As with many things in the parenthood-genre, moms and dads are undecided on the entire premise of a pacifier. Are they good or are they bad?
According to WebMD, pacifiers are recommended by specialists because they lower the risk of SIDS, satisfy their natural desires and soothe them by helping them feel secure. Like all good things in life, pacifiers also have set of downfalls. Pacifiers lead to them wanting it more and more to soothe themselves. The thing is though, pacifiers can cause dental issues, speech impediments, ear infections, and a dependence on an item they shouldn't need depending on.
So what's a parent to do? Well, for starters, parents can give their child a pacifier as an infant, and then help them wean off it when they reach their first or second birthday. As Children's Dentistry states, "Pacifier use past age 4 will start to impact their adult teeth, and those problems will have to be corrected with orthodontics."
Although the use of pacifiers seems to be split, the art of weaning a child off their pacifier will need to be done regardless. And here are 20 tips from experts themselves.
20 When To Stop
As a parent, you'll do anything you can to keep your baby from crying or being fussy. Pacifiers can be a big part of that. Thanks to the experts over at Near Say, they claim pacifiers are completely safe as long as you end the dependence around six months.
"Generally, medical experts recommend stopping pacifier usage around the time your child is six months old. Continuing to use one after this point has been linked to an increased risk of ear infections." We'll describe the correlation between pacifiers and ear infections below, but if your baby isn't seeking its pacifier — don't give it to them.
19 Then Again, They Are Soothers For A Reason
One of the biggest reasons we give our babies pacifiers is because it soothes them. According to Happiest Baby, their medical professionals explain why babies have an urge to suck, and more importantly, want to suck. "Non-nutritive sucking helps babies stay calm amid the chaos of the world around them. Like baby meditation, paci sucking lowers the heart rate, [...] pressure, and stress levels; it even reduces crying after [...] tests."
If a parent is bringing their child into a new situation, a pacifier could be a beneficial factor in helping them adjust to their new environment.
18 The Oldest A Child Should Be
While some professionals express babies should give up their pacifiers around six months, what age is the absolute oldest that a child should still be sucking on a pacifier? Near Say explains that pediatric dentistry experts think children should limit their dependency on a pacifier by the age of two.
By the time the child is 3 years old, they should no longer need a pacifier.
While many will throw a temper tantrum without their soother, the longer a child has it, the more issues that may develop. Not only physically (in terms of their jaw and teeth), but in their speech and personality socially.
17 Long-Term Issues For Their Teeth
Our mouths are strong, to say the least. While our baby teeth eventually fall out, exposing our adult chompers, our teeth are constantly shifting. When something, like a pacifier, is in the way of obstructing our mouth's ever-changing capabilities, problems can occur. Thankfully, if a baby weans off their pacifier around six-month/one-year mark, Near Say explains "baby teeth shift back into place."
While parents have a right to be concerned about how pacifiers affect their baby's teeth, it appears the longer a child depends on it, the more problems occur.
Give your baby a pacifier to help its sucking need as an infant, and then slowly take it away before they become too dependent on it!
16 However, The Chances Of An Overbite Are Greater
We know now that pacifiers can affect a child's teeth, but what their jaw? The National Center for Biotechnology Information explains that the risk of an overbite is greater in children who depend on a pacifier. "A recent study showed significant differences in dental arch and occlusion characteristics in users at 24 months and 36 months of age compared with those that had stopped sucking by 12 months of age."
In another study, the Institute also found that children between two and five had an increase in "overjet, openbite, and posterior crossbite in pacifier users. The longer the use was, in months, the stronger the association with openbite and crossbite" were.
15 Avoid While Feeding
Now, this is a tidbit of information that many parents are unaware of, but according to the NCBI, babies who are breastfeeding should stay away from pacifiers or soothers. The study "is supported by several observational studies showing a strong association between pacifier use and early weaning. Many breastfeeding experts warn that pacifier use may contribute to [...] confusion [...] especially if introduced before breastfeeding has been fully established."
Summarizing from the NCBI, an infant may be confused between their mother's milk supply and from their soother. Knowing how much a baby loves to suck (and eat), they may not understand the difference between the two early on.
