A Parenting Choice I (Usually) Keep to Myself

In about five weeks, Ella will be two years old.

Maybe you think that’s too old for a pacifier. But Ella still has one. And I have no plans to get rid of it.

I wasn’t always this parent. I cannot tell you the number of nights I lay awake in bed, stressing about how to wean her from it, if the loss of the pacifier (“paci” in our house) would mean an end to naps and easy bedtimes, if, if, if. . .

And then, about three months ago, Bart said to me, “Why are you wanting to get rid of it?”

I realized the main reason I wanted to get rid of it was because I felt like I should. Like it was proof I was a bad parent if I let her keep it past a year or eighteen months or two years. Like “good” parents got rid of them at the earliest possible moment.

Bart pointed out that she is a magnificent night sleeper, that putting her to bed or down for naps is extremely-low hassle, and that the paci makes her happy.

Why the shame about pacifier use? I recently found out that a friend of mine kept hers until she was SEVEN. And guess what? She’s a perfectly functional, lovely adult. And I won’t pretend that one of the reasons I loved Bringing Up Bebe was that she mentioned early on how French children often keep their pacifiers until three or four years old. It’s not as if a pacifier indicates anything except that a child associates this little piece of plastic with comfort.

But obviously the fact that I generally refrain from mentioning this to anyone suggests that I do feel a little insecure in my parenting choice here. Or at least live in fear of judgement.

We are fairly strict about the pacifier use – since before Ella’s first birthday, it’s been strictly for the crib only. She only has a single pacifier (which made for a stressful afternoon when she was ten months old and dropped it out of the side of the stroller at Disneyland) and it never leaves her crib. She willingly takes it out before she gets out of bed, and I keep it in the far corner where she can’t reach it on her own from outside the crib.

She’s been a pretty adaptable child thus far (switching between nursing and a bottle without difficulty and then, when our single bottle broke just after her first birthday, making the leap to a sippy cup without complaint), and so I’m holding out hope that when we do decide to get rid of it, it won’t ruin her life. She’s also very reasonable (or, you know, as reasonable as two-year-olds can be), so I think she may understand when it’s time to get rid of it.

But I’m just fine with that time not being now.



This post is sponsored byย Disney Baby. I’ll be joining theย Disney Babyย blogging
team next month, and look forward to sharing these kinds of stories
(projects/ideas/etc) with you over there! Stay tuned for more details!

You Might Also Like


  • Reply preethi June 19, 2012 at 12:22 pm

    Oh I cannot tell you how much better this post makes me feel. Nat still has his and LOVES it and I, too, stress ridiculously about how his usually-woderful-and-easy sleep might get tainted by taking the paci (also paci in our house – is it weird that I loathe the word binky?) away. He, too, only gets it for sleeping (well, and for the car…and sometimes Sacrament meeting…but we're working on that. suggestions?) and I was just thinking lately why I've been giving so much thought to taking it away when it helps him so much and our pedi says it's no big deal.

    See also: the fact that we still swaddle him. Same story – still loves it, helps him settle to go down, isn't hurting him, he gets out of it if in 2 seconds if he doesn't want to be in it, pedi says it's fine. Why all my stress lately about weaning him off of it?

  • Reply Lisa June 19, 2012 at 12:36 pm

    I got so much flack for T having one starting around 18 months and I just couldn't see myself taking away something he clearly LOVED. We call them a "suckie" at our house and have multiples and he'd go hunt them all down and be so thrilled to have so many. Like King Midas. As it turned out with both boys, there came a day where they left the last one we could find at daycare and we didn't mention it and they didn't notice and then it was just gone. They were maybe 2.5 each time. The girl still has hers and she can have it for as long as she needs it. People judge the hell out of it, I don't care.

  • Reply Jenn June 19, 2012 at 1:17 pm

    Good for you for sticking to your guns. If my daughter hadn't refused pacifiers altogether, I'm sure I'd still be allowing it, too! Especially if it helped with sleep.

  • Reply blaine and michelle June 19, 2012 at 1:18 pm

    With my first baby I got rid of it at 6 months, my second baby kept his until he was 2, my third still has his and he's 3 and a half with no end in sight. (They're just for bedtime in our house, too.) I've just realized over the years that it is not a big deal and they'll get rid of it on their own when they're ready. My first two just decided one day that they didn't want it anymore. And trust me, it is way easier this way. I'm a parent who believes strongly in picking my battles, and that one is just not worth it to me (when you have 4 babies in 4.5 years you learn to prioritize). So I say more power to you. High five.

