The day you decide to wean your baby from the pacifier might be your first bout of separation anxiety. Whether you go cold turkey or take a gradual approach, the pacifier should go sooner rather than later, says pediatrician Jason Sherman, DO.
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“The pacifier can alter the way your child’s jaw develops,” says Dr. Sherman. “Your child’s bottom teeth will be in and the top teeth will be out. Children shouldn’t use pacifiers all day to allow their teeth to grow in the way they’re supposed to, not to mention the problem can get worse over time and lead to a variety of dental issues.”
It’s OK to offer your baby a pacifier at nap time or bedtime until age 1. If your baby is slightly older, Dr. Sherman notes it’s fine to keep your baby’s pacifier until age 3, but you should only use it to help your baby take a nap.
“The pacifier should only be used on an as-needed basis,” he adds.
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. However, your young toddler shouldn’t 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 and there’s a chance the pacifier could also slow language development.
Most kids stop using pacifiers on their own between ages 2 and 4, but others need help breaking the habit. Send your child to bed with his or her favorite blanket or teddy bear instead of a pacifier. Snuggling up with those special items offers them security and comfort throughout the night.
Dr. Sherman suggests rocking your child to sleep as a second method. The age-old technique of rocking your baby is another great way to eventually get rid of the pacifier. According to the National Sleep Foundation, the rocking motion works as a natural sleep aid because it reminds your child of being inside the womb.
Finally, when your child is happy and at home, try removing the pacifier. This gradual approach may help instead of quitting cold turkey. Start limiting pacifier use only for mornings or evenings, and then eventually taking it away completely.
If you have to, take the creative approach. From “Pacifier Fairies” to throwing going away parties for their binky, there’s always a fun way to creatively get rid of the pacifier once and for all. Plus, it’s a great way for them to get involved. Remember, slow and steady wins the race.
“You may have to deal with a few days and nights of fussing,” says Dr. Sherman. “Stand your ground. Be the authority.”