Call it a pacifier. Call it a binky. Just don’t call it gone.
That’s pretty much my munchkin’s attitude as we approach the age when it’s time to separate him from his favorite nighttime companion.
This day has been a long time in coming. Elijah, who will turn 2 next month, has had something in his month since the moment he was born. I meant this literally — the doctor delivered him with his hand in his mouth.
It wasn’t long before a nurse took that tiny hand and replaced it with a bright blue binky. Contrary to what I’d read, she advised us that there’s no crime in letting an orally fixated kid have a pacifier, especially if you want to get some sleep.
Fast forward to now, when a pacifier regularly eases the little guy to sleep. Of course, Elijah is convinced he can’t live without it. At least, I think that’s the argument he’s making when he cries, screams, and calls out my name any time I try to put him to bed without one.
I’ve seen many kids older than Elijah walking around with pacifiers — even when they’re awake — and so it’s easy to wonder: What’s the harm? But according to an expert quoted in Time magazine, pacifier use during these early years can lead to dental issues, speech problems, and middle-ear infections. Plus, it seems very childish, no?
My wife and I have thought about making Elijah stop cold turkey, but that would require willpower. So I started looking into other strategies.
Some people tell their kids that a fairy collects children’s pacifiers and gives them to other babies in need. Actually, it seems that a lot of people try this method. There are at least two authoritative books on the subject — The Binky Fairy and Goodbye Binky: The Binky Fairy Story — and a website, www.nomorebinky.com, where your child can watch a video of the fairy.
This website offers 10 ideas to help your baby break the habit, including the suggestion of making the binky undesirable by dipping it in coffee. Normally this might have some potential, but given Elijah’s mom’s unnatural love for coffee, this could just be transitioning him from one addiction to another.
Perhaps the most common suggestion is to cut a hole in the pacifier, making it no fun to suck on anymore. Theoretically, this will lead children to reject the binky on their own.
My wife’s strategy has been more subtle and unscientific. She slowly has been encouraging Elijah to build up a cohort of pals that he brings to bed with him. First there was Bear, a soft teddy that has been around since Day One but which received little love until recently.
Now there’s a slumber party every night. Bear is joined by Mickey Mouse, Halloween Dog, Yellow Duck, Snuggle Puppy, Zebra, and Furry Red Monkey. I like to think that this will be an example of peer pressure at work, since none of his cribmates have pacifiers. More realistically, the hope is that he’ll forget about the binky while he’s got his arms around these little guys and finding a different sort of comfort at bedtime.
It’s completely untested, but it provides a positive approach that doesn’t involve lying to my son or messing with his taste buds. I just hope this works. Otherwise, I may have to start looking for adult-sized binkies.