  • Reply lifeofadoctorswife June 19, 2012 at 1:21 pm

    Seems like a baby who can self-soothe makes for a happy baby and happy parents! But really, I just wanted to say: Ella is SO CUTE.

  • Reply Rachel June 19, 2012 at 1:32 pm

    First off, we call it paci too, and like Preethi I can't stand the word binky. Jilly definitely still has hers and I don't really see it going away in the near future. We try to limit it to bed time and in the car, but we also take one to church just so her voice isn't so loud. But a couple weeks ago they told us that she was putting everything in her mouth during nursery so they asked us to send her paci with her. I was kind of bugged because I hate for her to have it then. But we sent it with her the next week and right when I picked her up I asked her for her paci and she willingly gave it to me. So, perhaps no harm was done.

  • Reply Ashley and Dave June 19, 2012 at 1:47 pm

    When I tried to get rid of Kinsey's "bink" at two, she wasn't ready. It was awful. Tears and Tears. So I tried again at 2 1/2…still awful. So we tried again at three and had her trade it in for a toy at the store (at this age, she understood more of what was happening and when she got sad I reminded her about her new toy) It was a lot less stressful when she was a little older and less tramatic for her..and me! Addie has the thumb and I am sure that will be it's own awful battle when the time comes…but it's not this year! ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Karri June 19, 2012 at 1:48 pm

    I was never a stressor when it came to things like bottle weaning, binky ending, and potty training. What works for some doesn't work for others. Same with sleeping "issues". All 3 of my kids did it all differently and at 10 and 8, none are on a bottle, breast, or binky, and all are well adjusted and thriving in school, so I guess I did good ๐Ÿ˜‰

    Don't sweat it. You'll know when she's ready and it will be an easy transition. I knew and there were no tears, no sleeplessness, nada.

  • Reply Deanna June 19, 2012 at 1:54 pm

    My girls loooooved their pacis. We actually never even made it to the point of limiting it to the bed. We tried, but there was a lot of whining and grumpiness so we always gave in and let them have it whenever. On their 3rd birthday, once they had been going to MDO for nearly a year without it, they finally "traded" the pacis for a special gift. (One of my girls still tells me occasionally that she misses her paci!)

    I have absolutely no regrets about letting them keep their pacis that long. In the grand scheme of things, will it really matter? I think not. : )

  • Reply Meridith June 19, 2012 at 2:00 pm

    Hooray for wonderful husbands who help us see another view sometimes. I know I'd be a total worry bug without mine. ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Rachel June 19, 2012 at 2:01 pm

    Oh, this post makes me happy ๐Ÿ™‚ There's so much stress put on moms over things that probably aren't worth the stress. I'm a firm believer that kids will give things up/pick things up when they're ready, and that time is different for every child. You're so right–if she's happy and everything in your home is running smoothly, then who cares if she still loves her paci? Forrest willingly gave up his paci at about 5 months (which was a pain in the butt at first since he still 'needed' it but wouldn't accept it!), but picked up a comfort blankie that he has clinged to ever since, and sucks his fingers now (which will probably be harder to get rid of someday than a paci!). Just yesterday at Target, he was cuddling his blankie in the shopping cart and an older lady handing out samples said something about, "Isn't he old enough to give up that blankie yet?" (He's almost 2.) I just kind of smiled and walked on, thinking, if that cruddy old blankie is comforting and special to him and makes him feel safe and happy, I don't care if he carries it around until he's 12!

    And for a few months, I felt stressed and worried and upset that he really isn't talking much yet (a few words here and there, but not very much, and certainly less than other kids his age). We had him tested for hearing problems, he's seeing an early interventionist, and I was really concerned about the whole thing (and the results of all the testing and such were a unanimous "there's nothing wrong with him, he just doesn't feel like talking yet"). And then I had a moment of truth when I realized that I wasn't so much concerned about HIM anymore, I was concerned that people would think I was a bad mom since he's not talking, or that I was doing something wrong/not 'teaching' him well enough, etc. I didn't want people to think less of him, but I also secretly wanted to be the mom of the 'gifted' child who was talking at like 10 months and was having trouble accepting that he's just not to that point. So I've been applying my paci/blankie philosophy: when he's ready to talk, he'll talk, and in the meantime, I'm trying not to stress about it. Thanks for the reminder to let go of what doesn't matter and just accept and love these silly kids the way they are ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Amy June 19, 2012 at 2:28 pm

    Isn't this the bane of every mother's existence? Feeling like there's a "right way" and a "wrong way" to do everything and feeling like we're going to be judged no matter what we do?

