If you have seen many photos of Henry, and especially if you have been around Henry in person, you may have noticed a certain accessory that he has very rarely been seen without...
Oh yes. I'm talking about the precious pacifier.
He didn't always have it in his mouth, but we always kept it clipped to him so that he could have it on hand whenever he needed help calming down, or if he was having an oral sensory moment and needed something safe to chew on. Because of Henry's cognitive and sensory differences, we felt like he really needed that paci - not that he needed it constantly, but that when he did need it, he really really needed it. To be perfectly honest, I was often really friggin' thankful for that pacifier because I could not imagine how to get a hysterical Henry to calm down without it. And sometimes, the paci wasn't even enough calm him down.
When we weaned Henry off of his baby bottles, I leaned heavily on using his pacifier to replace the comfort sucking from the bottle. It made bottle-weaning go really smoothly. When I started thinking about weaning Henry from his pacifier my first thought was something like, Heck No. Never. He can take it with him to Kindergarten. He can take it with him to high school!! Don't take my paci away!
Because of Henry's cognitive delay, I knew that we weren't going to be able to do anything like the "Binky Fairy" or passing down the pacis to a younger baby or anything that involved reasoning or explanation. I also knew that Henry would likely still have oral sensory needs and difficulty self-soothing well beyond a reasonable age of using a pacifier. So I figured the best thing would be to swap out the paci for another, more age-appropriate, source of comfort. There's another mom of a Dup15q kiddo who I follow on Instagram. I often see pics of her son, a couple of years older than Henry, wearing a necklace with a teething pendant. I've also seen older kids who wear "chewy" necklaces or carry small "chewy" toys around with them to help them deal with sensory or anxiety issues. So I thought, Brilliant! I'll just swap out the paci for a chewy and it'll be totally fine!
Over the past few months I started taking away Henry's pacifier little by little, trying to get to the point where he would only have it for naptime and bedtime. That never really happened because inevitably, at some point during the day he'd have a big fit and I'd give him the paci to try to calm him down (even though it didn't always work).
As summer started to wind down, I started feeling more serious about moving past the pacifier. So last week I went for it and finally made him go a full day without it. Instead of the paci on his little clip and ribbon, I replaced it with a teething pendant, per my brilliant plan.
Here's the thing. He hated it.
At first he ripped it off and threw it on the floor. A few times.
Then he basically ignored it until he was upset or tired, and when he would reach for what he thought was his paci and came up with the pendant instead, he would get even more upset and try to rip it off again. It was like that for about two days. I kept on clipping it to him in the hopes that he'd warm up to it, but instead he eventually started ignoring it entirely like it didn't exist.
So my attempt at replacing the paci was a bust. I even tried putting together a basket with a variety of toys and materials with different textures to see if there was anything that he really enjoyed biting or sucking on.
He had a lot of fun with it, but there was no clear winner.
Those first two days were the hardest. The first No Binky Day also happened to be a day when we were out at a big picnic with Henry's speech therapy school and yes, of course he had a meltdown while we were there for all the other teachers and parents and kids to see. It wasn't the worst meltdown he's had, but he was pretty inconsolable and I was trying everything I could think of to calm him down. In the ergo, with the hood up, with the hood down, bouncing, walking, singing, swaying, offering him the stupid teething pendant, offering him water, offering him food... finally I put him in the stroller and walked around and that worked as long as he couldn't see me! I'm sure it was quite the show, but luckily Calvin was off playing and of all the audiences for a meltdown I can't really think of a better one than a bunch of therapists and other special needs parents with their kids!
I was really terrified that night to put him to bed without the pacifier, but it actually went miraculously fine. It has been a full week now and I have stopped making him wear the teething pendant, since it's clear he has no interest in it! He's sleeping fine without his pacifier and during most of the day he's perfectly happy without it.
When he starts to feel upset and it's hard to console him, I do miss having the pacifier as a quick fix - or at least the illusion of a quick fix. But it wasn't truly reliable anyway, which kind of proves that he didn't need it anymore. I think it'll just be a learning process for us all as we get used to finding ways to help Henry calm himself without his pacifier. He is getting to be such a big boy after all!
I was so scared to take away his pacifier, especially when I saw that there was clearly not going to be an easy replacement for it! But I think we're past the hardest part, and I'm feeling relieved. One more hurdle crossed. One more milestone reached. This counts as a milestone right? I say yes.
Anybody else want to share about the Bye Bye Binky Blues? What worked for your kids?