Our Journey of Getting Rid of the Pacifier With Our Preschooler

picture of a 4 year old little girl with a pink pacifier in her mouth
Alex Warrack

Alex Warrack

Our daughter LOVED her pacifier from the moment we gave it to her. We were lucky that the pacifier always supported sleep for her and never disturbed it. Because she loved it so much and we are passionate about healthy sleep at our house, we consciously chose to keep the pacifier until our daughter, Addie, turned 4. As her 4th birthday approached, I came up with a plan for getting rid of the pacifier. I also braced myself for potential sleep challenges!

Here’s our story of saying “bye-bye to mom-mom”. Plus what I considered when formulating the plan to support our daughter through this transition. But first, let’s quickly look at…

When To Stop The Pacifier

When to stop the pacifier is a question that every family has to make for themselves. There is no hard and fast rule of exactly when this has to happen. For us, it made sense to wait.

During my sleep consultations with families, we talk a lot about this, especially for babies and toddlers. If you have a young child and you are trying to decide when to stop the pacifier, check out our article The Pacifier and Sleep- Friend & Foe?. In this post, we explore the pros and cons of pacifier usage at different ages to determine when to get rid of the pacifier.

Our Story of Getting Rid of the Pacifier

Weaning From The Pacifier

In the month leading up to Addie’s birthday, we started to reduce the usage of the paci during the day. We worked towards only using her binkie for naptime and at nighttime. We knew that she had self-soothing skills during the day, plus she had us for comfort. We wanted to keep it for sleep until we were finally ready to take it away.

What We Considered Before Getting Rid of the Pacifier

Sometimes as parents, we get an idea or a timeline in our heads and nothing can stop us from moving forward with that plan! From my work as a sleep consultant, I know that there are times when it is easier to make changes and times we should avoid rocking the boat. Specifically, these are the things that I looked at:

  • Healthy: Addie wasn’t sick and if she was we would have delayed until she was better.
  • Sleeping well: Addie was sleeping well prior to this transition. She was even still napping!
  • Calm time period: we looked at our calendars and knew that there were no other major events happening that could disrupt sleep, like:
    • Moving
    • Starting daycare or school
    • The arrival of a new sibling
    • Travel or vacation
    • A big holiday

Making a Fun Trade For the Pacifier

As we got closer to her 4th birthday, it was time to decide how can we make this a fun/fair trade to say goodbye to “mom-mom”.

There are so many ways we’ve heard parents have done this. A couple of cute ideas are the dummy/paci fairy or planting the paci and having lollipops grow in the garden. Instead, we chose an experience that would also give her an alternate comfort object to use once the dummy was gone. We chose the Build-a-Bear swap.

The week before our trip to the mall, my husband and I started to talk about going to Build-a-Bear. We talked about how we were giving “mom-mom” to babies who do not have pacifiers and getting a bear in return.

Addie was all for this big adventure! When the day came, she marched into Build-a-Bear, handed over her “mom-mom” and picked Chase from Paw Patrol and a Unicorn.

The trade-off went great! But I was so nervous she would change her mind and want to trade her new stuffies back for her “mom-mom”. Thankfully that did not happen.

How Getting Rid of the Pacifier Went (spoiler alert – it wasn’t good!)

The first night was challenging, which I expected. I knew we waited much longer than the 3-year timeframe, which is when we normally recommend taking away the pacifier. This meant Addie had a strong sleep association with the binkie for sleep. This was her first time settling to sleep without it since she was a newborn!

Addie needed me more at bedtime to settle. It took her longer to settle to sleep and she woke in the morning earlier than usual. The next day, she stopped napping because she didn’t have her mom-mom and even now her naps are sporadic.

We continued on this path and sleep continued to go off the rails in a big way. Addie was going to bed okay, but she started to wake earlier and earlier. She started waking at 2:30 am saying it was morning time! We were all exhausted!

Sleep Training A Preschooler

I knew I had to get all of us back on track so we could start sleeping again! so I dug inside my sleep consultant’s bag of tricks to come up with a plan. I knew that I needed to re-sleep train Addie, in an age-appropriate way, to help her adjust to changes and get back to healthy sleep habits. So I…

  1. Made sure Addie’s room was conducive to sleep
  2. Created sleep rules and hosted a family meeting to talk about sleep in an age-appropriate way. This prepared her for the changes that were coming. It also let her know how we would respond if she woke at night or early in the morning
  3. Became very consistent and structured with bedtime routine again
  4. Brought bedtime much earlier, especially on the nights she woke a lot or woke early in the morning. She went to bed as early as 6:00-6:30 pm to help her get well-rested again.
  5. Stayed patient. (well as patient as I could be at times! I had to remind myself a lot that she was learning to sleep without her soother for the first time in 4 years).

The Results

I’m happy to report that after a month of being consistent with the above, Addie is back to her normal sleep patterns, aside from her nap which is now sporadic. We are back to being a well-rested family and Addie has adjusted to her new norm of sleeping without mom-mom.

Need Help With Getting Rid of the Pacifier or Sleep in General?

If you feel like you are missing the tools to get rid of the pacifier without sleep blowing up, I’ve got you! Or if you’ve already made the transition and it isn’t going well, I can help! Schedule a discovery call and let’s chat about working together. Your little one can do this and you can too.

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