Giving Up the Pacifier

Advice about getting kids to give up the "passy" as well as a few arguments for allowing kids to keep using the pacifier.

pacifier

 

"We told our son that the Paci Fairy was going to come and take his paci's for kids who needed them and leave him a present in their place. We talked about the paci fairy A LOT before the evening came....that evening, we wrote a note to the paci fiary, left her/ him cookies and a jar with all of the paci's in it. That night we crumbled the cookies to leave crumbs and left him a certificate about not needing the paci's anymore...and the paci fairy left him that scooter he so desperately wanted. He was 3 and he was ready. He was very attached to them as you describe your daughter to be but we knew he was ready when he would start leaving them in odd places...like on the floor instead of in the bed.  It worked like a charm and he never looked back."

"Just one thing to keep in mind...if you have twins coming and she is going to have to share her mommy and spend less time with you basically overnight, you might want to reconsider the timing of giving up the paci. When kids that young have siblings come into their lives they do tend to regress a bit. My son did as did all of his friends when their younger sibs came along...things like potty training, paci use, the need for every lovey that every made it into their beds. I did consult our ped and our dentist (our son started going every year at the age of 2 - he is now 5) and they all said that that it absolutely should go by the age of 3. Perhaps ask your dentist/ ped about the timing etc...Just a thought." 

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“I know you were looking for advice on weaning, but I just wanted to let you know that two of my daughters had pacifiers for nap and night until they were 3 and 4 respectively - when they were ready to say goodbye to the pacifier. Our dentist encouraged us to wait until the girls were ready to give it up rather than we were - otherwise, they might find the thumb - and that's much harder. They are 7 and 5 respectively now and their teeth are fine as well as their psyches! When they were ready - we made a big deal about sending all of their pacifiers (we had several in the crib and bed as well) to the pacifier fairly - who gave them presents (they both gave them up right before they started school in the fall so we talked about all summer). The dentist also made a big deal and gave them presents. Hope that helps.”

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“We went cold turkey with our son during vacation -- we were in India and realized on the train from my grandparents' home to my aunts' home that we had left one behind. We told our son that they were gone and we had no more left and that there was no way to get more. Do you have an upcoming trip planned? Being in a new situation may help.”

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“My experience is that when the paci is the child's lovey no amount of convincing or explaining that they are for babies is going to work until they are old enough to really understand or want something else you are offering ( like a big gift) more. With my older daughter we tried every thing imaginable including giving her main paci to a friend's baby but inevitably no matter how ok she seemed to be with it at the time, when map or bed time rolled around she was a basket case and really did seem sad to not have it close to her. In the end, I gave it back and tried again at 3 years old when she seemed more ready. The paci fairy came and left her a cool gift and then that was that.

When her twin siblings arrived when she was four and she saw them get pacis of their own, she told me how much she still missed hers! The second time around, while I offered pacis to the twins, I also introduced a lovey blanket thing when they were about 4 months old so that hopefully when it's time for my son to wean from the paci, I'm hoping it will happen a bit earlier since I will still have his lovey.

All of that is to say, if she loves it that much and helps her sleep well (especially with twins on the way) I saw don't rock the boat right now.”

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“My daughter has never taken to a pacifier, but my nephew, who is 2 has loved them and can't sleep without them. my sister in law read somewhere about cutting the nipples off, so they can't suck on it, but still have the pacifier to use as a lovey. that has worked great for them.”

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“My experience is that any kind of weaning/training is only difficult if you push the kid to do it way before they're ready. My dsughter weaned, potty trained and gave up the paci much more readily when we 1) worked to some extent with her time table and 2) set a deadline attached to an age and talked a lot about it ahead of time.

In you situation i would delay until the next half or full bithday and talk a lot about how kids that are 2.5 of 3 don't use pacis. Ask her what she might want to sleep with when she's to old for the paci, let her think about that and support whatever she suggests. Maybe use the pacifier fairy or find a baby to "pass them along to." then wind up to the day: 1 month til no more paci, 3 weeks, 6 days, 5 days, etc.

