Monday, January 10, 2011

Pitching the Paci: or My Child May Go to College with a Pacifier

Please help! I think that my soon-to-be 4-year-old is in need of an intervention (or maybe I am just watching too much reality TV).  Unfortunately, her addiction is not to booze, drugs, or sex; it is something much more embarrassing and much more addicting: The pacifier.  Binky, Paci, Dummy, Sucky, Nuk, Plastic Plug, Chupe, whatever you call it- for nearly the last four years it has been Elana's drug of choice.

Before I had children, and even while Elana was still an infant, I swore that I would never let my child walk around with that horrid piece of plastic in her mouth past her first birthday.  I readily judged parents who immediately stuck the paci plug in their toddler's mouth each time he falls on the playground or starts to scream.  However, nearly four pink and purple birthday parties later, Elana still clutches that small piece of plastic as though it is made of diamonds, and eagerly awaits bedtime when she can snuggle up with her one true love.  

Obviously the problem lies much more with us, her parents, than it does with Elana.  I willingly admit that Ted and I are terrified to take it away.  If I remove it from her tender little hands, will she ever sleep again?  More importantly, will we ever sleep again?

The pediatric dentist has given us ample warning that the paci is interfering with her bite; her front top teeth do not meet the bottom ones.  After her 3-year-old dental check-up, the dentist told Elana that she was too old for a paci and that she could take them to a store to "buy" a new toy.  Elana thought that this was a fantastic idea and eagerly traded all five pacis that she slept with (she had one in the mouth, one in each hand, and two more for good measure) for five 2.5-inch-tall plastic Disney Princesses.  That night, an hour after bedtime, Elana let out a small pathetic cry, then a much louder demanding wail.  "Mommy, I don't need Ariel, I need just one paci!" Exhausted and frustrated, we caved.

Some may ask why I am so desperate to rid our lives of the paci. Here are a few reasons why the paci has to go:
  1. Speech: Many pediatricians say that the use of a pacifier can lead to speech delays.  This concern led me to stop the use of daytime pacifying by 10 months.  I reasoned that it was fine for sleeping, since they shouldn't be talking anyway. 
  2. Dental: Prolonged use of the pacifier can push the front teeth out so that they do not meet the bottom teeth.  Not only does this affect the bite, but can lead to speech difficulties (like lisps). Elana has developed a slight, but very apparent, lisp.
  3. Over-dependence: Dependence on anything can lead to trouble.  Just take one look at our predicament.  I may jokingly compare her habit to that of a drug addict, but it truly is her first compulsion.
Now, with Elana's fourth birthday rapidly approaching all parties involved, with the exception of Elana herself, agree that it's time to begin rehab.  Still, Ted and I are petrified.   I decided to ask some of my friends for advice.

It was the night before Christmas when Katie and her husband decided to do-in with their daughter's paci.  The pediatric dentist had given the standard disapproving speech and they were realizing that the toddler's "pathological dependency" on it had changed their own outlook on the pacifier- it was no longer a tool to calm the tot, but a chore to know where it was at all times.  Before going to bed, they gathered all the pacifiers in the house and left them in a bag for Santa to give to all the new babies.  At first the child complied, but when the reality of the situation set in, she began to plead and negotiate with Santa, offering all of her toys for just one pacifier.  She even wanted to go to the North Pole to discuss this face-to-face.  In the end, she fell asleep and only asked for it a few more times in the coming days, but never at night.

When Nicole's daughter turned three they had a big talk about how big girls don't use pacifiers and made a reward chart where if the child slept for one week without the paci, she would get the bottle of adult perfume that she had been desiring.  The plan worked well and the daughter received her toilet water.  Sadly, three weeks after the successful endeavor, the youngster suffered from pneumonia and a nonstop cough, and the paci was reintroduced to allow everyone in the house some sleep.  Nearly six months later the paci was still a prominent fixture in the child's mouth.  One day Nicole became so frustrated with her threenager that she took the paci and pretended to chuck it out the window.  From then on the daughter was too horrified to ever ask for it again.

