It was a habit I never thought Iíd be dealing with.

Neither of my two oldest kids used a pacifier. We tried pacifiers, not out of earnest desire for them to take one but more out of desperation in those early newborn weeks. But neither of them really took to it. I never had a pacifier as a kid, and neither did my sister. And so, I guess, Iím a little in the dark when it comes to weaning my youngest child from the hardest habit to break in her young life: The ďpaci.Ē

Our youngest daughter is turning three next month and, while itís fine for some parents, I refuse to let my toddler enter her preschool years still using a pacifier. Like her siblings, she didnít take to it when she was a young infant when I was home on maternity leave. But around 4 or 5 months old after she started daycare, her teachers asked if they could try to give her one. All the other kids had them. What could it hurt, I thought.

More than two years later, the other kids in her class have given up their pacifiers. But our daughter hasnít ó yet.

At 18 months, the pediatrician suggested that we go ahead and wean her off of it.

ďIt will be easier now than later,Ē she said.

But our youngest daughter is our last child. Itís taken me longer to move her out of the crib, longer to potty train ó I guess you can say that Iím taking it slower with our last child.

How I wish we had listened. At 2, our daughter understood that she was only allowed to have her pacifier at naptime at school, but our house was free reign. Most of the time, sheíd walk around the house with one pacifier in her mouth and another pacifier or two in her hand.

We tried reading books about how ďpacis are not foreverĒ and talked to her about how ďbig girlsĒ donít have pacifiers. Weíve tried using rewards. But, like most women in my family, when pressured to do something she doesnít want to do, our baby girl dug in her heels ó the paci problem got worse.

For months Iíve been promising myself that we arenít buying any new pacifiers. When the last one is lost, itís just gone. Done. And this week, barely a month before our daughterís third birthday, the last pacifier disappeared. Itís probably buried somewhere under a toy basket filled with My Little Ponies or in the dress-up box filled with princess costumes. But Iím not looking for it.

The first night, paci-free, went well. She slept the entire night. The second night was hellish. As Iím writing this, Iím sleep deprived, up at 2:30 a.m., 3 a.m., 4:15 a.m., with a crying toddler who couldnít sleep. All because of a ďpaci.Ē

But I can be persistent, too. Iím digging in my heels on this one. I may be sleepless for the next week or two. Hereís hoping itís worth it.

Here are tips from the American Academy of Pediatrics on how to wean a child from a pacifier or from sucking their thumb:
ó First, ignore the habits. Children often stop on their own. Donít use harsh words, teasing or punishment.
ó Use praise and rewards when a child does not suck her thumb or use the pacifier. Try star charts, daily rewards and gentle reminders.
ó If your child uses sucking to relieve boredom, keep her hands busy or distract her with things she finds fun.
ó If you see changes in the roof of your childís mouth or teeth, talk with your pediatrician or dentist.
ó Be sure to explain it to your child. If it makes your child afraid or tense, stop it at once.
ó Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Alabama. Reach her at