Early Intervention Strategies for Success

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  • Milestone or Modern Convenience? – Part II: What to Do When the Convenience Becomes a Hard to Break Habit(current)

If you haven’t read it yet, be sure to check out the first blog post in this 2-part series, Milestone or Modern Convenience?  – Part I: Overuse of the Sippy Cup and Pacifier, to learn important information about an infant’s need for sucking and the risks involved with overuse of the pacifier and sippy, cup!

Now that you are familiar with the pluses and minuses of pacifier and sippy cup use,  what about when the parents are ready to help baby “give up” the sucking habit?   Again, as the resource for all things infant and toddler, we can suggest the following tried and true strategies.

Strategies for Breaking the Sucking Habit

Cut back – When ready to begin weaning, cut back on the time that the pacifier and/or sippy cup is available to the child. If the pacifier has been available to the child all day, every day suggest cutting back its availability to only nap and bedtime.  As for the sippy cup, cut back its use to only when the family is out and about.  When at home suggest offering the child a straw or open cup in its place.

Go cold turkey…if the child is ready – If going cold turkey is the method of choice pass along this wisdom: if the child is not ready, he may find something else to suck on, like a thumb or fingers.  However, if ready, this method may work just fine.  Suggest that, if going cold turkey, it is a good idea to rid the house (or at least baby’s line of sight) of all pacifiers and/or sippy cups.  If they remain in the cabinet or drawer, baby will know and will want them!

Provide additional comfort – In preparation of weaning a baby from the pacifier and/or sippy cup, provide him with an additional comfort item. If the child’s only “lovey” is the pacifier or sippy cup, having a back up “lovey” will still allow the child a comfort when his first choice is gone.

Understand that routines may change – Warn your families that routines may change when weaning baby from the pacifier and/or sippy cup, especially if it is used as the child’s primary comfort item. When the pacifier/sippy cup is gone, the child may need assistance with calming, temporarily;  swaddling, rocking, singing and some extra cuddles may be necessary until baby learns how to calm himself without the help of his pacifier or sippy cup.

Give the pacifier or sippy away to a new baby – Sometimes parents can convince the child to give up these items with some incentive.  However, it is suggested that the new baby receiving the child’s old pacifiers/sippy cups not live in the same house.  It will be more difficult for the child not to suck on a pacifier if there is one nearby.  Some parents are also able to negotiate a trade with their child:  “If you leave your pacifier under the Christmas tree, Santa will take it with him and leave you a present!”  If the child is ready, this trick is a gem!

Strategies for Parents to Avoid

Some tips to warn parents to not try are:

Never, ever cut the pacifier nipple and give it to the child – Yes, if there is no nipple for the child to latch onto they will be less interested in sucking the pacifier.  However, the risk of choking is too great to ever recommend this as a means of pacifier weaning.  Pacifiers have to pass what is called a “pull test” (PDF, New Window) during manufacturing. A cut nipple would not pass this pull test and would be deemed as unsafe for a child to have.

Do not shame the child for wanting to suck on his pacifier or sippy cup – Toddlers and preschoolers typically do not respond to being shamed into giving up the pacifier or sippy cup.  Telling the child that in order to be a “big kid” he must give up his most prized possession may just make him want it more.  And who can blame him, who really wants to “grow up” anyway?!

Do not recommend putting something that tastes bad on the nipple of the pacifier and/or sippy cup – I have known families to dip the nipple in chili powder to convince their toddler to stop sucking on his pacifier.  One sweet little guy I knew still wanted his pacifier so badly that he licked the chili powder off, little by little, chased it with water and eventually got his paci back.  Again, this is a case of the parent wanting the child to make the decision to give up the comfort item.  Not gonna happen!  Sometimes the parent has to be just that and take control.

So we wish you good luck as you head into the magical world of the paci and sippy cup.  It holds a strong spell on many little ones, but with the right guidance and when our families are ready, we can help them help their children kick the habit!

Do you have any suggested weaning methods to add to this list? 

What would you say to encourage your families to follow through with weaning their child?

Lacy Morise, M.S. CCC/SLP educates families on the risks involved with over-use of the pacifier and sippy as an early intervention speech-language pathologist in the West Virginia Birth to Three Program.  She guiltily confesses to allowing all of her children to abuse the use of the pacifier!  She owns Milestones & Miracles, LLC a company devoted to educating families about child development and the importance of PLAY!  Check out her website and blog and follow her on Facebook, Pinterest, Twitter and YouTube.

Website:  www.milestonesandmiracles.com

Blog:  www.milestonesandmiraces.com/blog/

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/milestonesandmiracles

Pinterest: https://www.pinterest.com/milestonesm/

Twitter: https://twitter.com/MilestonesM

YouTube: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HmuWPFDcqZ4

4 comments on “Milestone or Modern Convenience? – Part II: What to Do When the Convenience Becomes a Hard to Break Habit

  • Lisa says:

    I kept the pacifier in one standard location (tied to refrigerator door). That way it was available to him but he had to quit the activity in which he was already involved. He forgot about it quickly.

    • What an interesting suggestion, Lisa! I love it that to have the paci, he had to be really committed to going to get to it! 🙂 I guess you probably had a really short string. I once worked with a family who kept the paci tied on a shoestring around the toddler’s neck – not to wean him but to make sure he didn’t drop it on the floor. That was definitely a major safety/choking hazard so we talked about other options like the little paci clips. I’m completely guilty of cutting the end of the pacifier nipple for my son. I didn’t know about the pull test and thinking back now, it makes me nervous that I did that! That’s why good info is so important!

  • Jen says:

    Limiting the pacifier to ONLY crib and car seat are good options for weaning off. Don’t leave it in the crib, though. Toddlers are smart and learn how to get it out and then show up in the LR with it in their mouths, and then you have a struggle and tears. I think the cold turkey method is best because even after you throw them all away, inevitably 1 or 2 show up.

    Spouted sippy cups: There are now so many other options that there is no reason for a child to use a spouted cup. There are straw cups, including silicone straws that fold down into the cup and don’t drip, and ones with an edge that requires the same skills as open cup drinking…but there is a gasket to limit spills and drips.

    • Thanks for the additional ideas, Jen! I’ve heard of families limiting the paci just to sleep times too. That’s what we did in my house and it worked pretty well. You make a great point about the cups too. So many choices now. Do you have a recommendation for which type of cup is the best option or does it just depend on the child’s preference?


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