How do I wean my 2 year old off the pacifier?

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 on June 27, 2022

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How do I wean my 2 year old off the pacifier?

Your tot is apparently Krazy Glued to his pacifier. Here's when and how to pull the plug.

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How do I wean my 2 year old off the pacifier?

In This Article

  • Why do toddlers get attached to pacifiers?
  • When should babies stop using pacifiers?
  • How to wean a toddler off a pacifier

With a new baby, a pacifier can work wonders — quieting tears and inducing calm almost instantaneously. But now that your little one is walking and talking, you may start to wonder whether it's time to ditch the binky. Get up to speed on the age-appropriate benefits of pacifiers, when to start pacifier weaning and how to make this toddler transition go as smoothly as possible. 

Why do toddlers get attached to pacifiers?

A pacifier can provide instant comfort when your baby feels restless or distressed — especially between feedings. The soothing benefits of pacifiers make it difficult for toddlers to say goodbye later on, even after they've grown old enough to learn new ways to cope with stress. This attachment is especially true for toddlers who use their binkies as sleeping aids or rely on them in moments of uncertainty, like on a plane ride or at the doctor's office.

As a parent, you also probably appreciated the advantages of your baby's pacifier use. In addition to calming tears and tantrums, pacifiers may help reduce gas and the likelihood of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But now that your little one has walked right out of babyhood into the toddler years, you may feel sad about the pacifier stage ending, too.

When should babies stop using pacifiers?

While there is no hard-and-fast rule, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends starting the pacifier weaning process around the 1-year mark. That's because while pacifiers can come with a host of pros for babies, they can have some risks for toddlers. 

Prolonged pacifier use (after the second year and beyond) can: 

  • Lead to an overdependence on the pacifier for soothing
  • Cause dental problems as more teeth start to develop
  • Increase the risk of middle-ear infections

So start a conversation about ending your sweetie's reliance on his binky with his pediatrician at the 12-month well visit, and revisit it again at subsequent checkups if the habit persists into toddlerhood.

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How to wean a toddler off a pacifier

Ready to leap into weaning? If so, start by taking a deep breath. For some toddlers, weaning is quick and relatively painless. For others, taking away a trusted binky brings about a fair amount of distress. To make the process go more smoothly for everyone, you'll want to decide on a strategy in advance, but remain open to a few audibles along the way. 

Some parents choose the cold turkey route — meaning, without much warning, you remove the pacifier and never look back. Other parents opt for a gradual release method: Start by reducing pacifier use to naptime and bedtime, and then slowly take away the option until it's gone from the picture completely. 

Here are some tips to ease the transition for you and your baby depending on your strategy:

How to wean a toddler off a pacifier cold turkey

  • Communicate with all caregivers. If going cold turkey, share your decision with the adults in your child's life. You want everyone, including grandparents and day care teachers, to know that a pacifier is now off-limits. 
  • Take advantage of a lost or broken pacifier. If your toddler's pacifier is damaged or worn out, attempt to use its demise as an excuse to break the habit. ("Sorry, honey, but your pacifier is broken. We have to throw it away.") If you're lucky, it may work.
  • Remove all pacifiers, everywhere. Become a pacifier detective and make sure you remove every pacifier from reach of your little one. Toddlers are great at hiding their favorite items, so make sure you search far and wide to reduce the chance of starting over because your toddler found a pacifier tucked in the car seat. 
  • Have alternatives ready to go. Taking the cold turkey approach can lead to some restless nights early on in the process. Brainstorm some alternative soothing tactics before you take the leap. A sound machine, extra snuggles and a long bath before bed can provide some extra comfort during this stage. Have several ideas on deck and ready to deploy. 
  • Call on the "pacifier fairy." If your child is older, "donating" his pacifiers to the pacifier fairy and getting a gift in exchange may do the trick. 

How to wean a toddler off a pacifier using gradual release

  • Start with the path of least resistance. Gradually remove the pacifier from your toddler's routine beginning with the times he's least likely to miss its absence. (For many toddlers, the pacifier is hardest to give up at nighttime, so many parents opt to make this the final hurdle.) By starting with the easy wins, you can celebrate progress along the way and build your little one's confidence to let go of the pacifier completely. 
  • Set milestones. Based on your baby's current pacifier use, set realistic goals you can track. For example, if your toddler uses a pacifier for most of the day, start by only offering it when he's stressed. The gradual release method may feel more natural to your toddler, but only if you set reasonable expectations. 
  • Communicate early and often with your toddler. Eventually, your toddler will catch onto the fact he is requesting something and not getting it every time. Let him know you're on a journey. Don't make it a mystery, but share your reasoning and rationale. Be open and honest about your why. Your toddler will appreciate you continuing to answer his "why" questions, and you'll get more opportunities to reinforce your message. 

More tips for getting rid of a pacifier

  • Keep him busy. Ask questions, strike up conversations, sing toddler-friendly songs, make funny faces in a mirror and otherwise encourage your toddler to mouth off (in a good way!). If he tries talking with the pacifier in his mouth, let him know he has to remove it so you can understand what he's saying.
  • Don't let your little one get too hungry or too sleepy. Hunger and fatigue sap a child's ability to cope; that's exactly when he'll want his pacifier the most. Head off pitfalls by providing regular snacks and rest during the pacifier weaning process. 
Pacifier weaning can seem like a daunting task if your tot is happily enjoying his binky right now. Keep in mind the life of a pacifier is meant to be short and sweet, and start thinking about your exit strategy around his first birthday. With a plan in mind, you can make pacifiers a thing of the past.

From the What to Expect editorial team and Heidi Murkoff, author of What to Expect When You're Expecting. What to Expect follows strict reporting guidelines and uses only credible sources, such as peer-reviewed studies, academic research institutions and highly respected health organizations. Learn how we keep our content accurate and up-to-date by reading our medical review and editorial policy.

How do I get my 2 year old off the pacifier?

Finally, you can take it away completely. Cut a hole in it. Cut off the tip of the pacifier or snip a hole in it so the pacifier no longer provides suction. Give your child the pacifier as usual — sucking on it won't be effective, so your child won't like it as much and will eventually stop using it.

How long does it take for toddler to adjust without pacifier?

Pacifier weaning methods for babies But don't worry, at every nap they will take less and less time to settle. It will take about 3 days to break the habit (sometimes sooner!) if you're consistent in your approach. Our Little Ones App offers further tips on how to do this.

Is 2 years old too old for a pacifier?

Pediatric dentists warn however, that prolonged use of a pacifier can lead to long-term dental issues too, if the use of pacifiers continues over the age of 2. The overuse of a dummy can cause a child's teeth to slant outward, whereby children end up needing corrective dental procedures later on in life.

How do I get my 2 year old off the pacifier at night?

Top Tips for Getting Rid of the Pacifier.
Tip #1: Replace With Another Comfort. ... .
Tip #2: Give Them Something Else to Chew On. ... .
Tip #3: Make Your Little Guy/Girl Feel Like a Big Guy/Girl. ... .
Tip #4: Cut the Tip or Poke a Hole. ... .
Tip #5: Wean Gradually..