The day after my daughter's burthday i boiled water and she dropped her pacis in to sterilize them to give them to our neighbor. And she said "by by nuki." a neighbor agreed to take them "for her baby" and probably toss them out, but we never got that far, dumping them in the pot was symbolic enough for my daughter).

She was nervous about letting go but accepted that it was coming and more or less went with it.”

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“We just weaned our 3.25 yr old on the weekend, who also only used the pacifier in the bed. It's been tough, but by no means unsustainable, and after 4 days now I feel like we're through the worst (though that said I suspect it will contribute to more wakeups for some time to come). We had the pacifier fairy visit: leave the tin with the pacifiers and some chocolate covered raisins in the alley, come back two hours later and the food and pacifiers are gone and she's left a gift of a bike. I think that narrative and the idea that the fairy's took them to give to some other little baby who needs them (in Iceland or Australia: the details of the story shift) have been helpful, at least when he's sentient. When he's not, and he's half asleep and can't find his pacifier in the middle of the night, there has been some flailing, like someone coming off heroin or something...

So, if we had it to do all over again, I'd wean him earlier. Much earlier; maybe around 1. But I'd add my voices to those saying your daughter has some other really pressing and destabilizing changes to confront. I don't think until we had a second kid (now 10 months old) I'd ever come close to appreciating how disruptive that can prove to child #1. Your daughter is going to be dealing with that two times over. In that sense, the pacifier is the least of your problems! In our case, child #1's sleep was disrupted for a couple of months post-newborn and he still shuns his mom at times, preferring to have me do everything. So I say let her suck away to her heart's content for the foreseeable future.

And one other (unsolicited) thought about child #2's (+3's, though that's outside my ken) arrival: it's really easy to fall into a division of labour where mom looks exclusively after newborn(s) and dad does more to all of child #1. By the time my wife and I took full stock of this our son had already decided the best response to mom not making time for him was to deny her the time anyway. In some respects this is healthy: a rational decision that, because mom is unavailable, I'll transfer my needs to dad, who is available. It's good actually if the child feels they can do that with dad. But in retrospect we both wish we'd done more to counteract the labour division issue. I still do far more #1 care than #2.

Anyway, in your case, it's #2 and #3 which is, as I say, not something I know much about.”

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“My daughter was 2 when her dentist said "that's it", so we took her pacifiers to the dentist office, put them on a shelf and that was it..... her sleep and our sleep were more important. She is 11, never sucked her thumb, has no teeth problems, and is wonderful...You do what you are comfortable with, but I think "cold turkey" is the best way. It was not easy for a couple of weeks, but we let her choose new bedtime mates and they ended up sleeping with her. She also knew that her pacifiers were in a safe place (with hundreds of others). She was also at a "reasoning" age and the transition made sense to her.”

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“There is a great book about saying good bye to pacifiers-Sesame Street, I think. She read it alot and it was comforting. We were adamant...that once they were gone from the house, that was it.” 

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“Cutting a bit of the tip off makes it lose its suckability, so to speak. That way the *child* makes the decision not to use it any more, and hopefully there is no struggle.  It's the best way i've ever heard of.....I don't have experience with this personally, but that method is always the one I recommend because it seems the least likely to cause a ton of crying.” 

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“At 15 months, we weaned my daughter – just went cold turkey. We had a rough couple of nights, but thankfully once she was asleep, we didn't hear from her until the morning. The first night was the worst (she cried for about 45 min), and by the 4th night she was only fussing for a few minutes. However, it took her a few weeks before she stopped fussing (for 15 seconds) after we left the room.”

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“At a year or year and a half they are better suited to handle getting rid of the pacifier, as opposed to younger than 1 yr old....”

