It might be called a parent’s first bout of “separation anxiety.” No, not the first day of preschool or kindergarten, but the day you decide to wean your baby from the pacifier.
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Deb Lonzer, MD, a pediatrician at Cleveland Clinic Children’s Hospital, says whether you go cold turkey or take a gradual approach, the pacifier should go sooner rather than later. “The pacifier can … alter the way your [child’s] jaw develops. Your [child’s] bottom teeth will be in and your [child’s] top teeth will be out,” Dr. Lonzer says.
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends offering babies a pacifier at naptime or bedtime until age 1.
Most kids stop using pacifiers on their own between ages 2 and 4, but others need help breaking the habit. To help young toddlers break the habit, Dr. Lonzer suggests:
- Swaddle your child
- Rock your child to sleep
- Send your child to bed with an object of affection, like a blanket or teddy bear
Dr. Lonzer says the pacifier should only be used on an “as needed” basis. “It’s OK to keep your [baby’s] pacifier until age 3, but the meaning behind that is to use it to help your [baby] take a nap,” she says. Babies and young toddlers use pacifiers to help themselves sleep or to comfort themselves after having a fit as a way to deal with frustration, she says.
But babies and toddlers should not use a pacifier all day when they’re running around the house and when they should be developing language skills. Kids typically begin to talk at age 1, Dr. Lonzer says, adding that there’s a chance the pacifier could also slow language development.
It’s also important that children not use pacifiers all day to allow their teeth grow in the way they’re supposed to, she adds.