 3 — Wean your child down to use the pacifier only at bedtime.

Day 4 — Tell your child that tomorrow is bye, bye binkie day.

Day 5 — Package up the binkies in a box or mailing envelope and address it to the Binky Fairy (surely you have her address on file, wink, wink!).  Pop a couple of stamps on it — hey, what’s the cost of some stamps compared to a lifetime of pacifiers if you don’t break the habit NOW!? — and let your child drop it in the postbox.  Make sure the Binky Fairy offers a gift in return — something that will no doubt quickly become a new favorite.

We’ve all seen them.  The children nearing kindergarten age cruising grocery store aisles with pacifiers in their mouths.  They’re like a germy security blanket for children who should already have the skills to pacify themselves without the help of rubber nipples.  But as any parent who’s had a binky-wielding child knows, breaking the habit is much easier said than done.  So, if you need help getting rid of the binky, here are some time-honored tips to help you out.

There’s a New Fairy in Town
When it comes to the world of magical characters, most of us are familiar with one fairy, well two if we’re counting Tinkerbell.   Of course the Tooth Fairy ranks as the most celebrated imaginary winged being with magical powers, but for parents trying to wean toddlers of their pacifiers, that all might change.

Enter the Binky Fairy, whose credentials are similar to that of the Tooth Fairy’s.  She works evenings.  She remains unseen.  And most importantly, she doesn’t give without taking.  But before too much is said about the Binky Fairy, I will share my experience with her.

Pacifier Face
Let me start by saying I was that parent at the grocery store with a child who has clearly outgrown her pacifier.  Shopping, the park, the gym … mom, toddler, binky.  At age 2, our daughter used the pacifier wherever we went.  Though I may have appeared oblivious, I realized that people noticed my daughter’s mouth piece before they noticed her face.  Some who were brave enough would make comments to my daughter, saying things like, “Oh, you don’t need that,” or “I can’t see your pretty smile, when you have that thing in your mouth.”  These comments were inadvertently meant for me, the parent, the pacifier enabler.  But part of me still found it — yes, I’m going to say it — cute that she still liked her binky, and it was a sleeping aid that both parent and child were thankful for.

As I became self-conscience of my daughter’s pacifier dependency, I became a closet Nuk-giver, the enabler of my daughter’s habit, and I would only allow her to have the pacifier privately.  She could have her Nuk at home or at her grandparent’s house, but as far as day care and the rest of the world were concerned, my daughter didn’t use a binky.  When we were at a friend’s house or the gym, I’d turn around and tell my daughter to “spit it out.”  If she refused I would say, “Lily, the puppy will get scared if she sees you with that” or “The other kids can’t have one in their mouths either.”  Sometimes bargains would have to be made, but for appearances sake I held firm to the no-binky-out-of-the-car rule.

More Than a Friend
In our case it wasn’t called a binky.  It had a pet name whose origins remain somewhat of a mystery.  It was affectionately called “Foofy,” and at 28 months it was clearly becoming a monster in our house.  With each passing day, Foofy became the object of our daughter’s obsession — it wasn’t just a nap or a bedtime friend, it was a permanent fixture.  It sat at the dinner table, the breakfast table.  Bites of food passed between sucks.  Foofy even made its way into the bathtub.  Speech slurred over her mouth piece; words were indiscernible, and attempts at communication often failed.  As brutal as it sounds, I was at fault for hindering my daughter’s speech development.  I wasn’t doing Lily any favors by allowing the Nuk to stay.  I knew it had to go.

What the Binky Fairy is all About
Sometime around Lily’s second birthday, a day-care worker at our gym mentioned a fairy who confiscated pacifiers.  That was the first I had ever heard of the Binky Fairy and her magical way of breaking the pacifier habit.  I was also told of her special and noteworthy mission of giving the outgrown pacifiers to newborn babies who needed them.  I was fascinated by the Binky Fairy and wondered why word hadn’t gotten out about her.  Clearly there were other parents out there like me who struggled with finding an easy way to take their toddler’s nuk away.  The Binky Fary seemed like the right person for the job.

Ready, Set, Go
For parents eager to employ the Binky Fairy, plant the seed early.  Like with Santa, we prepped Lily for the advent of the magical character who would be paying a visit to our house.  We reminded her daily of the “Foofy Fairy” and the fact that her nuks were going away to newborns in the hospital.  We didn’t have to set a date for when the occurrence was actually going to take place, but we assured our daughter it was inevitable.

I admit I was just as surprised as our daughter the day the Foofy Fairy paid us a visit.  It started when Lily was defiant about putting her nuk on break one morning.  When I tried to pull it from her mouth, she bit down in resistance.  Her manner had changed; instead of using tears to win the battle she was using force and tone.  “No, Mommy!” she yelled.  What kind of parent was I allowing control to slip into the hands of a 2-year-old?  I pulled the pacifier from her mouth and headed downstairs.  On my way down I gathered every nuk I could find in the house.  I threw her favorite nuks in the trash — Tigger, Minnie Mouse, green ones, pink ones — all gone for good.

When bedtime came that night I played ignorant.  “Where’s Foofy?” she asked.  I told her I’d go try to find one.  With all the nuks disposed of, I naturally came back empty handed.  I feigned disappointment and appeared frustrated.  Hey, I had to get through the first night without the pacifier, too, didn’t I? I vowed to look again for them in the morning, and she settled into sleep without fuss or tears.

Morning came and I again pretended to search for the nuks, only this time Lily accompanied me.  We looked everywhere; we asked Dad if he knew where they could be.  Tears welled up in her eyes.  I knew it was time to play my trump card.  “You know what I think, Lily?” I asked her.  “I think the Foofy Fairy was here.  I think she came and took all the nuks.”  Instant sadness.  I admit this wasn’t the way I had planned the fairy scheme to play out.  I planned for the fairy to leave a gift, but I didn’t realize the event was taking place until the following morning when our house still remained foofyless.

In the end the gift never mattered, and foofy was only really missed the first day.  When Lily mentioned her nuks or asked where they were, we’d tell her again about the fairy and add, “But you’re happy without them.”  It sounds funny, but she did seem to realize that she spent the majority of her day happy or at least not thinking about her nuks.

It was important that Lily was not only reminded, but understood she felt good without her pacifiers.  Moments of sadness were always followed by reassurance that life was going to be OK without foofy.

The Best Part of the Binky Fairy
Perhaps the first and best thing the Binky Fairy does for parents is save face.  In other words, if a child has a negative reaction to having her pacifier taken away (which is the expected reaction), she won’t harbor any bad feelings towards Mom and Dad.  Essentially, it’s the Binky Fairy, not the parents, who comes off as the “bad guy.”  Secondly, the child may feel rewarded for giving up her beloved friend.  In our case a gift wasn’t used, but we did stress the idea that the out-grown pacifiers were going to newborns, which can positively affect a child’s sense of sharing and caring.

So use her.  Customize her.  Maker her a him.  Whatever the creation, I assure you when the time is right, there’s a fairy willing and ready to empower parents to help make that first step in pacifier weaning: making binky disappear.


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