Breaking the Paci Habit

Close up of young girl sucking on pacifier

Unaltered Image. Raúl A., CC License.

I understand that as my kids get older, particularly teenagers, they’ll like me less and less. How they could like their parents less than the day they took their beloved pacifiers away, I can’t even imagine.

I know; we were late to the ballgame on this one. Our twins are 2½ years old. We should’ve broken the paci habit a year ago. Maybe even more. But we were all sleeping so well. I like sleep.

But the time had come.

At first we tried the casual approach: “How about we sleep with no paci tonight?”

“No. I want paci.”

“OK.”

Then we gave ourselves a deadline. The night of the deadline, my husband and looked at each other and knew the feeling was mutual. We chickened out.

One day I found some clearance toys and bought two for each kid. Our son tried it for one night, so we gave him a bucket of plastic animals. Our daughter took one look at the menagerie, had a moment of jealousy, and got over it.

That night, our son took his paci back. Fail.

The pacifiers now looked like they went through the garbage disposal and I wasn’t buying more. That’s when I pulled out the big guns: a Doc McStuffins doctor kit and a garbage truck with flashing lights.

Our daughter was the first one to take the bait. I showed her the kit and told her if she sleeps all night with no paci, she could have the toy in the morning.

I’ve never seen her move so fast. She ran to her room, pointed to the box with her pacis, marched it into the kitchen and set it on the table. It was quite a to-do. My husband and I cheered her on the entire way.

That night, she jumped in bed (unheard of) and didn’t make a peep until the morning. I went in to get her out of bed and the first words out of her mouth were, “Doctor Stuffins?”

“Yes!”

That night, however, we realized we failed to help her understand that this was permanent. A tantrum ensued.

Her brother wanted no part of that. He stuck to his paci.

Each day after that got easier. After a week, she started asking why Brother still had a paci. It was time to pull the trigger again. Her brother didn’t go for the wait-and-earn-it approach. He’s more of an instant gratification guy. So, we took a risk and said that he can sleep with the garbage truck, but not his paci.

Worked like a charm.

Today, we are a pacifier-free house. It was a little rough going for about a month until everyone’s sleep patterns settled down again, but we’re back to getting some good sleep.

Now for the next challenge: transition to big-kid beds.

– Rebecca Calappi, Publications Coordinator at Beaumont Health System and adoptive parent of multiples

2 Responses to “Breaking the Paci Habit”


  1. 1 Amanda Douglas September 4, 2014 at 9:29 am

    We are really late to the game! My 2nd daughter is 3 and we are having trouble breaking her of the paci habit. Our oldest is 5, just started kindergarten and never took a paci. So, this is all new territory for us. We should have broken the habit 2 years ago, but just like you, we LOVED sleeping and this little didn’t sleep through the night until she was 2. So, I am going to try your trick, buy something, put it on top of the fridge and tell her she can her paci, or the new toy. We will see how it goes!

  2. 2 Anonymous September 4, 2014 at 9:57 am

    My daughter was over the 2 year old mark as well. With a brand new brother in the house, we felt our decision to wait was justified. Wink, Wink. Basically we kept “chickening out” too. We ended up using a deadline date of when we would “say good-bye to the paci.” As the days approached, we reminded our daughter of the big day. We framed it as an exciting day. When the day came, it was one of her bravest toddler days. She threw it in the garbage all by herself. I had to hide my tears…feelings of joy, but a little sadness too.


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