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“An 8 month old still has a very strong desire to suck. But, if you still want to wean her, I'd go cold turkey. It'll be 3-4 days max worth of hell, but that's about it.  My personal cut off point for pacis is 12-18 mos.”

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“I have a 14 months old that I weaned from the pacifier just after he turned a year. He used it mostly for sleeping, but also sometimes in the car/subway or when getting frazzled/bored in the morning as I was trying to finsih up getting ready to leave the house. Once he turned a year old though, he seemed more addicted - crying for it and wanting it all the time, knowing the places that we would put it and pointing for it. We went cold turkey, just put him down one night without it and never went back. The first two days he was impossible at nap time (cried for at least 20 minutes before sleeping), though he was not that bad at night, fell asleep almost immediately.”

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“According to my pediatrician, while it is nice if the child can be weaned earlier rather than later, she mentioned that really, as long as the child stops using the pacifier between 3 and 4 then it should be fine. If she starts developing an overbite it;s still OK as long as by 3 or 4 she stops. The dentist confirmed that a pacifier (or thumbsucking) overbite will correct itself after 4. That said, my almost 3 yr old still uses one to sleep, but we;ve been rehearsing and talking about how when she turns 3 we will give the binkies to the binky fairy AND the dentist. She's very excited about it... It hopefully will work out well and may save us any angst ridden nights of crying. I hope.”

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“I would find it frustrating that my daughter was forever dependant on the pacifier to get to sleep or comfort her at any time during the day or night. HOWEVER she was not using it at naptime at daycare, so I knew that she could get to sleep on her own if push came to shove. So we just let her use it when she wanted to, then cut back to only at sleep-time. When she turned three, we told her that the pacifier fairy was coming to take the pacifiers to all the babies that needed them. She put the pacifier in a bag outside of the door, and in the morning we left a present in it's place. We got this idea from Super Nanny 911. Crazy and silly, but it worked!!” (July 1, 2006)

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“I weaned my son from the pacifier when he was around 2 -- I told him that pacifiers were for babies and since someone we knew had recently had a baby - i suggested we give our pacifiers to her ... surprisingly he happily complied and for several weeks referred to the pacifier as being with her... it was very sweet.” (July 1, 2006)

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“As the mother of two pacifier users, my 3 1/2 year old daughter and 16 month old son, I have mixed feelings. My daughter LOVES her pacifier and has told me it comforts her and makes her feel better. That being said, we have strict rules about where and when she can use it, only in the bedrooms and in cars/taxis. Not outside and not elsewhere in the house. She has generally been great about abiding by the rules. When we took her to the dentist they said she should get rid of it by 4. So in two weeks, the great bribe arrives (a scooter) she knows this event is coming and picked what she would get (she was initially willing to settle for a lollipop so I am not sure how much she fully grasps that they are going to be gone). We have been talking about throwing them out and how she can ride her scooter to camp, to the park...”

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“Because of this long term relationship, I was reluctant to start my son with one. But it is helpful and he is not nearly as emotionally attached to his. He likes it and it is very helpful when he wakes up in the middle of the night. But it is not the first thing he goes for when we go upstairs. In fact, I would not wean him til he moves to a big boy bed (which is in hindsight what I would have done with my daughter but no one suggested it then) but we must have a pacifier free house so it will be none for all. In short, I am not sorry we have had them; I am glad that we have rules about their use; I am not looking forward to the first few days of life without them.

I hope this is helpful.” (June 30, 2006)

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“Hi my daughter had colic around 2months old and we introduced the pacifier which was a great relief. Unfortunately, she became dependent on it for sleep. At around 3yrs at her fist dental visit the dentist had a nice little chat with her and two days later she threw out herself. However, she discovered her thumb! And now we are battling this habit. Even though she is now 4yrs old and ready for kindergarten she is trying to stop this herself. She will put bandaids on her thumb so to prevent her from placing it in her mouth. It has worked.” 

