Ah, so you’re trying to convince your toddler to get rid of the pacifier.
I feel your pain.
We can all agree on a few things…
First, at some point, every kid has to stop using the paci, binky, baba, or whatever you call it.
(I’ll get into why at the very end.)
And second, there are a million different ways to go about this, depending on your parenting style and your child.
In this article, I’m not going to go through every method you can try to get rid of the pacifier, rather I’m going to talk about one aspect of this process you’ll probably find yourself dealing with at some point:
Trading the pacifier for a treat, bribe, or alternative.
That’s right. It’s hard to get something for nothing! If you want your toddler to drop the paci, you might have to give them something in return.
With that in mind, here are my top pacifier alternatives for toddlers:
- A baby doll
- A new blanket
- A sleeping bag
- A nightlight
- A new toy
- A weaning pacifier
1. A baby doll
I thought this was just my daughter, but apparently, it’s super common for kids in that 2-3 age range.
The thing that finally got us over the hump in getting rid of the paci was allowing our daughter to “let her baby doll use it.”
It seemed to give some purpose to the idea, and one that she could get behind.
It positioned her as the “big girl” who needed to give up the pacifier in order to take care of “her baby.” She still often sleeps with the pacifier in her bed but doesn’t use it anymore.
Not only did she go for it, but she was also excited about giving it up!
And I’ve seen this advice repeated on parenting forums all over the Internet.
For your kid, it could be a baby doll, imaginary friend, or action figure. Whatever alternative you decide to use, this one seems to work great for a lot of parents out there.
2. A new blanket
Night time is the hardest time for kids to go without the pacifier when they’re used to using it.
Our daughter stopped using it during the day pretty easily, but at night it was the thing that soothed her, occupied her, and got her to sleep quickly and easily.
So if you’re going to make a trade and offer your child a pacifier alternative, you might want to consider something in the sleeping arena.
Taking him or her to Target or a store like that and letting them pick out a new blanket with their favorite cartoon character is a pretty good deal a lot of kids will happily sign up for.
That way, when night time rolls around and they’re missing the pacifier, they can cuddle up in their toddler bed or crib with the blanket they picked out.
3. Sleeping bag
Along the same line, but with a little more juice, consider letting your toddler switch to a sleeping bag.
It’s different, it’s fun, it’s for “big kids.”
If they’re anything like my daughter, they’ll be excited to try it out.
They might just, with any luck, be so excited that they’re willing to try giving up the pacifier in exchange for a new sleeping bag.
(Of course, it helps to let them pick it out in person!)
4. Nightlight or projector
There comes a time for almost all kids (usually when they’re 2 or 3… so around now!) that they become afraid of the dark.
According to WebMD, it’s because at this stage they’re developing vivid imaginations and can picture what might be lurking in the shadows, but they have trouble understanding that their imaginations and fantasies aren’t true.
If you’re dealing with a little of pacifier-clinging and fear of the dark, consider making a trade for a nightlight or projector.
It should help comfort them as they fall asleep and give them something new and soothing to focus on instead of missing the paci.
5. A new toy
If you want, you can skip all the stuff related to soothing at night and just go straight for the big bribe.
“If you give up the pacifier you can pick out a new toy!”
Make a whole thing of it by taking them to their favorite toy store and letting them pick whatever they want (in your price range) as a reward for being such a big boy or girl.
You may have to tweak the timing of this reward based on your child’s age and developmental progress.
Older and more mature toddlers can understand deals and hold up their end of the bargain, while younger kids might need a more immediate payout for the behavior you want to enforce.
But in general, don’t feel too bad about giving out small rewards for times your child does the right thing.
6. Weaning pacifiers
These are hit or miss for most kids, but when it works, it really works
Try something like the Ditch the Dummy One Step Pacifier Weaning System (Amazon link).
Essentially, what this and some other similar products do, is give you an alternative to swap out for your child’s pacifier.
When they start using the new pacifier, though, they find that it’s not as satisfying and fun.
(Ditch the Dummy pokes a small hole in the nipple so sucking on it doesn’t give the same sensation.)
For some kids, they don’t like using the new one and will give up the practice with very little fuss. Others will scream bloody murder for the old one back. And still, others will just get used to the new one, which defeats the purpose!
But if you’re stuck and want to try something a little different, give these a shot.
Why & when should you wean your toddler off the pacifier?
OK, so you know you need to work on getting rid of the pacifier (and now hopefully you have some good ideas on how to do it without a violent mutiny)…
… but what’s the rush? When is the right time to drop the paci?
Basically, the age varies, but you should definitely start limiting pacifier usage around 2 years old and aim to have it gone completely by around 4.
Well, too much pacifier use can cause dental problems as teeth begin to grow in. Specifically, a toddler’s front teeth can flare out from too much pacifier usage.
Some sources also claim pacifiers can cause a higher frequency of ear infections because of bacteria that enters the ear-nose-throat system on the paci itself.
Use these numbers as a general guideline. If your toddler isn’t showing any dental problems, you’re probably fine. No need to go nuclear and launch World War III.
You can go cold turkey or slowly wean your child off of using it, whatever works for them and you.
I do think, based on my experience and that of other parents, that if your kid is hooked, you may have to trade them something in return.
Hopefully, these pacifier alternatives above will give you some good ideas for what to offer your kid in exchange for, what must be for them, giving up a pretty hard habit!
Have a little empathy for them and don’t go nuclear before you have to. Yes, you should get rid of the paci by 4 years old or so, but if your toddler’s teeth are coming in fine, there’s no need to rip it away from them too soon.
Hope this helps, parents!