DITCHING THE SOOTHERBaby
Babies are born with a sucking reflex. They begin sucking their thumbs in utero- some are even born with tiny sucking blisters on their thumbs! Sucking is incredibly comforting to newborns. You’ve probably read conflicting information on soothers (when is the best time to introduce a soother? Should you at all? When should you take it away?), and it is all a bit overwhelming.
If giving your baby a soother or a pacifier has worked for you, great. But the time will come where you are ready to say, “bye bye” to the soother. That is a personal choice, but there is research that suggests the longer you hang on to the soother, the more there is likelihood of dentition issues, like a higher palate or overbite. If you notice your little one is experiencing frequent ear infections, it may be the soother. Research shows a soother can increase the incidence of ear infections. Same with night time wakeups- if you are waking multiple times a night to give the soother back, it may be time to consider ditching it. If you are ready to get rid of it, here are some tips on making it a smoother transition.
How old is your baby?
If your little one is under the age of one, it may be easier to lose the soother cold turkey. That may bring on the cold sweats for you, but it is usually surprisingly easier for babies to adjust. Scarier for parents! Babies older than six months can safely have a lovie in their crib. Something to snuggle (with no small parts) can provide a lot of comfort for little ones. Help your little one build an attachment to a new lovie by feeding her with it, rubbing it on her face as she feeds. Take it with you everywhere you go for a week or so and you will find your baby paying more attention to it. Then take the soother away and she will have gained attachment and comfort from something else.
If your little one is older, closer to toddlerhood it may be beneficial to set boundaries around the soother. Take baby steps. If he is using it for sleep and all day, start by allowing it only at home, but not on outings. Then progressively build more stringent boundaries. Like only at bedtime and naptime, then only bedtime. Little steps can be less overwhelming for a toddler.
Like mentioned above, for babies help them build an attachment to a lovie, then trade in the soother. For older children, read books on getting rid of their soother, like “no more pacifier for piggy” and pump them up for the trade in. Take them to the store and let them choose a toy in exchange for the soother.
Mail it… or not
Sometimes saying goodbye to the soother helps toddlers make the association that is gone. Knowing they aren’t in the house makes it easier to understand that they are really gone. Try decorating a letter to the soother fairy, let them color and use stickers. Explain that the soother fairy gives them to babies to use when big kids don’t need them anymore. Put his soothers in an envelope along with his letter and let him mail it at the mailbox. If you don’t think your toddler would handle that well, try stuffing it in a toy instead. Take him to “build a bear” and let him stuff his beloved soother inside the bear. Let him use this for comfort at night as an alternative to his sucky.
The timing needs to be right for your family. Don’t take the soother away because you feel pressured to from a friend or family member. Do it when it works for you and your little one. Be patient as he adjusts to life without his binky. Plan fun activities for that first week to help distract and keep his mind off needing it. Be easy on yourself and your little guy as you move through this stage together.