Sunday, April 06, 2014

Gentle Pacifier Weaning

By Danelle Frisbie © 2014

A couple years ago a mother shared her technique for gentle pacifier weaning with peaceful parenting and we found it to be one that others have benefited from as well. We do not necessarily advocate for pacifier use from the start -- babies are designed to be comforted in the arms of a loving caregiver, to attach to a human being (not a plastic object) and to suckle at mom's breast for comfort. However, in cases where non-human substitutions are necessary for comfort and soothing, no matter the reasons for this being the case, it is surely best to meet these needs (for suckling and comfort) in babyhood and beyond. Pacifiers were created for this purpose - to meet a need when a care-gjver (usually mom) is otherwise unable to do so. Providing a baby and child with tender care and comfort is always better than denying them of these things to fit into a rigid boxed set of what we 'should' or 'should not' be doing as parents.

For those who do introduce a pacifier in babyhood, the weaning process from this comfort object also need not be traumatic for children. Too often we've heard from those who are now adults who remember how fearful it was for them to have their one item of comfort and security taken away as a youngster. Especially at night, if a child sleeps alone, these hours can be anxiety provoking, and we would never advocate for a 'cold turkey' end to pacifier use for a child who is already accustomed to its presence in their day or night routine (this includes damaging, cutting off the end, or taking away a pacifier). However, this mother's process of pacifier weaning is one that took several months to go through, was begun at a time when her child was old enough to comprehend what was taking place, and one that eliminated any imposed anxieties for her child. It allowed him to naturally finish the weaning process from his comfort item in his own time with gentle encouragement, and empowered him to make small, developmentally appropriate choices along the way. The name of her son has been changed here to honor their privacy.

When young Ben was old enough to understand via conversation with his mother what was happening, she tied his pacifier to a stuffed animal that he could carry with him during the day. This allowed him to use it for comfort as needed, but made it slightly less convenient to walk around with for hours on end at home.

Next, Ben's mom introduced the idea that the pacifier and animal needed to stay in bed. She and Ben made a ritual of tucking the animal (with pacifier) into bed each morning. If Ben wished to use the pacifier during the day, it would be in bed - where his animal needed to stay for animal's comfort and snooze time.

Once Ben became accustomed to returning to bed to use the pacifier as needed, his mom untied the pacifier during the day time hours and put it up on a high shelf in the bedroom, retying to his animal at night. If the pacifier was needed during the day, he would ask for it, and they would snuggle into bed during its use. Day time use became less and less frequent, and eventually faded away altogether.

Each evening Ben's mom continued to tuck him into bed with the animal and asked him, "Do you want your pacifier tonight or would you like to try sleeping without it?" One night the time came when he asked for it, looked at it for a while, and then handed it back to his mom. He then presented her with a question, "If I change my mind, will you get it down for me?" "Yes, of course I will," his mom replied. But he never asked for it again... It lived on his shelf for many months to come - there just in case he needed it, for the security of knowing it was there should the time come. And Ben's weaning from this comfort item was complete - without tears, fears, or the introduction of anxiety. ❤


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4 comments:

  1. A very excellent post. Raising kids and raising kids peacefully are two different things and we as parent, fail to follow the later approach.

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  2. This is great! I wish I'd had this idea 6years ago, with my one bink user:/

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  3. do we know how old this child was??

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    1. I don't know how old this child was specifically, but I did talk with the mom when it was done and saw photos - I believe he was about 3-4 years old.

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