Childhood can be hard.
Just as we as adults sometimes have to go through painful seasons of letting go in order to grow, children also sometimes have to learn to let go as they grow through life.
I’d venture to say that watching our children go through difficult seasons of growth can sometimes be harder on us than it is on them. I definitely cried the first day we tried a nap without her paci. Heck, I cried just in anticipation of it.
But much to my surprise, Charley adapted and moved on faster than I ever dreamed she might.
And as it turned out, I may have had more tears than she did!
I thought it went so well that I wanted to share the idea with other parents searching for ways to ditch the paci.
The first time we tried to ditch the paci, my mom was staying with us after Gavin’s birth and she felt brave enough to tackle the transition. Because I was mostly tending to Gavin and she was mostly tending to Charley, she was the one facing nap and bedtimes and telling Charley that her pacifier was unavailable.
I really missed my girl during those days, however, so one day I made sure I could be the one that put her down for her nap. The tears and crying for her paci broke my heart. The poor girl had just been through the transition of a new person arriving on the scene, she was having to adjust to someone else getting up with her each morning, and her mom was a lot less available as compared to the constant one-on-one time that she used to have.
Maybe I could blame my postpartum hormones, but I just couldn’t do it.
I fetched the paci much to Charley’s delight and told my mom that I didn’t want to proceed – it wasn’t the right time to ditch it. One big transition was enough for now, and even though we were concerned that her teeth were possibly being damaged by the paci, we would wait a couple more weeks until things settled and we’d try again.
It was then that my mom had the incredible of idea of how we could once and for all say goodbye to the paci.
If you’ve never been, you’re missing out on a magical experience.
I made my first Build-a-Bear when I was 16 years old while on vacation in Orlando, Florida. (I still have him… his name is Orlando!)
At Build-a-Bear, you first select your non-stuffed animal.
You then get to help stuff it and experience the magic of selecting and giving your animal a heart. They now even have the options of adding sound bites and scents!
After your animal is sewn up, you give it a “bath,” name it, and print a “Birth Certificate.” You can also accessorize your animal to your heart’s desire! No limitations on flair here!
In addition to a heart, my mom’s idea was that Charley would add her beloved paci to the bear before they sewed it up.
I cannot express how well this whole experience went.
Before we left the house, I showed Charley that we would be taking her paci with us, and we repeatedly told her throughout the morning and on the way to the mall that we would be putting her paci inside a stuffed animal. I wanted her to understand when we got there that this was her paci and not one that materialized out of nowhere. I also wanted her to be prepared (as much as a 20 month old can comprehend) with what we were about to do.
Of course, Charley loved ALL the animals and went from bin to bin checking out all the adorable new friends. To help her, we selected a handful of simple animals and laid them out on the floor in front of her. We then asked which one she wanted. She picked up a couple, but when she picked up the Panda Bear and then walked away with it, we assumed she had made her choice! (I especially loved this choice, because at the time we were repeatedly reading “Panda Bear, Panda Bear, What Do You See?”)
The next step was to stuff her Panda bear. She was a little apprehensive about the noise from the stuffing machine, but continued to press the foot pedal with some assistance, and watched as her bear came to life!
Charley excitedly chose a heart, rubbed it on her nose “for good luck,” and placed it in her bear.
Then came time for THE moment.
My heart was pounding.
My mom handed her the paci and asked her to place it inside.
There it went.
And that was it.
The bear was sewn up, and off we went to bathe him and create his birth certificate!
I had prepared myself for a full-blown meltdown in the store and a plan B to evacuate, but it was totally unnecessary. I was ecstatic and found myself actually enjoying this experience so much!
We finished up at Build-A-Bear (complete with a stroller-for-bear purchase), took the newly named “Paci Panda” for a short mall walk, and then headed home for the hard part:
The first nap time without her pacifier.
I can’t lie.
This part was awful.
It took one hour. One hour of crying and pleading and my heart breaking outside the bedroom door. Mom and I took turns returning to her room to comfort her, and we offered her a sippy straw cup with water.
After much crying (Charley too), she finally went to sleep and had a good nap.
At bedtime, we had to face life without paci again.
It took thirty minutes for Charley to settle down and go to sleep.
The first time without paci, falling asleep took an hour… and this time only thirty minutes?!
We considered the fact that it took half the time a major victory!
The next day at naptime, I braced for more crying.
SHE DIDN’T EVEN ASK FOR PACI.
Bedtime was the same.
I couldn’t believe it.
If the topic of her paci has come up since then, we’ve reminded her that it’s inside her bear and even have shown her the video I took of her putting her paci inside. Sometimes she has wanted her bear in the bed with her, and other times she has left him out.
(I don’t blame her… I’m sure she’s a little salty at him for swallowing her paci.)
Most of the time however, they’re great friends and have spent lots of time going on walks in circles around the house in the stroller!
I can’t believe how well my tot adapted to this major shift in her routine. A paci can be a major habit, not to mention a comfort item.
It would be like me having to give up coffee every morning.
(I guarantee there would be many, many tears.)
There are a lot of ideas out there about how to ditch the paci.
But I absolutely loved this creative Build-A-Bear idea!
I hope if you do too that you’ll try it (& let me know how it goes)!
Here are a few tips to keep in mind:
– Before ditching paci, decrease its use to sleep times only. For us, the paci never left her crib or bedroom.
– Go during your tot’s happy time of day, not when they are already tired or stressed out.
– Have help the day you go – that way you have some extra hands to record a video of the process so that later, when your tot is crying for paci, you can show it to them to remind them of the experience and what happened to their paci.
– Give alternatives at sleep times. We like offering this cup. (It doesn’t leak and has a straw that your child can chew on to replace the oral input their paci used to offer!)
– Seems a no-brainer, but make sure there aren’t other pacifiers lying around your house that your tot could find. It could derail the whole process!
We want to build trust with our daughter, so we knew that we wanted to be honest with her in whatever route we took in saying goodbye to her paci… Not that it magically disappeared or that the paci monster ran away with it.
We also wanted to protect the relationship she has and will have with her baby brother, so we didn’t like any idea of her having to “give it to the new baby” as is sometimes suggested. (In keeping with the coffee habit comparison – if I had to give my coffee every morning to some stranger that just showed up in my house one day, I’m pretty sure I’d be pretty bitter towards them and would want them to leave!)
The Build-A-Bear idea we chose was honest, thoughtful, and creative, not to mention a memorable experience that I will cherish forever!
Bonus: We came home with a new friend!
Growing up can be hard.
But as parents prepared with thoughtfulness and intentionality, we can shepherd our little people through the difficult moments in life and come out on the other side even stronger, healthier, and with the gift of a pocketful of beautiful memories together.
If you want to check out some other options, here is another great idea that I love!
Bonus: You get to go to Target!
If you have helped your little one kick the paci habit, please feel free to comment your ideas for other parents who may be searching for a solution. As always, thanks for stopping by and following along with Charley’s Circus!