    For me, right now, it happens to be preschool. Everyone in our neighborhood enrolls their 3- and 4-year-olds (and sometimes 2-year-olds) in preschool, and then they turn to me and ask, "Where is Aaron going to preschool next fall?" and I say (as casually as I know how), "Actually, he's not going to preschool." They look at me in shock, like how could I deprive my child of the social and academic privileges that preschool will provide. Sorry, but at this point in my life, I'm just not willing to fork over the money for it, but it's taken me a long time to feel confident with my decision (I'm still working on it and still feel a certain amount of guilt when friends question my reasons).

    One of the reasons why I loved The Happiness Project was because she talked so much about doing things because YOU want to, and if you don't want to, then don't do them. And I think this applies to parenting as much as anything else.

  • Reply Amanda June 19, 2012 at 2:37 pm

    Oh, we have been going through the same internal dialogue over here! Eloise just turned 2 and she sure loves her bink. I am worried it's messing up her teeth, though. We also try to confine it to the bed. The problem is that she is a monkey child who can climb anywhere to retrieve it whenever she feels like it so we often find her sneaking around with it. It was my Dad who stopped my train of thought when he said it might be more harmful to get rid of it before *she* is ready and not Mom and Dad.

  • Reply heidikins June 19, 2012 at 2:57 pm

    I love you for this, even though I don't have a bebe (or baby), or a paci. Clearly, a LOT of women agree with your theory, and the "shame" of a toddler having a paci needs to stop, stat.


  • Reply Diane June 19, 2012 at 3:45 pm

    I sucked my thumb until I was 10. I think I'm okay (you'll have to check with those around me…)Here's how I look at it: if she's still using her pacifier in junior high, and it doesn't bother her, more power to her for being able to stand up to peer pressure. Most kids naturally put it aside when they don't need it.

    Good for you for having a feeling of what's best for your child and doing it.

  • Reply Jennie June 19, 2012 at 5:18 pm

    The more I read, the more I think we have similar parenting philosophies. I could have written this. Kyle gave his up around age two (give or take) and it was an easy transition. We talked to him about it, he mostly understood and gave it up. Maybe a couple rough nights but nothing unbearable. Before that, it was strictly for nap/bed and he's always been a pretty stellar put-to-bed-er. No reason to change something that works for you, no matter how many other people it does/doesn't work for.

  • Reply Emily Kate June 19, 2012 at 5:55 pm

    Before I had kids, I had a lot of specific parenting ideals that I was certain I would hold to, no matter what. I think Heavenly Father knew that I needed to break down those ideals in order to be the parent I SHOULD be and that my children need. So he sent me an extremely high maintenance and difficult child who didn't take well to any of the ideals I had. I learned when she was a baby that I had to do what felt right to me and what made sense for her little personality, and not what everybody said was necessarily the right way to do things.

    So I never thought that I would be a parent of a 26 month old who still loves her binky. But here I am and the thing is, it doesn't bother me at all! Why take away the one and only thing she loves and adores? Especially when it soothes her when she's upset and helps her to be the rockstar sleeper she's grown into? I have friends who say they took away their kids' pacifiers at 12 or 18 months no matter what….oh but they did stop napping completely after that. Why do that to yourself? I'm not willing to do that to her or to me.

    My mom always says that when I was ready to give up my binky, I did. She asked if we could throw them away and I said yes and did it myself and that was that. She said it was the same way with potty training. Instead of spending 6 months of torture trying to get any of us kids potty trained on a certain schedule, she waited until we were interested and it was quick and easy. That's the parenting ideal I now subscribe to. When it's right and when they're ready, they'll do it.

  • Reply Stephanie T June 19, 2012 at 6:26 pm

    Rose still sucks her finger at night, which turns out to be a super good thing according to the orthodontist. She has a really tiny mouth and now that her adult teeth are coming in there is barely enough space as it is. He said if she didn't suck on her finger we would be in a world of hurt (financially speaking:-)

  • Reply Katie June 19, 2012 at 8:20 pm

    I think a pacifier for small children is not something anyone needs to judge. I have found that Jackson will move at his own pace for most things whether I push him or not. He started sleeping through the night on his own, he stopped nursing on his own, and he will stop sucking his thumb when he is ready.