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“I think in due time your child will just stop on her own. I had a pacifier when growing up too and my mom told me that around 3yrs I just gave it up. Oh also, I have perfect teeth! no braces at all.” (June 30, 2006)

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“My sister and brother-in-law had problems with their son and the pacifier, and this idea worked very well. Since their son was deep into his "Thomas the Tank Engine" period, they traded one little toy tank engine for each pacifier he gave up. It was all about the things a big boy could do and have versus a little boy. ("Boy," not "baby," so there was no shaming to it.)” (June 30, 2006)

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“One day I noticed that her favorite one was FILTHY and decided to try this trick which had been suggested to me months prior. I just snipped a little slit with a pair of scissors. She took a few sucks, told me it was "broken" and handed it back to me. I promised we'd look for a new one the next day at the store, and that was IT. She asked for it maybe once or twice after that and I just reminded her that it was broken. It was SO easy!” (November 16, 2006)

 

 

Tips for a gradual transition:

 

"I'm the mom of a former pacifier addict as well as a pediatric sleep consultant and pediatric nurse practitioner.

I took my then-two-year-old to the pediatric dentist to discuss the issue and the dentist said it was fine to wait until age three. With that in mind, my advice is not to impact your daughter's sleep right now with a big change, so soon before your new baby is due. I also think it will be easier to do when she's a bit older and can understand better what is happening and why.

I do recommend limiting her access to times when she is sleeping, though. It's not good for her speech or her teeth to have it all the time.

Here's some other useful tips that I got from the pediatric dentist:

- Let your child know that when she turns three, it will be time to give away the pacifier but she can pick a new stuffy to sleep with instead.
- Let your daughter pick out a new stuffy that she is excited to sleep with but put it up on a high shelf where she can see it but not play with it.
- Let your child pick the day she is ready to give up her pacifier and get the new stuffy instead. (My child decided to do it on her actual birthday, which is not what I would have chosen, because she had internalized the message that once she was three, she couldn't have them anymore.)
- Have your daughter throw the pacifiers in the trash, all of them. Take out the trash. Give her the stuffy.
- Hold on tight!

More thoughts of my own (versus the dentist)... know that this is a big transition for her. It's a loss. It's perfectly acceptable for her to be sad. You can comfort her while she cries without changing your decision.

My daughter cried at bedtime for two nights. I sat with her and rubbed her back and she fell asleep after ten minutes the first night, less the second. After that we were done. I couldn't believe how fast it was done."

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Cutting down to only sleep times is key, so good job! I found that the older he got, the more he understood. We put it in terms of him not being a baby anymore so he didn’t need that. Then, when the day came to cut them out all together, we went to Build-A-Bear (we lived in Jersey at the time) and they let us put the pacifier inside a new lovey. He still sleeps with it 2.5 years later. It took a couple nights to get used to it, but he handled it better with something to squeeze.

 

 

The case against weaning from the pacifier:

 

“While there are some minor issues with continued pacifier use, they are much less worriesome than say thumb-sucking. But I would offer that for many of us the use of a pacifier in an older young one is really more the parents' issue than it is the childs. Children will give up the pacifier when they go to pre-school and if not then definitely by the time school starts for no other reason than embarrassment from peers. Till then I would limit your parental intervention over your own little one's intelligence to those things that are really about their true safety and well being”

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“If your little one needs the "comfort" of a pacifier, one might want to look at what they are comforting themselves from and address the causes of the fear and the discomforts that the pacifier seems to relax instead of looking at the symptom of pacifier use. Yes, a child will survive and learn to adapt after a pacifier is gone, but were they ready? were they able to process the reasons they felt they needed it in the first place.  I strongly agree with those that asked "why wean?" (July 14, 2006)

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“I'm also in the "why wean?" camp. My son was a pacifier (aka dummy, bobo, soother) -lover of great intensity for the first two years of his life. My mother HATED it, but I didn't mind.”

