A Montessori approach to getting rid of a pacifier or dummy
Ok. I confess that there is no Montessori approach to getting rid of a pacifier or dummy. But you are probably reading this because your child does use a pacifier. And you are wanting to get rid of it in a Montessori way: in a way that is respectful to your child, done with love, but that also means that the pacifier will be gone.
Why no pacifier?
In my Montessori training, we learned that babies should ideally not use a pacifier. So if you haven’t started using one, then this is something to consider.
A pacifier can be used to give the parent some quiet, when the child is actually trying to communicate their needs. A pacifier can be used in place of parental care, perhaps rocking and holding your child, if they are distressed. And a pacifier can prevent a child from talking once a pacifier is used throughout the day and not just kept for bed time.
So why use a pacifier?
But all this fails to acknowledge that some parents choose to use pacifiers. Perhaps your baby likes to suck a lot. Perhaps you feel limited being a human pacifier (via the breast or by offering a finger for your baby to suck on). Or perhaps you went on a trip or the baby got sick and they started using it a lot for comfort.
So I’m going to be realistic and instead offer my best advice for getting rid of a pacifier or dummy in a Montessori way. In a way that gives your child what they need, while looking out for opportunities to help your child grow.
When to get rid of a pacifier?
There is no definitive answer as to when to get rid of a pacifier. The earlier you get rid of the pacifier, the easier it will be as the baby will not be as dependent on it.
By two years, the child can get quite attached to a pacifier and can even start to see it as part of themselves. It started being used just for bed time but use has increased during the day too.
So ideally it would be best to get rid of the pacifier in the first 12 or 18 months.
How to get rid of a pacifier?
If your child is using the pacifier during the day for comfort, it is a good idea to begin limiting it to just bed time.
1. When your child wakes, put the dummy into a box that is kept on a high shelf in the bedroom. This will help both you and your child avoid using it to get through difficult moments in the day.
2. If they ask for it, you can tell them that the pacifier is used for bedtime. Offer a cuddle instead, or see below for other ideas how you can help them relax their nervous system.
3. Notice the times of day your child asks for their pacifier, for example, at story time or when they are upset, and offer an alternative instead. For example, at story time they might get a soft toy or book to hug tight instead. When they are upset, we can offer them a cuddle, we can sing a song together, or look out a window to see what is going on.
Get rid of pacifiers completely from the house. Your child will need extra cuddles for a few days or a week, depending on the child. And it is nice to provide alternatives to the child to help them get the release their nervous system needs (see below).
1. Some people pass on the pacifiers to a family with a new baby, “Let’s give our pacifiers to baby Christopher. He needs them now.”
2. Some people post them off to a child who needs them.
3. I’ve heard some people make a small incision in the top of the dummy so it doesn’t feel nice any more. Then you can explain it’s broken and dispose of it in the bin!
4. The funniest I’ve heard of was to put them on a train…I guess if you had a vehicle loving kid, this would probably appeal.
Helping the nervous system to relax
Sucking on a pacifier is often so attractive because it helps the child to relax their nervous system. It is a good idea to work the mouth in other ways or to try these other sensory integration activities various times during the day:
1. Sucking yogurt through a straw
2. Blowing bubbles
3. Holding tight onto a book or soft toy
4. Using a bottle with a straw (change from using bottle teats which keep the sucking reflex strong)
5. Blowing water through a straw to make bubbles
6. Towel rub (brisk) after bath
7. Deep pressure bear hugs
8. Kneading dough
9. Squeezing bath toys
10. Slow and firm back rub
Stick at the change for at least 7 days
It can be easy to try for a couple of days and think that it isn’t working. But actually the first days are the hardest bit. Mark off the days in a place that’s easy to see like your calendar.
I hope these tips help you to get rid of the pacifier. Saying goodbye to your child’s pacifier will mean they are ready for new things.
Good luck! If you have any questions, feel free to email me or post a question on our Facebook page.