I should have listened to the warning sent my way as I sat bleary eyed in the hospital, clutching my newborn baby. The lactation consultant advised me, "Don't give him a pacifier because it will cause nipple confusion."
It started out innocently enough, in the wee hours of the morning. In an exhausted state, it seemed like a God-send. My crying baby would go from screaming to peacefully sleeping with the quick insertion of the pacifier. Luckily, it did not cause any nipple confusion and we were able to nurse successfully. I began to question just how bad such a useful tool could be?
Fast forward three years and I have a small addict on my hands. Don't judge me, but my younger son is a bit of a fiend when it comes to his pacifier. He has given it many pet names such a "binky" and "paci." It is his favorite bedtime accessory and he wouldn't dare settle into sleep without it. The slightest whimper in the night is quickly silenced as he slips it between his lips.
If he had it his way, he would have that sucker with him at all times. He throws pretty impressive hissy fits if he we leave the house without his beloved binky. As he approaches his third birthday, I am a total loss on how to help him overcome his dependency.
I know that it's imperative that he give it up, though. There are horror stories of extended pacifier use causing all kinds of dental nightmares. From cavities to crooked teeth, it seems to reek havoc in a little one's mouth. Not to mention the potential psychological damage that could fall his way if he enters school with a nasty pacifier obsession. Call me paranoid but we already dodge dirty looks if he has it in his mouth in a public place.
I have heard stories of children who outgrow the pacifier on their own. They hand it over to their mama with pride and never look back. Somehow, I don't foresee that in our future. My fear is that this is going to be a knock down, drag out fight.
Several methods are out there to help wean little ones from their paci peacefully. One mom told me about the "Pacifier Fairy" who visits in the night and swaps all the child's pacifiers for a brand new toy. Another mom took her child to Build-a-Bear Workshop and forced her child to tuck the binky into the stuffing of a bear so that she could still sleep with it near at night.
We have decided to try a four-step program to slowly wean my toddler from his fixation. We will gradually eliminate where he is allowed to have access to his binky. So far, we have restricted him from using it in public. Before we step out of the car, he has to hide in a special place. Next, he will have to leave his paci at home when we leave the house. Then soon after, he will only be able to use it in his bed. Hopefully, we can easily take it away at bedtime soon after that.
Who am I kidding? Despite my positive outlook on life, I know that this is going to be a hard transition for my little guy. Is there a support group out there for parents of children who have a pacifier habit? I can see myself now, sitting in a smoke filled room and introducing myself; "Hi, my name is Leigh and my son has a pacifier addiction." Kind of like Al-Anon.
Does your child have a pacifier problem? Did you successfully wean your little one from their binky? How did you help him or her to let it go? Please share your thoughts and experiences in the comments. Please. I need them.
(Editor's note: This article originally appeared on Athens Patch.)