Toddler Behavior: My Child Won't Leave His Binky

Dear BabyShrink, My two-year-old will not cope without his pacifier. He keeps it in his mouth at all times. I am afraid it is delaying his speech as he has quite a few words, but most of the time tries to talk with the button in his face. I have always hated it when I see toddlers running around with plugs in their mouth, and (as Karma always works) I can't get him to get over his. He won't go to sleep without it, and if he realizes it's missing for more than an hour or so, he starts crying and won't stop until it's found. This can be very tiring for my mom, who watches him during the day, because very often we don't know where he lost it. Most of the time it's found after 30 minutes of searching, buried in the bottom of his toy box, or mixed into the dirty laundry hamper. My question is this? Should he still be so dependent on this silly piece of rubber? If not, how can I get rid of it without him completely flipping out?

Tired of Searching, Las Vegas

Dear Tired, Yeah, I have one of those at home too. There are different schools of thought about this: we have a pediatrician who tells us to lose the Binky after 6 months, and a pediatric dentist who says "Hey, it's better than a thumb! Don't worry about it! Orthodontia is a lot cheaper than psychiatry!" (I swear, she really said this, not knowing I'm a psychologist). I've also heard that Binks can delay speech -- but I've seen too many kids explain the whole storyline of a Super Why! episode with a Binky firmly in place, so I'm not convinced on that front.

Psychologically, there is something to the notion that a toddler is working very hard on independence, and Binkies and other comfort “loveys” are there to help support that independence. There is so much turmoil in a toddler’s life. Things are so out of their control, and a little self-soothing goes a long way. This won’t hurt him psychologically; rather, it tells him that Mom and Dad will support him in his efforts to cope and make himself feel better. He will move on, when he’s ready for the next step, developmentally (which will probably be the annoying preschooler’s habit of: Nose-picking! Betcha can’t wait for that one!)

On the other hand, many kids will be ready to give up the Bink, and won’t put up more than a couple of days of fight about it. It depends on how irritating it is to you, and also how willing you are to pick this particular battle, with this particular toddler, at this particular time.

So what's a parent to do?

You have 2 choices:

If you're really sick of it, go for it and decide to spend your precious parental effort, time and sanity on an eliminate the Binky" plan. What worked for us with our oldest (when we still had the time and energy to fight this particular battle) was to, first, have a conversation about it: now that you're 2 years old, you're big enough to not have the Binky except for in your crib. The Binky stays in the crib, now for sleep only. Expect protests, and try to have a substitute ready that might (reluctantly) be accepted (blanket, stuffed animal). Then phase out Binky over a week or so, explaining that "you're big enough now without it, here's your (blanket, animal) instead.

Stick with the program. Sympathize mightily with the feelings of hurt over the lost Bink, but make a huge deal out of, “Now that you’re such a big boy without a Binky, look at all the cool things you can do now! Only babies have a Binky.” Once it's over, it'll probably be over. binkyla3

(Photo: Little did she know she'd eventually be subjected to the eliminate the Binky plan.)


Decide that "resistance is futile", and buy 15 or 20 more Binks to leave around the house, diaper bag, crib, car, etc, etc, so that at least you're not going crazy looking for them everywhere. That's actually what we do with our youngest right now. But we are making a concerted effort to talk to him about, the fact that; “The Binky is for the house. Binky does not go to the store. Say "bye" to Binky, we'll see him when we get back to the car"; getting him ready for the day, closer to the age of2 ½ or 3 (or 4...), when we phase out the Binkster altogether. I really do think that, after that age, there's no reason the Bink should be kept around any longer.

Good luck, and let us know how it goes!


Dr. Heather The BabyShrink