It’s Not All Mary Poppins

The Comfort Station: Soother-weaning 101

Anna’s parents have decided it’s time to deal with their child’s addiction. Anna is being weaned from the soother.

At Mary’s, Anna has a soother for her naps. Otherwise, it either hangs from her peg or sits safely in her bin. She doesn’t think about it, she doesn’t ask for it, because this is Mary’s house. The moment mummy or daddy walk through the door, she needs it. Instantly. Passionately.

Nothing they’re doing wrong, just an association: home=mummy/daddy=soother. Nor is there anything wrong with a just-turned-two having a soother, unless it were interfering with her speech. Which it manifestly is not. Girl can talk the ears off a brass monkey, to adapt one of my grandad’s pithier phrases.

Still, they’re tired of it and they want it gone. However, Anna (like many twos) is hard to say “No” to. Anna (like many twos) does not take “no” graciously. What to do?

When desiring to remove a soother from a child’s life, there are as many approaches as there are families. I’ve known parents who “accidentally” left it behind at gramma’s, families who give them to baby cousins (so mama’s sister can dispense of them), families who do it cold turkey, families who do it gradually, limiting them to bedrooms and naps.

I’ve even heard of families who package up all the soothers with pretty paper, ribbons and bows, to mail them to The Soother Fairy. (What he/she does with mountains of well-used soothers, drool-crusted is anyone’s guess, but, if we can have a Tooth Fairy collecting detached and bloody teeth, we can have a Soother Fairy. Fairies, evidently, are an eccentric lot.)

I suggest my tried-and-true soother response: The Comfort Station technique.

It’s a gradual rather than a cold-turkey approach. With this approach, you set up a Comfort Station. You choose a safe corner of the house. You take a soother and tie it with a short length of string to something immovable – a heat vent, a cup hook in the wall, a piece of furniture. You surround this spot with a couple of cushions, a blanket, a soft toy and a few books.

Whenever the child needs the soother, they head over to their soother spot. You are not denying them their comfort, but neither are they able to wander around with it. When they ask for their suss, you cheerfully direct them to their soother spot. (Do not make the mistake of staying there with them the first time or two to accustom them to this new regime, or you will set a counter-productive precedent! The idea is to wean the child from the soother, not to tie mommy to the wall with baby…)

It won’t be too long before their desire to be up and doing will overcome their willingness to sit with the soother. Forced to choose between their addiction and the big, wide world, the world will win.

Since Anna has always been allowed a soother at naptimes, she will continue to have one in bed at night, too. She also gets one in the carseat and the bicycle trailer. She is, however, steadily breaking the association between “home” and “constant sucking”.

Anna’s dad comments that she heads for the soother first thing when she gets home. “She’s like a smoker, taking that first big drag first thing in the morning. And then she just gets on with her evening.” She makes periodic trips over to the Comfort Station, but she never stays there for more than a minute or so. Anna is getting used to being without, and her parents are happy, too.

So far, so good!

September 21, 2007 Posted by | Anna, behavioural stuff, soothers and pacifiers | 17 Comments