The Mom Stop: No peace until habit is broken
It was a habit I never thought I’d be dealing with.
Neither of my two oldest kids used a pacifier. We tried pacifiers, not out of earnest desire for them to take one but more out of desperation in those early newborn weeks. But neither of them really took to it. I never had a pacifier as a kid, and neither did my sister. And so, I guess, I’m a little in the dark when it comes to weaning my youngest child from the hardest habit to break in her young life: The “paci.”
Our youngest daughter is turning three next month and, while it’s fine for some parents, I refuse to let my toddler enter her preschool years still using a pacifier. Like her siblings, she didn’t take to it when she was a young infant when I was home on maternity leave. But around 4 or 5 months old after she started daycare, her teachers asked if they could try to give her one. All the other kids had them. What could it hurt, I thought.
More than two years later, the other kids in her class have given up their pacifiers. But our daughter hasn’t — yet.
At 18 months, the pediatrician suggested that we go ahead and wean her off of it.
“It will be easier now than later,” she said.
But our youngest daughter is our last child. It’s taken me longer to move her out of the crib, longer to potty train — I guess you can say that I’m taking it slower with our last child.
How I wish we had listened. At 2, our daughter understood that she was only allowed to have her pacifier at naptime at school, but our house was free reign. Most of the time, she’d walk around the house with one pacifier in her mouth and another pacifier or two in her hand.
We tried reading books about how “pacis are not forever” and talked to her about how “big girls” don’t have pacifiers. We’ve tried using rewards. But, like most women in my family, when pressured to do something she doesn’t want to do, our baby girl dug in her heels — the paci problem got worse.
For months I’ve been promising myself that we aren’t buying any new pacifiers. When the last one is lost, it’s just gone. Done. And this week, barely a month before our daughter’s third birthday, the last pacifier disappeared. It’s probably buried somewhere under a toy basket filled with My Little Ponies or in the dress-up box filled with princess costumes. But I’m not looking for it.
The first night, paci-free, went well. She slept the entire night. The second night was hellish. As I’m writing this, I’m sleep deprived, up at 2:30 a.m., 3 a.m., 4:15 a.m., with a crying toddler who couldn’t sleep. All because of a “paci.”
But I can be persistent, too. I’m digging in my heels on this one. I may be sleepless for the next week or two. Here’s hoping it’s worth it.
Here are tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics on how to wean a child from a pacifier or from sucking their thumb:
— First, ignore the habits. Children often stop on their own. Don’t use harsh words, teasing or punishment.
— Use praise and rewards when a child does not suck her thumb or use the pacifier. Try star charts, daily rewards and gentle reminders.
— If your child uses sucking to relieve boredom, keep her hands busy or distract her with things she finds fun.
— If you see changes in the roof of your child’s mouth or teeth, talk with your pediatrician or dentist.
— Be sure to explain it to your child. If it makes your child afraid or tense, stop it at once.
— Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama. Reach her at firstname.lastname@example.org.