Since my twin boys turned one-year-old, I’ve felt we should lose the pacifiers for them. Though our boys were never what I’d consider addicted to them, I wanted to wean them off before they got too attached. I was worried that usage of them would lead the boys to dental problems, ear issues, and becoming weird older kids who still used pacifiers. I was ready to ditch them, but my wife had other plans.
My wife doesn’t think it’s a problem for the boys to still use them periodically, especially at nap time on weekends. Since they started daycare at about six months old, they have had limited pacifier use since the school doesn’t really allow them. They still take them periodically in the car though, when waking up very unhappily, and when going down for a nap. Worst to me was the morning times when they would wake up before 5:30 and we’d give them pacifiers to get them to sleep in a few more minutes so we could also get a snooze in. I knew this was a horrible habit to form, but when I’m only a quarter awake at 5 am and all I want to do is get back to sleep, I don’t make the best long-term decisions. So the pacifier use continued, and in some cases got worse.
I first broached the subject of eliminating their use of pacifiers a bit after their first birthday. I figured with them limiting use at school, we should continue to reduce their dependency on them at home. My wife agreed in principle, but didn’t think it was a big deal for them to use them, in her view, rarely. I thought we’d work together to limit use, but with this reaction, I knew I’d need to lead the charge. I started determining my strategy to keep them distracted and get them off of pacifiers cold turkey.
With a few nights of painful bedtimes, we were actually able to get them to fall asleep at night consistently without any pacifiers. The first few nights were torture with screaming, yelling, and throwing tantrums, and the boys weren’t happy either. Eventually we found a routine though that saw them regularly getting ready for bed after getting changed and reading a book or two. Now that they are nearly two, they won’t go to bed without saying goodnight to the animals outside and waving out the window, but at least no pacifiers are used.
In the car on their way to and from daycare, they rely on pacifiers less often thanks to a mountain of toys they take with them. It still doesn’t always work, and I get frustrated when I feel like I would have waited longer to see if they could soothe themselves without pacifiers before handing them over. Because of our difference in opinion about the severity of depending on the pacifier, she gives in much faster than I do. We also haven’t been able to wean them off in the mornings, mostly because of our own inability to let them wake up before we are ready since we both love to get every possible minute of sleep. We’ve made progress on reducing them for naps on weekends though thanks to similar efforts as bedtime, though sometimes there’s just no stopping their crying otherwise.
I worry about the repercussions of allowing them to continue using pacifiers, even briefly and occasionally as they approach two-years-old. I imposed their two year birthday as the milestone in which they needed to be rid of them, otherwise they’ll still be using them when they turn thirty. Part of me also thought our inability to reduce their dependency would result in them growing up without impulse control and becoming sociopaths or worse. I also thought there were tons of health reasons not to let them continue, from increased ear infections to dental problems. More importantly though, I felt that without giving them up, the boys would never learn to self-soothe and regulate their own emotions.
My wife thought I was crazy on all of these accounts. Though she indulged me on trying to limit use, she didn’t agree that the situation was dire and so never forced the issue as strongly as I tried. This was the root of our disagreement in approaches. In order to try to sway her to my side, I decided to get some cold, hard facts to prove why they needed to be weaned off immediately or we’d end up with weirdos. It didn’t go quite according to plan.
Reading up on research on pacifier use, I found that as long as they aren’t constantly taking pacifiers and sucking, the health risks and emotional detriments are very limited. Doctors recommend reducing usage by six-months to reduce the likelihood of dental issues like teeth forming poorly, and ear infections from the constant sucking, but as long as children are using them less than a few hours a day, these risks are very low. The boys were actually already using pacifiers at or lower than the suggested rate anyway. While doctors do encourage breaking the habit for children by two, the long term negative effects don’t really appear unless children are still using them at four, a far cry from the timing I was worried about. It turned out my wife was right and that the boys’ pacifier use wasn’t a big deal.
After this, I realized we’d need to compromise to be better parents. While I realized my draconian approach of quitting cold turkey wasn’t necessary or likely to be successful, there were still benefits to reducing use and making that use more exceptional than habitual. Instead of trying to get rid of them, I worked with my wife to make sure we tried numerous other alternatives first when wither child got fussy, especially trying to distract them together. This approach worked to limit use in both the car and at home. We also found music to be a great replacement with family sing-alongs providing enough entertainment to forget about their binkys. On weekends, when the boys would get cranky before taking a nap, instead of handing over the pacifiers, we would let them wave out the window for long minutes or take a book to bed instead. It didn’t always work, but it at least reduced the times we did hand over pacifiers.
Our prolonged war with pacifiers was a great learning opportunity for my wife and I to come together as parents and compromise on differing opinions. Instead of going against each other or having inconsistent approaches with frustrated the boys, we came up with a strategy together that we could both get behind and support with each other. We’ve found having consistent approaches resonates with the boys and by working together, we’ve been able to greatly reduce their dependency. We haven’t eliminated it yet, but we’ve still got two years more than I was aiming for, so I know we’ll get there. My wife even recently agreed that we’d try to hide them away after our upcoming vacation with the boys and see if we could make it permanent.