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“Looking back, I think that use of the pacifer may have been a symptom of relatively high anxiety, but some kids are anious and removing the pacifier isn't going to help that, and it's hard to effectively teach relaxation techniques to a two-year-old (though I suppose it can't hurt). Anyway, children need their coping techniques just like adults do, and I don't see a reason for removing them unless they are causing an issue for the family (hard to see how a pacifier could really do that, though). “

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“In my own son's case, we forgot to take a pacifier with us on a weekend trip to Chicago to visit my sister and her family. We were panicked, as it was the first time he'd been on a plane without it, but he was totally fine. And then when we got back home, he continued to be fine without it (although I then discovered that two of them had been tucked in a side pocket of our many-pocketed weekend duffel the whole time!)” (July 16, 2006)

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“I agree, why wean at all? My daughter is 16 mos and needs her pacifier and  blanky to sleep and relax. I have no intention of taking either from her until she is ready. I used a pacifier until I was 4 years old and it had no ill effect on me (that I know of!) I've heard by the time children get into kindergarten, they almost all give up their lovies, pacifiers, and thumbs on their own due to peers.We all have little quirks/habits we use to calm ourselves, even adults.” (June 29, 2006)

 

 

Another pacifier discussion from a July 2021 thread, specifically for older kids (3+):

 

"Our older son (J.) turned 3 in June and we had our second son in February. In preparation for the baby coming at end of last year we transitioned J. to a toddler bed (we needed the crib!) and potty trained him. We were lucky and both went pretty smoothly and we didn’t have a regression when the baby came. The only thing we didn’t have the heart to do before the baby came was take away his pacifier. He only uses it at sleep time (nap time and night). I’ve heard lots of great suggestions for how to get rid of it but thought I’d see if anyone had tried anything recently that did or didn’t work? The prebedtime games and delay tactics are at an all time high and I worry about throwing a pacifier negotiation into the mix. Also.. to include all the details.. our younger one is still in the bathroom in a pack n play because though he is a good 7:30-7 sleeper he has random weird nights where he’s noisy that I’d like to continue to train without disrupting J./ we were trying to give J. a little two parent time at bedtime alone since I was missing out on a lot of time because of the new little one. We will put him in the crib in the room with the older one as soon as we can work this stuff out! Anyway! It seems to make sense to tackle the paci thing before we put them together so I’m anxious and looking for some thoughts!"

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"I really feel you. I have an almost 3yo and a 6 month old. We too decided not to take the paci away from big brother when baby brother was coming because he is absolutely addicted to it and seemingly reliant on it for sleep. I feel pretty ashamed about it to be honest because it is definitely impacting his teeth...but his love for paci and my fear of disrupting sleep (and fear of toddler wrath) won. Anyways, we are saying goodbye to it this weekend and I have been dreading this moment for, oh a year and a half. We initially started talking about the paci fairy coming to take it, but that seemed to invoke a feeling of us "letting" some outside force take it away. So we started putting the paci in a special box to open and close morning and night, and then we added in a new stuffed animal to put in and take out of the box morning and night, and...this weekend we are just going to...somehow respectfully discard the paci. That part we are still thinking about! Maybe mail it to another child in need of comfort? We are going to let him keep the paci rope since he plays with it in his crib. I'll let you know how it goes!"

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"L. used his paci until a couple months past his 3rd birthday.  He was kind of getting over it and then when we first went into lockdown he became really reliant on it.  He ended up biting a hole in one and it stopped working for him.  I threw away all of the extra pacis except for one and told him that when that one broke it was time to give it up.  I figured i could poke a hole in it if it was taking too long.  Much to my total surprise, it ended up breaking shortly thereafter and he threw it away himself.  We did have to have conversations about how it was time to give it up because it wasn't good for his teeth and he was a big boy now (thankfully his teeth have gone almost back to normal now that it's been almost a year later) He also has a blanky that he used for sleep as well and that became essential for bedtime.  It was probably easier because N. wasn't using a paci at this point so his were the only ones in the house.  Good luck - It is not an easy thing to take away something that brings your child comfort!"

