Looking back, I don’t really remember why we decided to give our daughter a binky. We tried from the onset, hoping it would soothe the small banshee masquerading as our baby. It was somewhere around four or five months, in the thick of that bleary-eyed-we’ll-do-anything-for-more-sleep period that it took. And it worked! Pop that thing in and Wah La! – silence. Since then we’ve never really let her use it much outside the bedroom, just during meltdowns and perhaps on a walk when she’s clearly done. For the most part, she just uses it to fall asleep, but it quickly cemented its place in her nap and nighttime routine.
Certainly, we’ve met other babies whose parents are probably going to have a much harder time breaking the habit, but our daughter is clearly an addict. We, as her parents, are also clearly responsible as her ‘dealers.’ So, it’s up to us to wean her of this with the least amount of trauma as possible. When you Google “breaking binky habit,” you mostly get people like me with a 12-16 month-old asking other parents for advice on what worked for them. For whatever reason, it seems that the parents who respond are those with 2-3 year-olds telling how they negotiated a solution with their fluent toddler. The favorite techniques seem to be:
- Sabotage: poke a hole in the end of the binky, which prevents it from ‘working,’ and the kiddo will give it up, deeming it ‘broken’
- The Binky Fairy: kind of like the tooth fairy, but she passes it on to younger babies who need it more.
- Build a Bear: a store in malls apparently allows customers to build their own teddy bear, and kids can deposit their binky in the bear’s heart, so they still have it – sort of.
- Bribery – mostly around birthdays and Christmas in exchange for a specific desired present.
- Cold Turkey: just throw them away or “forget” to bring them on a trip.
Now I did read Ferber’s book, and although I really gobbled it up when I read it, in practice I felt more and more like a monster listening to my daughter scream in the next room as my wife glared at me. But he was right about putting your baby to bed still awake, and with sleep associations. We all prefer there to be certain conditions in order to fall asleep. I, for instance, need to be lying on my stomach, with a ridiculously flat pillow, in the dark with no noise. If you put me on my back with a hotel pillow and a light on with a TV blaring in the next room, I will watch the sun rise and won’t be very fun to be around the next day. But, I don’t need a binky, and it’s not so acceptable for kids over three to need them. Personally, I don’t want to have to negotiate an armistice with my toddler.
If it were me, we’d do this cold turkey. She would cry for a few days, and that would be it. When I have a band-aid to take off, I rip it off – done. Considering I don’t have clear memories before I’m five years old, I have a hard time believing that we’d be doing any long term emotional damage that would land her in a pschoanalyst’s chair when she’s 24.
My wife on the other hand is much more gentle. If it was up to her, she’d let our daughter have it until she just decided on her own that she didn’t need it anymore. I’ll accuse her of being an enabler to an addict, and she’ll paint me as a callous drill sergeant. Together, we’ll balance each other out, and find a humane way out of this.
Until then though, when I go into to check on my daughter during nap time and find her peeking over the crib rail grinning, with her binky halfway across the room, she is not getting it back.