Mommy Lesson #61: Bye bye paci, hello big girl! (she’s ready, but I’m not so sure about me)

We are now five days into Operation Paci Removal. It’s actually gone so much better than I had anticipated. That might be because I was imagining the worst (tantrums lasting for hours, mulitple nighttime wakings, deep-seeded resentment, etc.)
Let me give you some background. C has been attached (literally and figuratively) to her paci from the very beginning, when the busy NICU nurses gave her one for comfort when no one was available to hold her (excuse me while I get a hold on my grief and mommy guilt…)

Ok. I’m better. Anyway, after a couple of months we transitioned from the “newborn paci” that looks like this:

To a softer, flatter paci like this:

It was advertised to be “orthodontic,” meaning supposedly it wouldn’t affect her teeth, but we still wanted to let it go sooner than later. The original deadline was eighteen months. Ha. Who were we kidding?

We did manage to (very slowly) restrict pacifier usage to only naps and bedtime, with a few lapses when she was dealing with separation anxiety (mostly at MOPS). Her two-year birthday came and went with no end in sight to the pacifier. Being the articulate little thing that she is Baby Girl started handing it to me every time I got her out of the crib, saying “Take my paci away.” Precious.
Then came the day when, after multiple meltdowns, I finally just sent her to her room to calm down. A few minutes later the wailing stopped, and I congratulated myself on a great new strategy for dealing with tantrums. But when I went to get her for a little talk about attitude I found her hiding behind her tent, sucking furiously on the paci I didn’t know she could reach. Hmm.
I still wasn’t quite ready to drop the paci though, since we still had our anniversary trip coming up and I thought it might be a bit unfair to leave her for five nights with my parents sans paci. But now we’re back, with no big trips on the horizon and a lull in activity before Mom’s Night Out and MOPS begin again in September. Seems like the perfect time for a transition. Encouraged by my dear friend, who was beginning her own “wubby-go-bye-bye” operation, my hubby and I decided now was as good a time as any.
 DISCLAIMER: I am in no way advocating this method or timing as perfect. You know your child. If the time comes at nine months or three years, that’s between you and your little one. I’m just relating my experience in hopes that it will encourage/inspire/make you laugh. That is all.
After reading and discussing various methods with other mamas we decided to go for a simple approach. My husband wasn’t thrilled with the thought of bribing/rewarding her with a visit from the “binky fairy,” (not that there’s anything wrong with that approach, it just wasn’t for us) so we decided instead to appeal to her growing sense of becoming a big girl. So, on a Sunday afternoon before naptime I sneaked into C’s room and cut the tip off her paci.

Then I went through her usual nap routine: pick up toys, grab her blankies, read a story, sing and rock. She let me get all the way to the singing portion before she asked for her paci. I calmly told her that it was broken, but she was a big girl and she didn’t need it anymore. Then I handed her the “broken” pacifier. She looked at it for a second before agreeing that it was broken. Then she suggested that we fix it. I explained again that she was a big girl and didn’t need it. Then I got really bold and told her to throw it away because it was broken. To my utter shock and amazement she agreed, throwing it in her trashcan while repeating to herself, “I a big girl, I don’t need paci, it’s broken.”

So far so good! I set her back on my lap to finish singing songs before I put her in her crib. She was much more restless than usual, refusing to relax and lay back against me. I put her in her crib and left. She continued to talk and sing for about an hour (this is nothing new, even with her paci) before she started whimpering. I peeked back in and patted her for a minute. She looked up at me with the most heartbreaking expression, like she really wanted to cry but was trying to be strong like a “big girl.” I asked her if she missed her paci. She nodded and said “Yeeeeees!” That’s when the tears came. I picked her up and rocked her for a minute, telling her it was ok to miss her paci, and reminding her she’s a big girl and doesn’t need it anymore. I sang to her again and put her down. She started crying again, but I just left and closed the door (we believe in sleep-training and letting her cry it out, so I have lots of practice with this. It doesn’t get any easier.) After a minute she got quiet and I thought she was asleep. Nope. Soon the talking and singing began again. After another hour I went in again and got her up, thinking at least she’ll be good and tired for bedtime tonight.
This is where I made a big oops and my hubby paid the price. I went out to dinner with some friends, fully intending to be back before bedtime. Well, time got away from me and by the time I got home C was already in bed and my saintly hubby was cleaning up the kitchen, looking weary. I timidly asked how it had gone. He sweetly refrained from accusing me of cowardice by leaving it all to him, and said it went ok. Except that she really wanted to see me. And she laid on the floor and refused to let him brush her teeth. And when he put her into her crib she was sobbing. But that had only lasted a few minutes, and then she went silent. I apologized again and he graciously admitted that it was only fair since I took care of the first no-paci sleep, and now she knew both of us were serious about not giving it back to her. It took me a long time to get to sleep that night. I kept anticipating the inevitable wail that would occur when she woke up and couldn’t find her paci. But amazingly that moment never came. In fact, she has slept great all four nights so far without her pacifier (fingers crossed, knock on wood).
Naptime is a different story. She’s been struggling with naps for a while now, and after the second day of not falling asleep after two hours I began to think I had shot myself in the foot, and daytime sleeping was now a thing of the past. But praise the Lord on the third day she went quiet after about forty-five minutes and I didn’t hear her again for almost two hours. Same thing yesterday. Every day is a new day, so we’ll see how it goes today, but I’m hopeful that the adjustment is almost complete. She didn’t even ask for her pacifier yesterday, and this morning when I got her up she calmly informed me that she was a big girl and didn’t need her paci anymore.
Indeed my sweet daughter, you are a big girl. I’m not sure I can deal with that fact. Deep sigh. But babies grow up, transitions happen, and life changes. The next big adjustment is staring me in the face every time I go into the bathroom. Potty training. Heaven help me.

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