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"Our older son, now 6, was addicted to his paci! We were totally terrified of taking it away, but when we were expecting our youngest (now 2), we decided it was time. We talked to another parent at his pre-school who said she had essentially told her daughter to pick something out to trade the pacifier in for, and that it had worked like a charm. I was skeptical, but we basically said, Ok, you're a big boy now in a big boy bed, and if you want we will go to the toy store and you can pick anything you want if you give away your paci. To our shock, he went in, picked out a totally random vehicle/action figure combo, came home and put the paci in the garbage himself. I think he might have cried a little that night but it was basically never an issue again. He was about 3.5 when we did this, and had just moved to a toddler bed as we were preparing for the baby's arrival.

I'm not sure if this is a smart strategy for everyone, but it's worked for us and at least one other family we know! Also, it goes to show that he was probably ready and it was on us that we hadn't done away with it before then anyway. The toy he picked out didn't even really end up being that important to him in the end, so it wasn't like we were trading one obsession for another. I think it just made him feel like he had some agency in the decision? Who knows."

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"We just went through our own farewell to the pacifier a few days ago... Our son (who will be 3 in October) recently began ramping up his pacifier use and was growing obsessed. Whereas before he was only using it for nap and shortly before bedtime, he was now spending the bulk of his day engaging in games to 'put it out of reach' aka get access to it and suck away, or want to climb ladders to put it in high places. We also just had a big transition moving homes, so while this was a comfort tool we found it was getting to be too much negiogating and fixating which would lead to meltdowns. We had already planned to say goodbye to it this summer (before a lot of other transitions with work and school approaching in the Fall), and had already referenced the paci fairy to him, but the other day we noticed he had chewed several holes in it so we said it was no longer safe for his mouth and that we would be sending it off to the paci fairy.

We told him the paci fairy would recycle it to make a new pacifier for another baby.

To prepare for this he:
-drew a picture for the paci fairy and dictated the words to me. He then helped to tape it on the outside of our door the night before
-did a visual paper chain countdown (had to wait a couple days for the presents to ship..)
-read a story called 'The Paci Fairy' which I thought was strange so I changed a lot of the words but he loved and still requests!

I did this because he really loves stories and they help him to make sense of things more clearly this way. He was also of course excited for the present aspect. As for the presents - I bought him some items to promote calm and relaxation in lieu of the pacifier (some sensory relaxation tubes, a yoga story book, a cuddly bear named 'Baba bear' since he called his pacifier 'baba'..) I also left a note on the door the next morning from the pacifier fairy explaining the gifts and how now that he is bigger, there are many ways to help feel calm and peaceful.
It's been a few days and he's been absolutely fine. He still wants to read the story but he has not asked for it once and is doing great!"

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"I had a similar experience with a three year old thumb sucker. We tried a bunch of methods to encourage her to stop and it was starting to feel impossible. Our dentist had talked about making a chart so that after 30 days she got a gift that she picked out (and a bigger gift after 60 days). We talked about this with her but it didn’t stick. Then I went all in and we wrote a letter to the tooth fairy together, and the 'tooth fairy' sent her back the charts for her to fill out. Having the physical charts made all the difference. I am so grateful it worked!"

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"One thing that helped us, though, that we realized after the fact was that he seemed to replace the pacifier sucking with sucking on a fruit/veggie pouch right before bed. He loves those pouches (another habit we will have to break one day!) and right after we dropped the paci he started asking for one right before bed, and taking it into bed and trying to sleep with it! His older brother said one night, 'He's sucking on it like a paci!' He was right. Now our compromise is that he can have a pouch before bed (he likes to sit in bed and have it), then brush his teeth and go to sleep. Not the worst thing!"