About a month ago, we underwent “Project Binky Removal” — a long anticipated, dreaded, and much debated undertaking. It may not seem like this is related to type 1 diabetes, but like most everything in our lives, T1D is a big factor.
From birth, Lily had the need to suck on something at all times. Being my first child, I didn’t recognize this was a thing right away. I wasn’t prepared with pacifiers when we brought her home from the hospital (but you bet I had tons of other useless baby crap!). After days of her being attached to my breast for close to 18 hours a day, or sleeping with her dad’s little finger in her mouth, I finally got the bright idea to get a freaking pacifier. (Duh!) Enter the “binky.” Lily never attached to any sort of lovie or blankie, but boy did she attach to her binkies. Like whoa.
It was a savior through many phases and hard moments of her first years, but it was also a curse. And a crutch. It caused much anxiety for all family members – knowing where they were at all times, popping them back into her mouth at night before she could do it on her own, making sure we had one on hand during outings in case of meltdown, keeping them clean.
We fully intended to get rid of the pacifier by the time she turned two, but then she was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 19-months-old. The binky was a huge comfort to her during those long hospital stays in the beginning, and it continued to give her comfort while she learned to deal with constant finger pokes, shots, nighttime wakings to drink milk or eat honey, and wearing medical devices 24-7 to name a few. I wasn’t about to take that away from her in those early days after diagnosis. And later on it became handy for things like insulin pump site changes, Dexcom changes, endo appointments, and so on. It was so easy to just give in to the power of the binky.
When she turned three and all of our efforts to slowly wean her from the binky were absolutely futile, we knew it was time to take more drastic measures. We tried everything. We really focused on attempting to limit her binky time to just naps and bedtime, but she would whine and cry for it all day, or she’d find it in its hiding spot. It was just too hard to police. We knew we had to pull that mouth plug cold turkey, but we hemmed and we hawed. What was the best way? We just brought home a new baby, was this the best time? We kept putting it off for fear of the repercussions we as parents would have to deal with…
We had a new baby boy on our hands, a toddler with type 1 diabetes, and we were about to take away the very thing she loved the most? Sounds insane. Who wouldn’t be scared?
She turned three in October, 2017. By the end of January, 2018, I was at my wits end and I knew it was time. She had become even smarter about manipulating us with the binky, she was acutely aware of its location and its presence (or lack thereof), and it became a HUGE daily battle. One morning I lovingly blurted out, “Tomorrow will be your last day with your binky and you can have it all day long until then, but tomorrow night the binky fairy is going to come and take it.” This was not planned. (I thought I had made the binky fairy up, but there are apparently books about it and everything.) That day I went to work and rushed out at lunch to buy some little presents for the binky fairy to leave her. I was committed. This was happening.
The next night while she slept, the binky fairy left a beautiful card and note, and a little necklace under her bed. Lily was beyond thrilled to receive these little treasures and it softened the blow. The hardest part of that day were the expected triggers like nap time, riding in the car, or any sort of downtime. I tired to keep her distracted and be sympathetic through the meltdowns. Bedtime that first night was brutal, so I told her that she was doing such a great job and that the binky fair would probably come again tonight.
The binky fairy came three nights total and left encouraging notes and little gifts. Nothing extravagant. On the third night the note said that she was so big and brave, and was doing so well that it was time for her to move on to help other big girls and boys get rid of their pacifiers, too. It worked. By the third day she hardly asked for it anymore. It went 100 times better than I had feared it would.
For anyone out there looking to get rid of the binky once and for all, I’d say you probably know what approach will work best for your child. My biggest piece of advice is to be fully committed in your head and heart, and to stay consistent in your approach no matter what your kid throws at you. Be kind and show empathy. Try to imagine someone taking away something you treasure and how you would feel. Set realistic expectations and prepare yourself for a rough week. Consistency and commitment are key for this endeavor, as is with almost anything in parenting (why is this so hard?!). Good luck and let me know what worked for you.