Saying Goodbye To The Pacifier: The No Paci Party!
Yes, we know, there is a raging debate about pacifier use...this blog post isn’t about that. Rather than debate the merits or disadvantages of pacifier use, we want to talk to those of you who decided that the pacifier was the right choice for your child and for your family.
As health professionals, we can tell you that you have not harmed your child by opting to let them soothe by sucking. It’s a natural instinct and if the habit is broken around age two to three, your child’s mouth should self correct any alignment problems that occurred from sucking on the pacifier. That said, once your child has their third birthday, the negative effects on dental health become greater, especially as they shed their primary teeth and permanent teeth erupt.
We know that ditching the pacifier has real consequences, emotionally and physically for your entire family. For your child, they’ve come to rely on the pacifier as a mechanism for self soothing. For the rest of the family, you’ve come to rely on a fail-safe soother for your child...and probably a continued sleep mechanism. We know in our house we had “Sleepy Time Rules”. For a long time they were repeated like a mantra at bedtime: “Don’t forget the Sleepy Time Rules. If you wake up, what do you do? You stay quiet, you find your paci and you go back to sleep.” Sleep is important for everyone in your family - the idea of interrupting it by saying goodbye to the pacifier can be frightening!
So how to say goodbye?
We’ve heard lots of advice over the years, from parents, professionals, family members and patients: cut the tip off, go cold turkey, introduce the concept of the “binky fairy” who comes to take it at night...we’ve even heard a of a tree in Israel where kids tie their pacifiers to a branch and say goodbye (reminds us of the locks on the Pont des Arts bridge in Paris!), but our absolute favorite is the Paci Party. Here’s how it works:
- Decrease pacifier use gradually. If your child uses the pacifier to self soothe throughout the day, start minimizing that time to only at home, then only nap-time and bedtime. Work your way down to only the most crucial need. If you have multiple pacifiers around the house work your way down to 2 or 3, tops.
- Pick a “Party” day. Set a timeframe that your child understands. Maybe you have a weekly ritual of family dinner on Saturday night, maybe you always go to Grammy’s house for Sunday brunch. Pick one of these events and make it your deadline. Give yourself about a week’s lead up.
- Hype the “party”; hype the “big kid”. Introduce the concept of becoming a big kid by saying goodbye to the pacifier. This is a milestone and you want to celebrate! Begin talking about the Paci Party excitedly with your child. Make a plan! Do they like baking? (We highly recommend ice-cream cake, see below.) What is their favorite treat? Do they want to involve their friends? Family members? Nanny? Talk about it every day. Be excited! Your child will take your emotional cues and latch on.
- Get your supplies ready. Here’s what you’ll need: a plastic pencil case, pom-poms, stickers, fun paper tape, a Sharpie marker or glitter pens, paper, pen, crayons, decorations, supplies for your baking project.
Suggestion: Make ice cream cake by letting a pint melt halfway and then “baking” it in a tray in the freezer with m&m and sprinkles decorations.
4. Throw a No Paci Party! (Remember to focus on saying goodbye throughout all of the below.)
You know your child best - decide if they’d like to help decorate or if they’ll more enjoy coming home to a decorated house.
Have a dance party with the pacifier. Talk about the great times you had with pacifier. Encourage your kiddo to do the same. “Remember that time we went to the zoo?!”
Make the ice-cream cake and put it in the freezer to “bake”.
Start your art project! You’re making a box for your child’s pacifiers to live in when they go away. Have them help decorate the hard pencil case with stickers and tell you what to write on it. The box could say, “Goodbye Binky!” or “Sally’s Pacifiers”, whatever your child wants.
Help your child write a note to their pacifier. Encourage them to thank the pacifier for their time together and wish the pacifier well as they say goodbye.
Put the note in the box. Fill the box with pom-poms. It's now time to have your child put their pacifier(s) in the box and say goodbye.
(Pro Tip: take a video of this part so they can watch it later to remind them how proud and excited they were to say goodbye to their pacifier.)
Make a grand gesture of securing the box closed with tape and enjoy your cake! If your child wants to share with friends or family, now is the time to get outside and celebrate.
Be sure to hide that box on your way out! Never to be seen again. ;-)
5. Moving on. There is a good chance your child will still ask for their favorite soothing tool again. Reinforce the good memories of the party and stay strong. In our experience they’ll stop asking in a few days. If the requests are persistent, don’t throw away your hard work - get them a new special lovie instead. Hugs and snuggles can be just as good as sucking.
At Quince Orchard Dental Care we know that transitions can be hard. We’re here for you! If you have any concerns about your child’s prolonged use of a pacifier or thumb-sucking, or if either has continued well past the age of three, please don’t hesitate to contact us for an appointment. We are a fun, friendly office that would never shame you or your child - our goal is your overall health, mental, oral, physical and emotional. We wish you the best in saying goodbye to the pacifier and hope we’ll get to meet you and your little one soon!
And, remember that it’s never too early to start your little one’s oral health care. Visits to the dentist should start when that first tooth pops, or by age 1. At Quince Orchard Dental Care, we are well versed in oral care for our littlest patients up to our teens and we’d love to meet your family! Call us at +1 (301)-527-2727 or click below to schedule an appointment. We can’t wait to meet you and your little one!