Ditching the Soother

Tips for a happier transition!
toddler sucking on soother
Todd Kuhns/Shutterstock.com

A pacifier, soother, sucky, soo-soo or whatever you chose to call it can be a great tool in the early months and even as your baby gets a little bit older as a comfort item when they go to bed. Some infants are born with an extreme urge to suck, which is likely when you introduced that soother.

Using a soother is a family decision and it does not have to be considered a negative sleep association. It gets tricky when you are needed to re-plug it all night long but there are ways that you can teach your child to be able to do that on their own.

There will always be some upset when you make the decision to wean them of the pacifier. Choosing the moment that is right for you and your child is important however, we have found it easier to do either before 6 months of age (before they can really protest too much!) or after 18 months (when they can play along with the new program). We’ve outlined a few strategies that can help you along.

Restrict the pacifier to sleep times

We have seen many children who walk around with the soother all day long. This could be damaging to their teeth and language development.

If your child is used to walking around with a soother all of the time, the first step to cutting it out would be to restrict it to sleep times. You can start this transition by keeping the soother in their bed when they wake up. Explain that it will be there for them when it is sleep time. Many times with babies and younger toddlers it is a matter of out of sight, out of mind. When they wake up from their sleep and you go in to get them, encourage them to leave the soother in their bed. They may need a little help from you and may need a few minutes to express their feelings towards it but after a few days of consistency, they will become much more comfortable with the change.

Hint: If they keep going to their crib looking for it during their wakeful hours, it might be more beneficial for you to tuck it away in a drawer where they cannot see it until bedtime.

Cold turkey soo-soo

After you have restricted the soother to sleep times only, cold turkey is one way of completing the process. Ditching the soother all at once may seem harder but it can also make the process a little shorter. Unlike most everything else we try and change, weaning from the soother is a lot harder for children as having it overnight only and not at naps. This can be confusing for them. The cold turkey way may be more effective with younger babies and young toddlers than the older toddler/preschool age group. Remember that it may be a rough few days as they adjust but you will be there to help and support them through it.

Remove with some fun and magic

Taking the soother away does not have to be misery for everyone involved. There are many creative ideas you can use to help them become comfortable with giving it away while making it fun for them. This works wonderfully for older toddlers and preschoolers that have a clear understanding of what is happening. Here are some of the ideas we’ve used, or have seen great success with.

Soother fairy

Leaving the soothers on a special plate, tying them to the tree etc. in exchange for a special gift.

"Pay" with soothers

Have your child pick something out at the store that you know they will really like. Perhaps something that they have been wanting for a little while. Have them pay for it with their soothers.

Leave them for Santa or the Easter Bunny...

Same idea as the soother fairy with leaving them out in exchange for a special toy or surprise. Explain that Santa or the Easter Bunny will then bring them to other babies' houses who need soothers.

Give them to the garbage man!

Have your child wait for the garbage truck with his specially wrapped soothers to give to the garbage collector. This one may be a little harder for some children as throwing them in the garbage vs. donating or giving them away might be more of an emotional challenge however, some little one’s are quite obsessed with trucks in general and would be thrilled with this option.

Cut the tip off or poke a hole?

Often times we hear the advice of cutting the tip of the soother or poking a hole so that the soother becomes less effective. Although it can be a great way of doing it,  there are dangers involved with having your child suck on a broken soother through the night. Instead, you can simply cut it and show them that it is broken. Let them touch it, give it a suck or two so that they can see that it is broken then dispose of it right away to avoid the potential danger.

Introduce another security item to help with the transition

Introducing a security item to replace the soother can help with the transition. A stuffed animal that they can hug or a special blanket to snuggle with can help them adjust to sleeping without the soother.

With any of these ideas, you will want to spend time preparing your child for the changes by casually talking about what will happen while reassuring them that you will help them get through this.

The emotional part of soother withdrawal

It is only natural for your child to show some upset when making the transition from soother to not. Knowing what to expect in terms of behaviour can help you comfort your child and help them through the change. We would really encourage you to help your child understand that they will be sad and they may cry but crying is okay and that you are there and will help when there is crying and upset. Supporting the emotional side of it will help them adjust faster while teaching them that being sad is safe and that you are there to listen and help them through.

We would encourage you to 'listen' to the tears by sitting/cuddling instead of trying to stop them. Once they have offloaded the upset, talk about the special surprise, toy or event and how much fun they are going to have. It may take a couple of nights but be consistent and understanding and your child will adjust easily.

Consistency!

Be consistent! We know it’s going to be hard and you will question whether it is the right time or not but when you take the steps to prepare your child, please follow through. Every time you attempt it and go back to the soother, the harder it will be the next time you try. Be very, very sure that when you do get rid of them; you go through the house, toy box, vehicle, everything to make sure you get rid of all of them. Soothers have a sneaky way of hiding in the most unsuspecting places and the last thing you want to see is your little one snuggled into bed with a soother in their mouth on night 4. Trust us, this is something you only want to do once!