14 The Correlation To Pacifiers And Ear Infections
We've finally reached one of the reasons pacifiers in older children is a no-no: ear infections.
So why is a child who uses a pacifier more prone to ear infections? The NCBI explains "Pacifier sucking may impair the functioning of the eustachian tube by changing its patency, and the pressure balance between the nasopharynx and the middle ear."
In essence, it's all about pressure and the transmission of bacteria. The experts continue saying, "In one study, pacifier sucking was found in 40% of 601 children with chronic otitis media who required tympanostomy tubes in Toronto, Ontario."
Chronic otitis is a "draining perforation" in the eardrum, which is bound to make one upset baby.
13 Don't Create DIY Pacifiers
I've never thought about making a DIY pacifier before, but according to practically every professional out there, they're urging parents to steer away. One mother wrote an article on her experience with pacifiers on Babble, explaining she was told to snip the top of the pacifier off to "eliminate the desired suckling sensation," which will then make your baby not want it.
However, after poking a hole, her baby started experiencing cold symptoms. She writes, "So when I heard him 'cough' at 2:30am, I went into his nursery armed with cough syrup. To my surprise, he was covered in [throw up] including pacifier pieces. Finn had bitten off a chunk of [pacifier]."
Doctors steer away from creating a new version of a pacifier solely because you're modifying something that wasn't supposed to be modified.
12 Limit To Bedtime Use
My husband told me that when he was younger, he really loved his stuffed animals. Seeing his dependency on these fuzzy beings, his mom told him he was only allowed to play with them in his bedroom — nowhere else in the house. This was a form of weaning that actually worked for him. The same can be said with pacifiers.
Dr. Gordon (an Orlando Pediatrician) and Dr. Jana (an AAP spokesperson) told Babble, "that pacifier use should decrease around 12 months as not to impede speech and, eventually, be limited to bedtime."
When a child is taught they can only use their pacifier at nighttime, this may also make bedtime rituals easier. However, if a child doesn't bring up their pacifier or make the need for it — a parent should not bring it up.
Out of sight, out of mind.
11 Check Out The Age Limits For Pacifers
Some parents may be better at this than others, but almost all baby tools, accessories, and clothing comes with an age limit. Like toys and bottles, pacifiers also come with a recommended age range on each package.
Some will say "newborns less than six months of age or babies without teeth," according to Babble. Having an age range for a pacifier isn't being polite, it's an actual safety precaution that should be taken seriously.
A child who is given a pacifier that is meant for newborns might be too strong, making it a hazard. (The older a child is, the stronger their sucking motion can be.)
10 Weaning Before Six Months Isn't Necessary
Some parents give their baby a pacifier and instantly regret it. Does this mean they need to wean their child off the pacifier before they even realize what a pacifier is? According to Dr. Gordon (an Orlando pediatrician), weaning before six months isn't necessary. Agreeing with Dr. Gordon, Executive Director for Kids in Danger, Nancy Cowles states, “I’m not aware of that [6 months] age warning on pacifiers, aside from ones labeled newborn for 0-3 months.”
If you're not about that pacifier life when your baby is, well, a baby, feel free to take it away and teach your child to self-soothe.
9 Skip The Weaning — Quit Cold Turkey
Is weaning even necessary for a child who loves their pacifier? According to Children's Dentristy, you can drop the act cold turkey. "Some experts believe that stopping pacifier use all at once is the best method of how to wean your baby from the pacifier. While the first few days of going 'cold turkey' will be difficult, it will break the attachment."
Parents will find the hardest part about going cold turkey is that their child is more irritable, but it's important not to give in.
Going cold turkey may seem a little to much for some parents, which is why there are different weaning techniques to try. But if you can take a few sleepless nights, why not try it?
8 Find Other Forms Of Comforting
First of all, the look on this pup's face (Bauer) is every parent when they take away their child's pacifier and wait for a reaction. However, finding other forms of comforting a baby when they're looking for their pacifier is important. Whether they have a stuffed animal they love, they enjoy being picked up, or they adore being around a family pet — keep an eye for other things in the home that will calm your baby.
Children's Dentristy confirms this, saying, "Ultimately, the pacifier is a comfort item. If you plan to take away this comfort item from your baby, consider offering alternative comfort items that will soothe them without the potential [issues]to their teeth. You can rock your baby, sing to them, or give them gentle massages to help calm them down."
