Pacifier Plight: Pulling the Plug

I talked a lot about why we opted for pacifiers and how much we loved them in ‘To Pacifier or Not to Pacifier’, but figuring out how to un-pacifier is the tricky part.  Before I was a mom to two pacifier reliant babies I had lots of theories about the type of mom I would be.  I was definitely going to be the mom that would pull the plug on their first birthday.  I was the mom whose children would have perfect teeth and whose children could calmly work through their emotions without the aid of a pacifier. By about 9 months, I realized that this was clearly a fantasy world. 

In reality, I was the mom with two screaming babies multiple times a day. The mom who had pacifiers stashed in every room so they were never far from reach. The mom who threw 3-4 WubbaNubs in each crib for nap, in hopes that they would succumb to sleep before they tossed them all out.  The mom who kept pushing back her fantasy deadline.  Pacifiers were my lifeline. I was worried about the extra fits, the tears, how they would soothe, and most importantly, how they would sleep through the night. I was the mom who had guilt about letting them keep the pacifiers but anxiety about pulling them.  

As you may have guessed, by the time 1 year rolled around, I pushed my deadline back to 2 years old.  My main fear was that they would transition to sucking their fingers.  No judgements for parents of finger suckers. I just vividly remember how awful it was to stop sucking my own thumb. Thus, my dream was to pull the pacifier one night and have it be over.

At 13 months, we had our first dental appointment. We got kudos for brushing teeth, not giving a bottle before bed anymore, and for not giving them juice. Then came the dreaded pacifier question.  I felt ashamed and was worried about how my fears of pulling the pacifier could be affecting their bite.  Thankfully, they only had 2 bottom front teeth, so there was no way to really see how big of an impact the pacifier was having.  I sighed a huge sigh of relief and moved on.

About 7 months later we ended up with another dental appointment due to a scheduling error. I still wasn’t ready to pull the pacifiers and I started to get a little anxious about the question I knew was coming. My heart sank this time as the dentist showed me how the pacifiers were affecting their bites.   I felt like crying but didn’t have time. The girls were already 20 minutes late for a nap and we had a 20 minute car ride between us and their cribs.  To keep them awake I stuck them in their car seats without their pacifiers and I took off.  Much to my dismay (and excitement), both of them fell asleep on the way home anyway.

They fell asleep without their Wubbas! They did it! I didn’t think they could. I didn’t think they were ready.  But maybe, just maybe, they were more ready than I.  I unloaded them from the car and was hiding all the wubbas under my shirt on the way up the stairs as they trailed after me.  I probably looked like a crazy woman, but my adrenaline was through the roof.  As I put them in their cribs they both signed to me that they wanted their Wubbas. Fortunately, their sign for Wubba was the same as their sign to eat, so I played dumb with about 9 Wubbas under my shirt as I said, ‘Oh sorry honey, it’s not time to eat’.  Then I ran out of there. 

 

Yes, they screamed.  Yes it was hard. But I knew that they would stop and that they would be okay. Within about 15 minutes they were passed back out.  During their nap I went through every other room in the house and found every last hidden pacifier.  I even cut the 2 toy pacifiers off of their stuffed animals. By the time I gathered everything up, I seriously had a gallon sized Ziploc stuffed full of pacifiers and Wubbas which I tucked safely out of view in the coat closet.

That afternoon we worked through our fights and tantrums without Wubbas.  It wasn’t as easy as it was with a pacifier, but we did it.  Come bedtime we did the same routine.  I tucked them in, read them a book and when they signed for their pacifiers, I just said it wasn’t time to eat.  This time they only cried for about 10 minutes.  With each successive nap or bedtime they cried less and less. Within a week or so, they had even mostly stopped asking for their pacifiers.  We had successfully done it!

I’m not going to lie and say it was all roses and daisies, but it was way better than I had anticipated. They still slept, they worked through their falls and fights without them, and we even made it through pacifier-free road trips. That first long 5-hour road trip came about 1 week after pulling the plugs and they were a whole new level of crabby that day. I was actually taking the gallon bag of wubbas to a friend of mine and it sat there taunting me in the passenger seat. Despite the silent taunting, I stayed strong. After about an hour of fussing they fell asleep. At that point, as I enjoyed the sweet sound of silence, I celebrated!

 

As you can tell, I fell into pulling the pacifier sooner than planned. In fact, I hadn’t had a plan at all. So now that I’ve fumbled through it I have a couple pieces of advice and words of encouragement for you.

  1. They may be more ready than you think they are. I hadn’t thought they could sleep without their pacifier, but they had also never tried to sleep without one.
  2. You’re the mom and can do what you think is best.  (If you feel you need to wait a little while, wait. You’re the boss!)
  3. There will be tears. If you pull it fast or pull it slow, at 6 months or 3.5, there will probably be tears. I recommend putting on some music and/or grabbing a glass of wine. 
  4. A plan might be nice.  I can’t say for sure, but I’d guess that talking about it and having a plan is better than my spur-of-the-moment decision.  My sister talked about it to her son and then let him still have the animal part of his Wubba which offered some comfort.
  5. I’d recommend doing it before they talk if you can.  I felt that it was easier to play dumb and pretend I didn’t know what they were signing.  But, I suppose whether they talk or not, you can just tell them ‘No’.
  6. Good Luck! 

I’d love to hear any of your personal success stories, tips, or ideas.  Please share them by commenting below. 

Also for those that are wondering, I’m happy to report that we recently had their third dental visit, (one year after pulling their pacifier) and their bites have already corrected.

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