  • Reply lacie tidwell June 19, 2012 at 8:38 pm

    I think there's a stigma in society sometimes- 'oh my son was potty trained at 10 months' ect ect- I think 'we' tend to put pressure on ourselves to do something by a certain age- for example potty training- so if we wait til a child is ready they go on their own no issues- if we push it it seems to stretch out for a year- she is not even two- I say continue to do what you feel is right as her parents- it's not like she's 12 with a pacifier- just saying… and as a daughter of a dentist a pacifier (depending on shape) isn't too detrimental right? and it sounds like it's for bedtime ect so ya know there is structure too- and I read some study about oral fixation and kids who are forced to give up on oral stimulation are more likely to smoke later on… not that Ella is going to just it was interesting how those kids who were allowed to 'suck' were less stressed, didn't chew gum as often, didn't grind teeth, ect

  • Reply G June 19, 2012 at 8:49 pm

    Scott was a finger sucker until I finally found a trick that got him to stop at 3 1/2, but I suspect he was just finally ready. And Kate is still going strong sucking her thumb at almost 3. My dentist says not to worry about it until after 3, and even then not to stress too much – so I don't. My dad is always getting on our case about it, but I try to just ignore him. He doesn't understand. Stopping Scott sooner proved impossible. And why shouldn't a pacifier be okay for that long too? Maybe that's just a natural age when kids are ready to stop. Maybe each kid will just be done when they're ready. And I WISH my kids hadn't refused pacifiers, because when it IS time to stop, it's much easier to get rid of a pacifier than fingers and thumbs! So I guess my point is, don't beat yourself up. I think kids being able to soothe themselves is a FABULOUS thing. Claire was the only one of my kids who never had any kind of comfort object or sucking habit, and she was a ROYAL PAIN to get to sleep until she was about 4.

  • Reply Heather June 19, 2012 at 9:02 pm

    Way to be brave. Annie is three and cannot stop sucking her fingers to go to sleep. Wonder what the trick was the above commenter used… Your daughter is SO adorable, thanks for posting more pictures of her.

  • Reply emandtrev June 19, 2012 at 9:17 pm

    Bart sounds very wise. I'm pretty sure that our society, to a large degree, puts to much pressure on certain things happening at certain times. Potty-training is probably another good example from a different angle. It is different for every child and parenting situation, so why should we stress ourselves so much? You're a great mom!

  • Reply heather June 19, 2012 at 10:03 pm

    I nearly kissed my pediatrician at Levi's 2 year appointment when I mentioned he uses a pacifier to sleep and she said, "You're moving again in 6 months, right? Don't take it away from him until long after you've moved back to Cambridge. It'll help him feel safe and comfortable through all these transitions."

    I am whole heartedly following her advice.

  • Reply Meg June 19, 2012 at 11:49 pm

    It seems to me that there's not a lot of difference between a pacifier and any other kind of blankie/lovie/comfort device. I sucked my thumb until I was three and it's not like my parents could take that away from me – they just had to convince me that I couldn't suck it forever. The crib only idea sounds brilliant, and if my child is a pacifier baby, I might try to implement that so that it's more of a soothing at night thing than a suck on constantly so you never see her mouth thing. (Also, I love the increase of posts about motherhood lately, because I always read your stuff and go, "I want to be like Janssen when I'm a mom!" (But then, I think "I want to be like Janssen" when I read most of your posts, so nothing new there.)

  • Reply Olivia June 20, 2012 at 1:00 am

    All three of my kids had their paci's till they were 3. Same rules as you during naps and bed only. I felt the same way. Why take it away when it makes them happy and comforts them. My oldest daughter even called it her "happy". I say do whatever works for you and your child, and who cares what others think. My kids all adjusted to the change very quickly after a day or two and at that point they were old enough to discuss it rationally. Enjoy the good sleeping while you can ๐Ÿ™‚

  • Reply Ralphie June 20, 2012 at 2:15 am

    I love their little faces when they're suck suck sucking. Clearly I have many issues when it comes to my babies growing up. Can we say denial?

    Also, goodbye naps once it's taken away.

  • Reply Jillian June 20, 2012 at 3:36 am

    This brought tears to my eyes because I have been struggling with this very thing! Grandma gets mad when she has it, babysitter judges me when she sees her with it and you know, Bart is right. WHY take it away? If it helps them sleep better, so be it. Thank you thank you for this post.

