There are two moments that I look back on as the scariest moments so far of my motherhood. The first was almost two years ago when my husband and I drove away from the hospital with our newborn. The second was in late February when I stood in our daughter’s room with a pair of scissors in one hand and the beloved kitty WubbaNub* in the other…and cut off the pacifier.
The funny thing is, I didn’t want to be a mom that depended on the pacifier. Thanks to the instructor of the breastfeeding class we attended before Caroline was born, I was convinced that if we gave her a pacifier before she was 6 weeks old, she wouldn’t eat. But when Caroline was only a few days old, and I was in tears, hormonal, and exhausted, my mom suggested trying to give her a pacifier. Out of desperation, we tried and succeeded for about 5 minutes.
Eventually, Caroline got to the point where she would take a pacifier without too much coaxing. (For what it’s worth, it did not interfere at all with breastfeeding.) And it became one of the best loved tools in our parenting tool box.
Yet, like all good things, reliance on the pacifier had to come to an end. My husband and I knew we wanted to wean Caroline from the pacifier by the time she was two years old, but since she would be getting a baby brother two months after her birthday, we thought it would be best to go earlier as opposed to later. “After we get back in town from Christmas,” we told ourselves.
And then I got really sick.
And then we were trying to get back in the groove after I got well.
And then we both had been so busy that we couldn’t stomach the thought of losing our 12 hours a night of quiet.
I have to give my husband the credit for realizing that there will always be another “and then…”
On the last Friday morning in February, he said it was time. This is how I found myself standing in Caroline’s room doing surgery on the WubbaNub.
The good news is… we have survived so far! And, honestly, it hasn’t been too bad. Here’s how we did it:
Do it cold turkey.
There is no phasing out of the pacifier; it’s all or nothing. Freaking out a little bit when you hear this is normal.
Keep everything else exactly the same.
The night we took away the pacifier, I gave Caroline the WubbaNub with the pacifier cut off. She was confused, but didn’t immediately freak out! That was the only thing different about the bedtime routine that night.
The first time Caroline whimpered and said, “paciiiii,” accompanied by a quivering lip and tear-filled eyes, we almost broke out the back-up pacifier. Almost. Instead we cheerfully said, “I know. It’s sad. But you are such a big girl! And look at how soft kitty still is.” As with all other aspects of toddlerhood, distraction and redirection is essential.
KEEP BEING STRONG.
“Moooooommyyyyyyyy. Daaaaaaaddyyyyyyy! Paaaaaaciiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiii!” We heard this refrain regularly for a half an hour after turning out the light. I highly recommend watching 30 Rock or something of the sort to keep you distracted and amused. We did keep an eye on the monitor to make sure she didn’t get so upset that she threw up or anything crazy like that. But we did not go back into her room.
Praise like crazy in the morning.
Amazingly, Caroline slept all night long without waking up and wanting the pacifier. In the morning, we kept telling her how brave she was and how proud we were that she slept all night without a pacifier. (If Grandma happened to send a new toy the day before, that new toy can automatically become a reward as an added bonus.)
KEEP BEING STRONG.
Nap time was a bit rough the next day as I had been warned it might be. But we followed the same principles above: keep everything else the same, and stay strong. Bedtime that night was still a little rough, but not as much as the night before.
Two days after taking away the pacifier, Caroline started cutting four teeth. Yes, four. The weekend following all of this was Daylight Savings Time and the continuation of cutting four teeth. But if we can survive taking away the pacifier, teething, and Daylight Savings Time within the same week, you can definitely survive it!
*WubbaNubs are the pacifier that has a stuffed animal attached to a soothie-type pacifier. They come in all sorts of different animals and are incredibly adorable in the mouth of your baby.