Toddler Sleep Problem: How Do I Wean My Toddler Off Their Pacifier?

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  • February 26, 2013

Would you like to have me answer your toddler sleep problem in my next video? If so, scroll down and submit your question in the comment section below. I will pick several questions a month to answer and post them here on the blog!

If you would rather read than watch my above video then here is the transcript of this week’s toddler sleep problem video:

Hi, Kim West, the Sleep Lady and today, I’m going to answer this mom’s question. She wrote in and said:

 “My boy is 17 months old. He’s great about taking a nap during the day and goes to bed very well around 8pm every single night sleeping until 7am in the morning.” (Great news) “He sleeps with his blanket and bear and I only let him have binkies at night and at naps. He always wants two binkies, one to hold in his hand and one in his mouth. I think he uses one as a lovey and I would really like to break him of it. It falls out of his mouth and it knocks out of his crib while he’s sleeping and then he wakes up because he can’t find it. We end up going in to get it for him off the floor sometimes to 2-3 times a night. I’d really like to get rid of the binkie altogether and help him just love his bear and blanket. Any suggestions that will help with our toddler sleep problem?”

This is a really common question.  Many toddlers like several pacifiers at sleep time– one in their hand (sometimes both hands) and one in their mouth.

You have a couple of choices.

If you want to keep the pacifier for sleep only until your toddler (or it is not causing your toddler sleep problems) is older:

The best strategy to keep the binkies in the crib is to get a breathable bumper.

These mesh bumpers (which are apparently safe) will act as a barrier so that binkie can’t fall out.   So, let’s say you put in the breathable bumpers and give him several binkies at bedtime and he wakes during the night; your job is not to actually put it back in his mouth.  When you go in his room or over to his crib say, “It’s okay, sweetie. It’s night night time,” and you point to the binkie and say, “There is your binkie.” If that feels too cold turkey and he gets really hysterical then you can take the binkie, put it in his hand.  I don’t want you to put one in his mouth and one in his hand.  Just put one in his hand and say, “There’s your other binkie and there is your blankie.”  Each night start doing less and less when he wakes up.

You should get to the point where you no longer put it in his hand but you only point to it and direct him to it. So, you might be saying, “Yeah, Kim, but I told you that I want to get rid of the binkie.”  I’m not avoiding that question. The reason that I’m bringing up strategies to keep the binkie is because 17 months might be a challenging time to get rid of it. This is peak separation anxiety age. Also,  he probably doesn’t  have a lot of language yet at 17 months and you might want to wait just a few months until maybe he is like two, maybe two and a half so that you can talk to him and with him a little bit better.

If you want to get rid of the pacifier now:

Here’s the tough news: you’re going to have to put him in his crib without the binkie at bedtime. There is no gradual way to wean the pacifier because it’s either in your mouth or it’s not.  Start at night after a great nap day with his binkie. Put him in at bedtime without a binkie and sit next to the crib and moving out. You can even keep the binkie at naps believe it or not. If you find that that’s causing a struggle, then you’ll have to get rid of it at naps also. Be prepared for a couple of rough nights as this is a big change for him. Be consistent and offer physical and verbal reassurance (without creating a new sleep problem of course) and things will get better. So, again, I would focus first on night and consider maybe keeping it for a little while before you wean it all together.

Okay, I hope that helps.
Sweet dreams,
Kim

The Sleep Lady

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have weaned your toddler off the pacifier, feel free to share your experiences and support. Please feel free to click the “reply” link under this article and leave them a comment. Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

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6 Comments

  • JessicaGeeslinVelasco says:

    We weaned our daughter from her pacifier a few weeks before she turned two. She used it only at sleep times. We took advice from some friends and started cutting the tip a little every night over the course of a few days. At first, she could keep it in her mouth, but seemed aware that it was different. Eventually, she couldn’t even keep it in her mouth, so she would hold it, but that only lasted a few nights. She just lost interest once she couldn’t keep it in her mouth. There were no tears or anger, so we were happy. Other suggestions I got were to put something that was okay to eat but nasty to taste on it, to tie it to some balloons and let her release it to the angel babies in Heaven, or to have sort of goodbye ceremony. There is a book that you can buy online that comes with a box for a goodbye ceremony. I saw it after we weaned so not sure about it, but it sounds cool. Ultimately, I think it went okay because she was two and past the need to suck so much. You may want to wait a bit.

  • JessicaGeeslinVelasco says:

    We weaned our daughter from her pacifier a few weeks before she turned two. She used it only at sleep times. We took advice from some friends and started cutting the tip a little every night over the course of a few days. At first, she could keep it in her mouth, but seemed aware that it was different. Eventually, she couldn’t even keep it in her mouth, so she would hold it, but that only lasted a few nights. She just lost interest once she couldn’t keep it in her mouth. There were no tears or anger, so we were happy. Other suggestions I got were to put something that was okay to eat but nasty to taste on it, to tie it to some balloons and let her release it to the angel babies in Heaven, or to have sort of goodbye ceremony. There is a book that you can buy online that comes with a box for a goodbye ceremony. I saw it after we weaned so not sure about it, but it sounds cool. Ultimately, I think it went okay because she was two and past the need to suck so much. You may want to wait a bit.

  • breefawn says:

    roxanagzz that sounds frustrating. Your baby is quite a bit younger than the toddler that The Sleep Lady addressed in this article, and based on her age and the night wakings, I’m wondering if she could be experiencing a http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep-problems/pre-toddler-sleep-regression/…I would encourage you to post your question on The Sleep Lady http://www.facebook.com/thesleeplady, where one of our Gentle Sleep Consultants can help you sort things out. Good luck!

  • breefawn says:

    roxanagzz that sounds frustrating. Your baby is quite a bit younger than the toddler that The Sleep Lady addressed in this article, and based on her age and the night wakings, I’m wondering if she could be experiencing a http://www.sleeplady.com/baby-sleep-problems/pre-toddler-sleep-regression/…I would encourage you to post your question on The Sleep Lady http://www.facebook.com/thesleeplady, where one of our Gentle Sleep Consultants can help you sort things out. Good luck!