Thursday, September 17, 2009

Taking Away the Binky : The 3 T's

I feel like I've accomplished the seemingly impossible!  No, I have not magically transformed myself into a 120lb woman.  I'm talking about weaning Noah off his pacifier (or the binky as we call it at home).  

Last Sunday, September 13, my Mom pointed out how Noah seems to have developed a slight overbite.  Being the paranoid mother that I am, I said, "That's it!  We definitely have to take the binky away....starting TODAY!"  Don't get me wrong.  I knew it needed more than just my will power and paranoia.  Note too that we have attempted several times before and failed.  We've always known that we have the perfect formula for disaster or failure.  Noah is such a strong-willed, not to mention, extremely loud cry baby, while I was never the patient kind.  I can't stand too much noise and non-stop crying most of all.  It just drives me totally insane!  When I tried taking away the binky so many months ago, Noah just ended up losing his mind and taking mine with him in the process.  In the end, I was the one who surrendered.  Admittedly, it was as if I was the one that paid ransom to Noah in the form of his binky, just so I can have my sanity back.  I was no match to my own son's stubbornness.
This time though, I knew it was going to be different.  It just had to be.  I knew I didn't want to spend a ton of money on retainers or braces for my son in the future.  Neither did I feel guilty anymore for taking it away from him mainly because I felt that NOW was the right time.  

To any parent needing to take on a similar mission, my realization is that the 3 T's are crucial:


Noah is now 29 months old.  He is talking and understanding so much more at this point.  He's also beginning to be toilet-trained.  Given his development, I felt it was a good time to take away the binky without me feeling too guilty.  Most parents and  experts would say that ideally, you should take away the pacifier before the child turns 2yrs old.  For most of us parents who have had to deal with this sort of thing, we know that that is easier said than done.  When I tried before, I just ended up guilt-stricken and angry both at Noah and myself.  I was angry at Noah because I felt he was just deliberately making things hard for me.  And I felt self-loathe not only because I felt powerless and ineffective as a parent for not being able to enforce the 'ideal' / the 'rules' given by experts, but also because I felt mean and unloving.  This time though, it was clear that he is no longer a baby and I knew I wouldn't feel like I was depriving a poor little helpless and clueless child if I took away this one source of comfort.  In other words, I felt justified in doing this at this time.  

The other side of timing is doing this during the day and not just at night.  From mid-morning, we all talked to Noah about taking away his binky.  We kept telling him all morning that starting from that day, there would no longer be a binky and that he was already a 'big boy' and therefore didn't need it anymore.  Come nap time at mid-afternoon, when it was time to ask for the binky, the battle began.  Noah asked nicely, then incessantly, until finally the requests elevated to deafening screams as if being tortured and abused.  Had I done this at night time, I would not have withstood all the drama for fear of waking up the entire neighborhood.  But since it was afternoon, I had the strength to resist all sense of propriety and just let my son scream his lungs out.  I just did not care if my neighbors heard.  I knew I wasn't seriously annoying anyone anyway.  

After 40 minutes of non-stop screaming, rolling around in bed and head banging, he finally gave in to exhaustion and fell asleep.  Sure I was a bit more deaf than when he first started crying but at least I did not feel defeated.  He woke up another 40 minutes later and continued to cry for another 15 minutes but that was it.  When night time came and it was time to hit the sack, I think Noah was too tired to ask for his binky.  It seemed as if he has cried it all out of his system and that was it.  I felt triumphant!


I have only two words for you...Cold Turkey.  I've tried the slow and subtle technique of cutting slits on the pacifier. Experts say it would make it less pleasurable for the child and therefore would make them want to give the habit up.  It did not work for my son.  Then I thought of snipping off the entire tip until Noah was just left with half an inch of the nipple to suck on.  He still didn't give up on it.  These techniques don't work for highly stubborn and desperate beings such as my Noah.  Only plain and simple full-time deprivation works and most parents I've spoken to know this.  Complete withdrawal is key.


Regardless of your chosen technique and timing, this I think is the most important factor.  You have to be THE parent.  You can't be his buddy, friend or nice baby sitter.  You need to be clear about your objective and stand your ground.  You need to focus on the bigger picture and know within yourself that this is the compassionate thing to do.  Like I mentioned above, I feel that it is easier to be persistent and consistent if there is less guilt to battle with, if you feel justified in doing this.  When Noah was so much younger and I wanted to take away the binky, after 15 minutes of crying and begging, I thought to myself, "Is enforcing what experts recommend worth my baby's suffering?  He doesn't even understand what's going on!  He's JUST A BABY!"  After this internal conversation, I just willingly surrendered and didn't think it was worth the struggle.  
This time around though, none of my old justifications felt right.  He's no longer a baby and I am being a good parent by doing this.  I was clear about that and there was nothing to stop me in enforcing what I set out to do.
Good luck to anyone out there who is still struggling with their toddlers when it comes to the pacifier.  Aside from my 3 T's, the only other piece of advice I have that we cannot lose sight of as parents is this....that all children are unique and that in the end, YOU are the REAL expert when it comes to YOUR CHILD.


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