In last week's post, a mom wrote in asking about weaning her 3.5-year-old, Katie, from her pacifier. In that post I discussed the various opinions about whether or not a child that age should have to get rid of her paci, and concluded that weaning her would be best.
Here's a list of pacifier weaning techniques:
1. Cold turkey. You'll have to deal with crying for a few days to a few weeks. It may help to keep Katie up late till she crashes for the first couple of nights. My mom taught me to cut with scissors the night I gave up my paci (giving it up was my idea, though, as she had always drilled it into my head "when you're a big girl you'll throw your paci in the garbage" so I did). I stayed up really late cutting paper and watching TV with my parents till eventually I crashed.
2. The Paci Fairy. Go around the house with Katie, collecting all her pacis and putting them in a fancy gift bag. Before Katie goes to bed, take her outside and help her hang the bag (or a bunch of loose pacis) on a tree branch. In the morning, the fairy will have left her a special prize.
3. Needy Babies. Tell Katie the new babies in the hospital don't have any pacis and they really need some. It will be a wonderful good deed on Katie's part if she'll help you put them all in a box and to send them to the new babies in the hospital. You can even have her decorate the envelope and write a special message to the babies.
Some parents combine methods 2 & 3, telling kids that the Paci Fairy will come collect the pacis and bring them to the new babies in the hospital, and leave a prize for the good little children who give up their pacis.
4. Sticker chart. I've never seen this done with pacis, probably because it's best done cold turkey. But theoretically you could do one with small prizes leading up to a big prize when she's ready to get rid of it altogether.
5. Books. Read books with Katie about saying bye-bye to paci. There are tons of them, although I don't have personal experience with them so I can't recommend any specific ones. There was a great one that my sister-in-law had for my nephew a few years ago, I don't remember what it was called. It was about a little boy who made a house for his pacifier out of a cardboard box. He used to peek in at it through the window when he missed it.
6. I think making a little house with Katie for her paci is a great idea too!
After some research, I also discovered the following ideas:
7. Make the paci taste bad. I've heard the same with weaning from the breast - rub vinegar on your nipples and tell her your milk has gone bad. It sounds a little cruel but it does make the decision your child's and not yours. Some websites suggested chili pepper but I'd go with the vinegar.
8. Lose it. This shouldn't require a lot of work on your part. Pacis go missing all the time. Just stop buying new ones. If for some reason they don't go missing in your house, just put one away (or throw it out) every few days. Tell Katie there are only a few pacis left and when they're all gone, that's it. She'll be sad but it makes a lot of sense - there just isn't a paci to be had. Again (at least in her mind), you're not the one taking it away.
9. Break it. Start by poking a tiny pin hole into the paci. For some kids, the loss of resistance when they suck is enough for them to lose interest. If this doesn't deter her, you can cut off a tiny bit of the tip. When she shows you that her paci's broken, tell her that pacis are for babies. I'm sure this is something you've told her countless times before, but now add that babies don't have teeth, and because Katie's a big girl, she has big girl teeth and they're too sharp for a paci. She'll probably get fed up with her half-a-paci and trash it herself.
I hope that with all these options, you'll find something that will work for you.
Good luck, and remember: transitions like these feel like they last forever, but in the grand scheme of things, a few rough nights (or even a few weeks of rough nights) are not all that much in the course of your or your child's lifetime. One day you'll look back on this, just like you will with potty training, the first day of school, and a million other things, and wonder "why did I make such a big deal out of that?"