7 Get Creative
This may sound a little extreme, but there's another way parents can wean their child away from pacifiers: make it as uncomfortable and unattractive as possible. How does a parent do that to an infant who can't even speak? Well, they can make the actual tip unappealing.
Children's Dentristy suggests dipping the tip of the pacifier in "in lemon juice or vinegar," creating a bitter taste for them.
Seeing something they love taste bad may be enough to break that attachment. When they want to be soothed, they won't yearn for something that doesn't taste good.
Other parents suggest poking a hole in the tip with a needle to cancel away the sucking sensation, but again, this is a DIY method that could cause other issues.
6 Change The Tip
If your child is old enough to walk and talk, it's going to be harder to take their pacifier away from them. They're at an age where they know what they want and know how to get it.
Instead of yelling at your child for using their pacifier when they're not supposed to, try using words to convey why you don't want them having it.
Instead, The Mama Notes explains to "praise them for not sucking." The site notes, "Some kids respond just fine if you take it away completely. Other’s need more time to process and cope." While some parents are indifferent in toying around the top of the binky, this mom suggests trimming the tip down week after week. "Over time it will stop providing comfort so they won’t want to keep using it."
5 Give Them Praise
Another fun way to get your older child to wean away from their pacifier is to make it fun for them.
That's right: FUN! Detaching from a personal soother doesn't need to be daunting. The Mama Notes that parents can make it a game. "Get a fun calendar and stickers. Every time they go to sleep without the pacifier, they can place a sticker on the calendar."
Parents can let their child choose the sticker of their choice and put it on the calendar themselves when they wake up. Have a set number of nights each week that your child should have without their pacifier, and increase that number week after week. Eventually, they'll love the praise so much that they won't even want their pacifier.
4 Create A Story
There are tons of people who were told about the Tooth Fairy when they were a child. Once their baby tooth falls out, the Tooth Fairy flies into their room at night and places a gift under their pillow. When the child wakes up, it's like a mini Christmas morning. Their baby tooth is gone and they now have a fun gift to be excited about.
Considering how well the Tooth Fairy story plays out, why not do something similar with a pacifier? Children's Dentistry says to call it the "Binky Fairy"; a magical fairy that replaces the binky with a new toy. If your child is old enough to understand this concept, perhaps they'll be more intrigued by the magical fairy than their attachment to their pacifier.
At that age, a child doesn't really care too much about a dollar, exchanging the binky with a toy is much more exciting.
3 Choose A Location
I've mentioned parents only allowing their child to have their pacifier in bed, but a parent can also allow their child to only have their pacifier when they're in a specific room. Once they leave that designated area, their pacifier cannot come with them — it must stay in that room.
This can be the child's bedroom (so it's out of sight and designated for sleep) or it can be in the living room; no matter the room, the pacifier cannot be used elsewhere.
While some kids may try to sneak their pacifier out of the room, try creating a little box where they can keep their pacifier protected. It can be a secret safe place for their favorite treasure.
2 Take It Away While They Sleep
Another way to wean your child away from their pacifier is to take it away from them when they're not really using it. Maybe they had it in their mouth but took it out to eat or run around outside. As a parent, if you see their pacifier laying somewhere in the house, take it and hide it away. A child may forget about their pacifier until they see it laying there, which will inevitably make them want to use it.
But if it's out of sight, they may forget about it for some time. The same thing can be done when a child is sleeping. Many fall asleep with a pacifier in their mouths, but eventually, the pacifier falls out. If you see the pacifier laying next to them, grab it so that they won't feel the need to use it again when they wake up in the middle of the night.
1 Use Logic
If your child is older, they may do a better job at weaning if they knew WHY they were doing it. Most parents tell them they can't use their pacifier but have no idea why.
It almost seems like their parents don't want them to be happy. But if a toddler is old enough to understand you, then have a conversation with them. Children's Dentistry says, "Toddlers sometimes respond well to a logical reason to give up their pacifiers. Explain to your child that they are a big kid now, and some other baby out there needs the pacifiers more than they do."
Telling a toddler that 'big kids' don't use baby items like pacifiers may be a push in the right direction.