Pacifiers are often a lifesaver when it comes to temper tantrums during bedtime routines, fussiness, or long road trips and plane rides. Although a pacifier comes in handy most of the time, parents frequently ask, “At what age should my child stop using a pacifier”? This post has answers to the most common questions about pacifiers, and most importantly, tips to help wean your child off of a pacifier!
What are the advantages of pacifiers?
• Babies are born with a suck reflux allowing them to nurse. They also rely on this reflux to self-sooth. If you notice your baby is eating more than every two hours, they may be relying on nursing to sooth so a pacifier would be a good solution
- Never use a pacifier in lieu of feeding
- A pacifier should always be in juncture with parent cuddling and comfort if used as a soothing technique.
• It is easier and faster to break a pacifier habit over a thumb-sucking habit. It also decreases difficulties with proper tooth development
• Current research has linked pacifier use with decreased risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The study showed that pacifiers may keep babies from rolling onto their stomach, and keeps their tongue more forward. Pacifiers do not prevent SIDS but there is a correlation between pacifier use and reduced risk of SIDS. Be sure to lay your infant on their back while sleeping to prevent SIDS!
What are the disadvantages of pacifiers?
• Introducing a pacifier before the child is sufficient at breast-feeding may impact their feeding since the sucking of a breast and pacifier are different. Do not introduce the pacifier until your child is proficient at breast-feeding
• Research has shown that children who utilize a pacifier are at a 3x higher risk of middle ear infections. If your child has recurring middle ear infections, start weaning off the pacifier after six months
• Many pediatric dentists urge parents to wean their child off of a pacifier by 12 months to decrease improper dental development. The longer your child uses a pacifier, the greater chance it will affect dental structure and development
When to give it up?
• Opinions vary about the appropriate age a child should stop using a pacifier. While some people argue around one-year old, others say around two-years old
• If appropriate for your family, begin to limit pacifier-use between the ages one and two-years old
• Although opinions vary about when to start to wean, most agree that a child should not be using a pacifier after the age of four- years old
How to give it up?
If you have ever broken a bad habit before, you understand that it can be challenging! Going cold turkey may work for some people, but it is near impossible for others. Here are a few suggestions to help the transition go as smoothly as possible:
• Remove the pacifier in less stressful situations. Sucking is an innate reflex used to help sooth an infant. Pacifiers are initially given to act as a self-soother, but may become a habit for many children. Start by eliminating the pacifier in situations that are fun such as play or story time
• The pacifier stays in the house. The next natural step in eliminating pacifier-use would be to leave it at home. Explain to your child that the pacifier cannot leave the house and needs to stay in their room while they are gone
• Next, the pacifier remains in the crib. Many kids rely on the pacifier to fall asleep at night, or feel comfort with it being there. Transition your child into only using the pacifier during naptime or bedtime
• Bonus tip: cut the tip of the pacifier. First, check the brand of the pacifier and make sure it will not break apart when cut. If you gradually snip the tip of the pacifier, the sucking will be less effective and your child will drop the pacifier all together. Another trick is to cut the pacifiers, and tell your child it is broken and give them the option to throw it away
• Finally, ask your child to completely give it up. There are many ways to approach the final step. If your child is older, consider having a talk about growing up and getting ready to sleep in a big boy/girl bed. If it is extremely challenging for your child, near holidays they can give their pacifier to Santa or the Easter bunny. There is also the “binky fairy” that collects pacifiers and leaves a little treat
• Praise! Giving up a pacifier is a huge step for your child. Communicate how proud you are of their decision to give it up!
• Always say no. There will be few bad nights without the pacifier, but do not give in. The minute you give in, the process starts over
• Reward chart. Consider making a reward chart for your child’s progress. At the end of each day or morning, they can put a sticker on the chart if they didn’t use their pacifier
• Offer other ways to cope. Pacifiers were used to calm a child in stressful situations. After taking away the pacifier, discuss what feelings are with your child and provide other alternatives for self-soothing. Provide extra hugs and cuddles to help them cope with the loss of their pacifier
Taking away the pacifier is a big step for many children and families. Stay consistent and be strong through the process! If you feel your child is having an extremely difficult transition, feel free to contact Lumiere Children’s Therapy for support and counseling.
Dubinsky, D. (2017, May 23). How to help your child give up the pacifier. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from https://www.babycenter.com/0_how-to-help-your-child-give-up-the-pacifier_3659347.bc
Lamb, M. (2017, February 08). Bye-Bye Binky: Ending the Pacifier Habit. Retrieved June 02, 2017, from http://www.parents.com/toddlers-preschoolers/development/behavioral/bye-bye-binky-ending-the-pacifier- habit/
Pacifiers: Pros, cons, and smart ways to use them. (2017, May 23). Retrieved June 02, 2017, from https://www.babycenter.com/0_pacifiers-pros-cons-and-smart-ways-to-use-them_128.bc
Pacifiers (soothers): A user’s guide for parents. (2003). Paediatrics & Child Health, 8(8), 520–521.