Ready to help your child give up a pacifier? Here are some tips for navigating the tricky transition.

Whether they’re crystal clear, neon-bright or covered in rhinestones, pacifiers are the modern baby’s accessory of choice. Thanks to studies showing that they reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), most pediatricians have given pacifiers the green light. A study by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP)found that a whopping 68 percent of parents give them to their babies before six weeks of age.

Babies aren’t the only ones who love them; parents quickly become addicted to the soothing effects they have on their kids. Unfortunately, the habit often overstays its welcome.

  • Why Wean?

    While some children give it up on their own, others cling to the habit well into preschool. According to Lotus Su, D.D.S., of Pediatric Dental Associates, using a pacifier too much or for too long can contribute to dental problems, including palate deformation, teeth shifting, mouth breathing and dry mouth, which may increase susceptibility to tooth decay.

    Many doctors and dentists recommend ending the habit before your child's permanent front teeth begin to emerge, which can happen before kindergarten. “I recommend stopping pacifier use by age three,” says Dr. Su.

    “The earlier a pacifier habit is stopped, the less likely that there will be any dental problems.”

    Potential problems extend beyond the teeth. Pacifier use is associated with otitis media, or middle ear infections. Minor health upsets like gastrointestinal infections and oral thrush are also more commonly seen in pacifier users.

    Parents may be swayed by medical data and dentists’ recommendations, but kids often need some coaxing to give up the habit. Trying to make your child feel guilty may be counterproductive, causing them to dig in their heels. Instead, help them become confidently pacifier free with these tactics.

  • Literary Loss

    Before embarking on a pacifier purge, check out some children’s books on the topic. After listening to stories like “The Last Noo-Noo,” by Jill Murphy or “Pacifiers Are Not Forever,” by Elizabeth Verdick, your child may be more receptive to the idea.

  • Pacifier Bear

    When three-year-old Violet was ready to give up her pacifier, mom Bec Langham took her to a popular build-your-own-stuffed-animal store. Violet deposited her last pacifier safely inside the teddy bear before it was sewn up. The bear now serves as both a cuddly friend and a unique reminder of Violet’s younger days.

  • Baby Charity

    Your child may be willing to donate her pacifiers to a good cause. Gather up the pacifiers, and pay a visit to a friend with a young baby. Have your child “gift” the baby with the pacifier collection and shower her with praise for her generosity.

  • The Paci Fairy

    Steal this idea from Supernanny Jo Frost: Have your child place his pacifiers in a large envelope to mail to the “pacifier fairy." Put the envelope in the mailbox together before bed. Once he’s asleep, swap the envelope for a new toy. When he wakes up, excitedly take him to the mailbox to find his new treasures.

  • Make the Cut

    Snipping a small hole in a pacifier can help it lose its appeal quickly, encouraging a child to give it up on his own. Be sure to dispose of a broken pacifier promptly, because it can harbor bacteria or become a choking hazard if a child continues to use it.

  • Out of Sight, Out of Mind

    Parents seeking the quickest route to being pacifier free can simply throw them all away. Kelly Stallings opted for the cold turkey approach with her daughter Taylor. “The first night was rough, but after that she didn't care,” she says. Just make sure to get rid of each and every one, so your child isn’t tempted to relapse (and you’re not tempted to cave).

No matter how stubbornly your child clings to a beloved binky, eventually it will be a thing of the past. Once your child is free of the pacifier habit, you’re free as well – from relentlessly searching for them, washing them and buying them. Enjoy your liberation. At least, until the next obsession comes along.


Malia Jacobson is an award-winning health and parenting journalist and mom of three. Her latest book is “Sleep Tight, Every Night: Helping Toddlers and Preschoolers Sleep Well Without Tears, Tricks, or Tirades.”