Thanks for all the input! I talked to Dh who agreed that it is the daytime use that seems to be damaging them. We have both noticed DS fooling with the binky and chewing it during daytime. He started that while in the hosp. last month. We are going to wean off it...as quickly as possible. Starting with no more binky during waking hours. At night, I am going to remove it as soon as he falls asleep. If he wakes and asks for it, I will give it back. This doesn't happen every night, anyway, and then not til about 4am.
I used to wash them daily in the dishwasher (which I have noticed really weakens the silicone) so I will now wash them by hand and inspect them before and after each use, not every few days. It seems like it took DS several days of hard use to damage the other ones he broke. I also took one and sucked and chewed on it tonight (gag) to test it and I couldn't get a hole in it to save my life. You can't just bite a hole in one of those in one try, that's for sure. I know I didn't suck on it for hours, but he isn't going to be doing that anymore, either. The ones he has are brand-new and as soon as they show any sign of wear, or sooner if feasible, I am going to cut off the nipple as you guys suggested and tell him that they are broken. Maybe suggest that he trade them for a new toy or something....
I really appreciate the advice. I would LOVE to try cold turkey but with his recent illness (in hosp. with Rotavirus last month for 4 days--and has just started to get back to normal sleeping etc.) plus the new baby due any day I really would feel awful removing his comfort object. Particularly since I am having a hospital birth and will be away from him for two nights.
DH and I feel that with these measure to reduce the use of the binky (taking it away while he is sleeping so that he couldn't chew it while we weren't there to supervise--although this is highly unlikely since he generally sleeps through and when I check on him, the binky has inevitably fallen out-- and not letting him use it while awake, it will be safe to wean him more slowly. What do you guys think? I know it all sounds like a PITA, but I am just worried about stressing him further and all of us getting tired out and stressed on top of the new baby arriving....and I just can't picture my poor DS begging for his binky while my sister tries to soothe him at midnight or something without it if I'm giving birth and he's not weaned yet...KWIM?