Laura worried that her preschooler would no longer nap without the binky, waited until her 4th birthday to pitch it.  After much resistance, and howling at the top of the stairs, the daughter relented after visiting her pediatrician for her “well-child” check-up.  The doctor told her, in a strong authoritative tone, that she was no longer able to have a paci, and that she was now officially a big girl.  After that, she stopped asking for it, however she had difficulty falling asleep and many night wakings in the months that followed. 
I then searched the internet for more tips to make this change more pleasant for all of us.  These are my Top Ten Tips to Tossing the Dummy:
  1. The phase out: Limit paci time to only nap and bed time.  Then use it only before bed as a wind down tool while reading stories.  Then toss it.
  2. The doctor: Slyly inform the doctor or dentist that you are in need of help to break the nasty habit.  Usually the physician is more than happy to offer assistance and will sit the child down for a firm diatribe about paci use and big girls.  The power of authority can be very persuasive.  
  3. Pass them on: Bring them to the pediatrician for the new babies. 
  4. Substitute: Trade the pacifier for another attachment object, like a stuffed animal or a blankie.  Unfortunately my child never really attached herself to anything that wasn't made by Avent.
  5. Just the tip: Gradually (one night at a time) cut off the tip of the pacifier until it's unusable. 
  6. Goodbye paci party: Throw a party, complete with cake and helium balloons and let the pacis float away tied to the ribbon attached to the balloon. 
  7. Currency: Allow the kid to use the pacifiers to make a purchase at a store.  Take her to the Disney Store and let her run amok through commercialized childhood at the max.
  8. The Paci Fairy: In the middle of the night this magical pixie sneaks into the toddler’s room and robs the sleeping child of all her pacifiers.  In exchange, the fairy offers a gift to keep the child from total collapse.  This present is often a much-desired toy for which the tot has been longing.
  9. Peer Pressure: Find an older, admired child to taunt your kid into submission.  Humiliation, when applied appropriately  can be quite useful!
  10. Give-Up: Find another dentist that approves of 10-year-olds with dummies and start a savings account to pay for the orthodontist bills.
With only twenty-seven more days before she turns four, and knowing Elana's tremendous will power, we may simultaneously try tips 2, 4, 5, and 7.  I will keep you all abreast on our progress, or if Elana decides that her addition to sucking on plastic nubs is more important than her teeth.  However, if all goes according to plan and our lives become paci-free, I may still always worry that if she ever becomes a raver, she may fall off the wagon.


  1. "Peer Pressure: Find an older, admired child to taunt your kid into submission. Humiliation, when applied appropriately can be quite useful! " this MIGHT actually work.

  2. For Molly, the older child seemed to be the inspiration. One night at bedtime she asked if Saila (7yr old friend) had a paci, we said "no, she is a big girl" and she said she didn't need hers anymore and headed off to bed! We were sitting there waiting for the wail, but at 9pm, still nothing. We went to check on her and she was out like a light. Has never asked for it again. I do think the reason it was so easy is that she also has a soft bear that she can not be parted from, now this bear will be will her on her wedding night I am sure of it!

  3. so about speech i dont think it has any impact(at leats in my family) daughter never ever stops talking and she has been a pacifier junky for 3.5 years.
    Cheers, Nicole!

  4. #9 worked to potty train Jackson. He refused and kept having 'accidents' which I think were on purpose. Then we went on vacation with a family that had a 4 year old. The boy kept asking why Jackson was wearing diapers. When we got home Jackson potty trained himself!

    Jackson has never taken a binky, but Dylan is a definite addict. I will be referring back to this post in a few months. I am determined to rid him of it by his 2nd birthday. Does Maisy take one? Good luck Rhiana!

  5. I have a perfect solution!

    throw away her paci & buy some earplugs!

    See? Easy! You can thank me later. ;)

  6. Ours was EJ's 3rd bday and we gave it to a baby friend. That night she demanded for it back but we stuck the night out and she has been paci free since. Its hard.

  7. Dear "subdigital". I know, you are right. That is our general plan on her fourth birthday. However, her bedroom shares a wall with ours and she likes to bang her feet against said wall when truly frustrated. No amount of earplugs and white noise machines can cancel that. I think that I will move into the basement.

  8. Here's an idea. Save the money it would cost you to bribe Elana with Disney princess dolls and let her keep the paci. Not only will it save you from sleepless nights and headaches but with the money you save you can afford more Dentist visits... Baby teeth fall out anyway. By the time she starts having big girl sleepovers and her friends see the paci, they'll taunt her about it until she gives it up. Problem solved =]

    Or Ted might be happy by the fact that if she never gives it up she'll never have a boyfriend =P

    There are still worst things than paci addiction right?

  9. back to the peer pressure thing.. never ever works with Poppy... "Poppy why don't you put your head underwater like Elana does"? No, mommy, Elana is a big girl and I am little so I don't need too" What?? she is always saying she is a big girl.. go figure.. thankgod poppy never took a dummy as I would be in your predicament now!

  10. You can do it! Peer pressure - we let Jag see Super Nanny telling another kid they were too big and he gave it up a few weeks later, his idea. He was about 3.5. We made Jag a special sleep music play-list, because it does really help them fall asleep so you have to address that if they are a difficult sleeper.

    Also our dentist was not worried about pacis. He says that their teeth can move quickly as the palate is malleable when they are young.