I dread this. Every single minute of it. Taking away a pacifier from a toddler has got to be on my top 50 things I dislike the most list. I always wait too long but the fact of the matter is, I can't imagine quietness without it. Nevertheless, it was time to take my son Hudson's away.
We learned so much from our daughter Riley's traumatic release of her pacifier. At the time, she was a little older (2.5) then Hudson (1.5) and in a big girl bed. So we knew with Hudson we wouldn't let it get to that point again. With Riley there was no game plan. I literally grabbed it out of her mouth one day, threw it on top of my tv mantel and never touched it. I told my husband it would be a rough night but a rough two weeks was more like it. It was awful. The feelings of her as a newborn being up all night haunted me. Nothing would settle her, including myself. But after three nights of being awake, Riley finally slept all night. Naps - not so much. But we made progress each day.
So as you can imagine, our fears grew as the time approached to take Hudson's pacifier away. This time my husband and I made a detailed game plan. Here is what we did:
We marked it on the calendar and made sure we didn't make too many plans during the evenings.
We only gave him the pacifier during bedtime and naps, never outside the crib. This allowed Hudson to transition in the easiest way possible. The more he used it, the harder it would have been.
I gave Hudson clear warning all day that we would be taking his pacifier away for bedtime. I am not quite sure if this really did anything but I made sure he knew it was coming.
The day of training, we made a fun chart that would allow him to place a sticker for each time he slept without his pacifier. If he went seven days without it, he was able to get a reward at the end. He wanted a fish. So I drew a fish in the last box and if he had a sticker for each day leading up to the fish, we would go and get one. Hudson was going to sleep one way or the other so the sticker chart was just an extra bonus. But it actually helped us out tremendously! He would wake up and say "sticker, sticker" and would rush to the door and look at it. Best distraction ever!
As much as we distracted him that first night with the fish and the stickers, he wanted his pacifier. He looked around his crib for it and asked me where it was. I reminded him that there wouldn't be a pacifier anymore but maybe a fish if he went to sleep. Stepping out of the room, the cries blasted away like an alarm sounding off. Pure heartbreak. We went in after 7 minutes and quickly realized we couldn't do that again. He was hysterical. I decided I wouldn't make any more checks. A very hard decision but he was overstimulated by me, so I had to remove "me". It took everything in me to not rescue him out. But after 18 minutes, there was silence. I watched him on the monitor as he got cozy with his blankie and two minutes later, asleep.
Every time Hudson was in that crib, I had to do the exact same thing each time. Remind him about his fish and stickers, give him kisses as I laid him down with his blankie, and run out of that room fast. Each day got better and better. Truthfully, it was so hard to not give him his pacifier during his naps. He would cry for 15 minutes and I knew if I would just give it to him, he would fall fast asleep. But I had to be strong. Stick to my plan because it was working.
It's been three weeks since we removed Hudson's pacifier and the crying has reduced significantly. He may huff and puff for one or two minutes during his nap, but other then that he has soothed himself quietly each night. Two nights ago he was actually singing to sleep. My heart fluttered. It was a night and day experience between my two kids training. The earlier the better. It helped so much that he was still in his crib and couldn't tell me how upset he was like Riley had. Overall, yes it was hard but I am free of a PACIFIER!!!! YAY!!!
Hudson with his fish "Bubbles". He loves his fish and hasn't mentioned his pacifier since!