When my oldest son was a baby he used a pacifier which we called his “tetcha.” As a newborn it was just a tool for helping him sleep. But, before long we discovered he had a kidney problem and the round of doctors and hospitals began. Soon the tetcha wasn’t just a thing that he used for sucking. It became his lifeboat in a world filled with strange places, people and needles.
As a toddler he knew when a trip to the hospital was imminent and did his own packing by pulling out every hidden tetcha and throwing them in his little suitcase. Our boy hid pacifiers better than squirrels in the fall.
When our boy was about three, and still kept his tetcha in his mouth except when he was eating, the dentist told us he had to be weaned. The pacifier was keeping his teeth from growing in properly. He was right. When our son smiled there was a visible arch where his top front teeth and bottom front teeth had been kept from coming all the way in.
I expected a huge battle when I told my son it was time to give up the tetcha. It was, after all, his best friend. But I was blessed. My son was the most agreeable baby I’d ever met. He was always cheerful, even in the hospital, and almost weirdly obedient. He took the tetcha from his mouth and put it in my hand. He then went and gathered all the tetchas he’d stashed in some pretty clever hiding places and turned them over. We had only two incidents of him waking up crying and he went right back to sleep when I rubbed his back.
Fast forward about thirty years and we’re about to do the pacifier weaning thing again. Our youngest grandson will be here in two weeks and he’s in the midst of giving up his own tetcha. Fortunately it seems to be a case of like father, like son. Our son told me that our grandson has all but given up using the tetcha. Right now it’s just at bedtime and nap time and he willingly hands it over as soon as he wakes up. I don’t think we’re going to have a rough time.
Although it’s inevitable giving up a pacifier can be very hard on both baby and parents. The advice out there is overwhelming and conflicting. I even read one bit of advice that said to tell the toddler the pacifiers are going to be recycled to be made into tires and toys. I don’t know about your toddler but I find it difficult to believe that a 2 1/2 year old is so environmentally conscious that giving up his best friend to become a radial tire is going to be easy or even understandable.
I do think that a few days warning that the pacifier is going is appropriate. One article stated that the pacifier should be just taken from the toddler and he should be told that the relationship between him and his pacifier is over. That struck me as too sudden and rather mean; it’s like breaking up with someone with a text. Although the child may not be able to grasp the concept of “In two days…” he’ll at least understand it’s coming.
And I like the idea of weaning first from the times when the child doesn’t really need the comfort of the pacifier. If we’re at the park he doesn’t need it just stuck in his mouth like an oral vestigial tail. But going to sleep requires feeling relaxed so letting him have it just at those times for a little while is a good compromise. Then, as he gets more accustomed to being without it in his mouth, it is easier to let it go. First he can go without it at nap time and then give it up at night.
Nearly everything in a child’s life is new and giving up the pacifier is a big milestone. Stressing that big boys and big girls don’t use pacifiers seems to make a big impression. Having older siblings to stress that they don’t use them is very helpful. After all, a big brother or sister who “shows off” by not sucking on a pacifier can be powerful incentive.
Above all, I know that patience is going to be crucial. This is a huge milestone in my grandson’s life and he’s doing part of it hundreds of miles from home. But he’s so much like my son that I think we’ll get through this critical time without too many tears. And he probably won’t cry much either.