Breaking the Binkie Habit

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Sometimes pacifiers suck. Credit: Corbis

Pacifiers are a mom's best friend, until they're not.

Whether binkie, blanket or thumb, babies need an outlet for their natural urge to suck. This isn't necessarily a bad thing, as it enables infants to self-regulate while offering comfort and security. But if you feel like your child will never yield to the power of the pacifier, know this: Most children discontinue non-nutritive sucking between the ages of 2 and 4, says the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). If your child is 4 or older and still sucking away, this is one of those instances where peer pressure is a good thing.

As a grandfather of four, Dr. Charles Shubin, director of pediatrics at Mercy FamilyCare, a division of Family Health Centers of Baltimore, knows a thing or two about getting kids to stop undesirable behaviors.

If you're looking for a magic bullet, there is none, he says. What he does recommend, however, is a process he calls staging, which is essentially a series of progressively harder rules. For example, tell your child that she can only use a pacifier in the house. Once that rule is well established, limit pacifier use to a particular room, such as her bedroom. Next you limit it by time -- only at night, for example. These small steps will ensure that behavior modification endures.


Shubin admits taking away the pacifier isn't easy and that parents should expect to be tested. After all, learning about limits and boundaries is the natural course of a child's development.

"The issue isn't the kid," he says. "It's us."

Only use positive reinforcement, or this method won't work, Shubin advises. Offer praise when she is not using the pacifier at a time or a place she normally would. If you see her using a pacifier at a prohibited time or place, don't berate her. Instead, actively ignore the behavior. For example, say something like this out loud to no one in particular: "I can't wait until Sophie stops sucking on her pacifier because I really want to read her favorite Dr. Seuss books with her."

"If there's one thing kids hate, it's to be ignored," Shubin says.

There will be times when you'll want to give in "just this once." Don't do it. Resist.

"Kids notice every little inconsistency," Shubin says.

Related: Baby Josie Duggar Finally Goes Home From the Hospital

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Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.