  • Reply Elsha June 20, 2012 at 4:12 am

    We haven't had any pacifier loving babies yet, but Will sucks his finger and shows NO signs of giving that up any time soon. (He's 2 1/2.) I'm not worrying about it yet!

  • Reply craftyashley June 20, 2012 at 4:31 am

    The twins kept theirs well into 3 1/2. I did restrict it to nightime use, which was super easy.
    The only thing I can say about it, it did leave it' mark- in the form of the kid's teeth. The binkies (sorry that's what we called them) did a number on their crowding issue, which they would have anyway, was made measurably worse by all the binkies.

    …however I don't think I would have done it any differently.

  • Reply Packrat June 20, 2012 at 4:46 am

    I like how you are handling this. She'll probably get rid of all by herself.

  • Reply Erin June 20, 2012 at 12:31 pm

    The reason most experts say to get rid of them by 1 is because of the interference it can cause with teeth, gum, and jaw development. The longer a child has a pacifier the more likely they are to need orthodontic work in the future. It's possible that expert opinions have changed in recent years (and if they haven't just give them time, they will change eventually). I promise I'm not posting this comment to be judgmental in any way.. I'm just trying to provide the explanation behind the argument for getting rid of them. Oh, and I think I've also read that pacifiers can interfere with speech development as well.

  • Reply Amy June 20, 2012 at 4:01 pm

    Hear, hear! Our two 1/2 year old still her "bink" for the same reasons. She is a ridiculously easy little child who never puts up a fight about anything, why get rid of something that is causing no problems? It's also restricted to bed use, as are our girls "special" blankets. My four year old still sucks her thumb and I'm also not worried about that. She only does it as she is falling asleep. So why make a big deal about something that lasts fifteen minutes every day and makes life so much easier? Fooey to the prescriptive parents.

  • Reply Emily June 21, 2012 at 2:58 am

    We call ours the paci as well. I think I've heard Erin's comment's research before too. But since everyone gets braces anyway, why not?!

    But really, kudos for doing what works for you.

  • Reply Elle C June 21, 2012 at 3:11 am

    I'm going to chime in from the medical point of view…well, okay…dental. I'm a dentist and I typically am pretty mild about the pacifier issue from a professional standpoint. Can pacifiers cause damage to the dentition? Yes. They can mold the arch and cause a "v" shape that will result in the permanent teeth coming in sideways. However…the way you're doing it, I see no reason to be concerned. Ella isn't using the paci all day and she isn't glued to it. (Children who have the pacifier all day will be more at risk for jaw abnormalities and speech issues.) As long as you monitor her mouth for changes, you're fine (and I don't expect you to find any). I typically recommend "weaning" off of pacifiers and finger habits around the age of 7 – when the permanent teeth will be coming in.

  • Reply Peaceful Reader June 21, 2012 at 3:44 am

    Both my sweet children kept their pacifiers (paci at our house also) well past the standard time, gliding right into the French bebe time! I remember snarky people in the checkout line giving me the "look" and I just smiled back. We made up a song about preschool and giving up the paci-that's what finally did it. I love that you tell the Disney story right in between the "we always keep the paci in the crib" story. It is wonderful that you've set up parameters which keep her from begging for it.

  • Reply Operation Pink Herring June 27, 2012 at 5:50 pm

    I love this post (and the comments) so very much. Hannah still has her paci and I could not care less. She uses it to go to sleep, but she spits it out during the night every night and doesn't cry or need it back, so I am fine with it. She uses it a lot during the day, too. It seems to help with her teething (she is not a fan of teething toys) and keeps her from putting other things in her mouth. Like someone else mentioned, she will find one around the house (we have three), squeal with delight, and pop it in her mouth. It's cute! Yesterday I quite enjoyed watching her try to jam the one she found in the stroller in her mouth when she already had another one in there ๐Ÿ™‚

    Seriously, it does them no harm and I cannot see a reason to start a battle needlessly. My friend is trying to sleep train her 4 month old to sleep without his paci and it is not going well and I have to bite my tongue so hard. Whhhhhy put yourself through the sleepless nights? He was sleeping great before they decided to cut the paci!

  • Reply Amy January 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm

    I was browsing your archives for book suggestions for my daughter (she'll be two in March), and had to comment on this post. I totally had the same realization when E was 18 months old that I was just feeling pressure to get rid of her paci, when really I had no problem with her keeping it (hers also stays in the crib). I had always thought it was a dental issue, but that doesn't seem to be true. Thanks for making me feel slightly justified in decision (or non-decision). Love your blog!

  • Leave a Reply