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Whoa, Momma!

Sharon Kennedy Wynne, Tracey Henry and Suzannah DiMarzio

Elmo to help kids break pacifier habit



pacifier.jpgThere's some tot-sized junkies out there and it takes more than the tough talk of Intervention to get them to give up the stuff. We're talking pacifiers. Binkies. Baby's bah-bah. The fuss plug. Like all habit-forming behaviors it starts off as an easy way to feel better. But breaking that habit can bring on a harrowing case of withdrawal.

Beginning today, Sesame Street is kicking off its first-ever "Put Down the Pacifier" initiative to help kids through the difficult milestone of giving up their pacifier. The week-long promotion, which culminates on Nov. 4 with "Put Down the Pacifier Day."  Parents will get daily tips and video clips from Elmo that will ease their child's transition into a "big kid."

pacifierdvd.jpgThe online promotion coincides with the release of their DVD (Gee, what a surprise). Called Bye Bye, Pacifier! Big Kid Stories with Elmo, the  DVD is selling for  $14.98 from Warner Home Video. Elmo shows preschoolers how to deal with difficult emotions and puts giving up the pacifier in the same context as learning to ride a tricycle or getting a first haircut.

As cynical as I like to be about shilling products, I do have a soft spot in my heart for Sesame Street, so I think the motivation is good. This is a tough thing for parents and they could use all the positive help they can get. "We can do this together," the red monster says to his fellow binkie junkies.

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I was lucky that I never had to deal with this, but I've known plenty of folks who had. I thought my sister handled it the best way I've ever seen. She first off eased into it by setting down some rules when her son was about 18 months old. He could have the paci if he was lying down. But if his feet hit the floor, he had to hand it over. That was a good way of breaking him out of the daylong noshing habit.

Then when it came time to really end it she did a countdown, similar to Elmo's plan. They picked a day the paci was going to go away and it was going to be taken by the Paci Fairy who was going to give it to a baby who needed it. (Others I know attached it to a balloon and wished it goodbye on its way to the Paci Fairy). Having a going away ceremony made it fun, like a graduation. Also, when he asked for it the next day she could honestly say, "We don't have one, remember? We sent it away."

She also made a big effort to not just take it away but to replace it with other soothing habits. You can't just stop sucking a thumb or pacifier without replacing it with other self-soothing behavior. A cuddly blanket or cloth can be a logical replacement. Gradually use the blanket more and the paci less. Having a consistent bedtime routine is also helpful, and you could add something like soft music or a cool nightlight.

And give the kid lots of praise for growing up instead of making this some battle of wills.

--Sharon Kennedy Wynne

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[Last modified: Friday, October 28, 2011 8:10am]


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