When and How to Get Rid of Pacifier – What You Need to Know.

Last Updated on 3 August 2022 by Dott. Sandro Cantoni

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Your baby always has his pacifier in his mouth. This is because he has grown up, and you would like him to stop this habit. Also, because you are afraid that he might have problems with his teeth. But you don’t know if now is the right time. And you don’t know how to do it. So here you can find some helpful information and advice.

The pacifiers offer superb comfort to screaming toddlers and fussy babies. Also termed dummies, pacifiers serve as a soothing tool for newborn babies from the first month of life.

Babies come into this planet with an instinct to suck. Many babies grow to love their dummies as the month’s pass. But, there comes a time when the pacifier must go. When is the perfect time to wean your baby? And, how exactly do you even get started? Pacifier weaning can be heartbreaking for your baby.

Read on to learn tried-and-true strategies to help you with pacifier weaning.

What Age Should Pacifiers be Taken Away?

There is no fast or hard rule when it comes to weaning your baby off the pacifier. There isn’t a perfect age to take the pacifier away from your baby.

MANY YEARS AGO, when I was a child, it was common to see a 5-year-old running around with a pacifier. Parents thought that the child was much calmer this way without thinking that pacifiers could cause dental problems.

Today we pediatricians recommend removing the pacifier earlier, around 2 years old, if possible. Basically, when the child starts attending preschool.

What Happens if Your Child Uses the Pacifier for Too Long?

Your child may have significant tooth problems, such as tooth decay or malocclusion. That is an altered position of the teeth. Often the child has a so-called “open bite.” That is, there is a space between the upper and lower teeth, like a small window.

Other alterations in the development of dentition are frequent. For example, the high narrow palate or the posterior crossbite. The longer the duration of pacifier use, the greater the alterations in tooth position.

This can lead to severe problems. Like difficulty concentrating, fatigue or insomnia, irritability, etc. Also, the pacifier, if used frequently, promotes dental caries. Another consequence of prolonged pacifier use is an increased frequency of otitis media.

For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends reducing pacifier use in children from 9-12 months of age. It also appears that prolonged pacifier use may impair intellectual and language development.

Start reducing pacifier use after 9-12 months of age.

Especially in the first 6-9 months of life, your baby’s sucking reflex is powerful. It is a physiological need for your baby. At the age of 8-9 months, the sucking reflex is gradually replaced by the chewing reflex. At this age, the baby eats small soft pieces of food. So you can reduce the use of a pacifier, for example, only in the evening or before naps.  Sometimes it is possible to stop it all together after the first year of life.

After 12 months of age, your baby still needs an alternative to transfer the attachment to. As a result, you can opt for a small stuffed animal or a silky blanket. You can place these alternatives in your baby’s hands during storytime or bring them along on car rides to encourage the bond. You can also engage your kid in creative distractions such as playing with your child and singing.

It’s not easy to give up on a habit. The same case applies to your kid. If you want a successful transition, consider helping your child through the challenging times with distractions and reassurances. Whichever tactic you use, be consistent and passionate. Weaning from the dummy is a massive step for your growing kid.

How many hours a day should the child use the pacifier?

After the age of one year, it is not advisable to exceed 4 hours per day. Otherwise, the risk of dental problems is very high.

How do I stop the pacifier?

Many reasons contribute to pacifier weaning. Typically, you can wean your baby off a pacifier because of night waking, or the baby is too old for a dummy. Also, parents can wean babies off pacifiers as a result of middle ear infections or dental problems.

Before you consider getting rid of the pacifier, you need to think through the underlying reasons your child uses a dummy. Also, you need to consider an alternative behavior to help your child adapt without a pacifier. Pacifier fills the ultimate need of a kid’s love for sucking.

Remember. Never force your child to give up the pacifier, for example, with punishments or humiliations (e.g., “you’re already big, only babies use it, etc. ….”). In this way, you get precisely the opposite effect of what you want. In fact, it increases the baby’s stress, so, they need to suck the pacifier. So instead, it is necessary to involve the toddler in the choice of taking off the pacifier.

The gradual approach to getting rid of the dummy is removing it in zero-distress situations. For instance, you can wean your baby off the pacifier when your child is home, playing, and happy. Once the baby gets used to not having the dummy while indoors, you can go ahead and do away with its outdoor use.

Convincing your baby to make the ultimate break can be challenging. Yet, you can use an alternative to realize a smooth transition. These steps will help your baby ditch the pacifier with minimal tears and tantrums.

Get the timing right.

Dummy weaning should be a smooth transition. So, the timing has to be correct and should not start with a stressful event like a family vacation or the arrival of a sibling. Your kid will need to be able to self-soothe during these challenging times. You can take the pacifier away when stressful events are over.

Offer your kid a transitional object.

A transitional object will help your kid adjust to challenging situations and relieve stress. Ideally, you can use your kid’s favorite blanket or a stuffed animal as the transitional object.

Limit the use of the pacifier.

It’s much easier to limit your kid’s dummy use during the day. You can restrict its use and only let your baby have it when you’re at home. Consider phasing it out during the day and offer it at bedtime. It’s helpful to start a new bedtime routine such as singing and introducing storytelling sessions.

Keep your baby busy and moving.

Try not to turn to the dummy whenever your kid starts crying. Instead, check if your baby is hungry and use distractions such as playing soft music to soothe your baby.

Strategies that will help wean your baby off the pacifier.

Some kids stop the pacifiers themselves, as they develop alternative coping strategies. Here are some tips.

Communicate the ideal changes with your kid.

If your kid is above two years of age, you can give your kid a heads up on the changes. This way, the baby will easily cope and won’t be thrown off guard by the pacifier weaning decision.

Start by telling your kid a few weeks before weaning off the pacifier and set a date. This way, you can track the date with your baby and ensure the transition process is as smooth as possible. You can get a few books such as the ‘Bye-Bye Binky’ and the ‘No More Pacifier Duck.’ Remind your kid of the best strategies that can help do away with the binky.

Replace the pacifier with another item.

Flex your creative muscles and develop innovative ideas if you’re looking forward to weaning off the dummy during the night. This way, you’ll break down the habit of sucking and spin the change in a realistic yet positive way. Present the upcoming change as a joyous and exciting occasion.

Kids respond positively to adding stuffed animals to their sleep environment. For example, suppose your kid keeps mentioning the pacifier. In that case, you can encourage them to cuddle and hold onto their stuffed animal. To reduce the risk of SIDS, you should introduce a stuffed animal only once your kid attains 12 months of age.

If your kid has trouble letting go of a dummy, you can use alternative strategies to help your kid cope in real-time. For example, for your child to give up a dummy, these tactics can help:

Trade up.

Children become emotionally and physically attached to the pacifier. Thus, it’s hard for them to trade it for something else. If you want to convince your baby to give it up, try offering an attractive alternative. For example, you can take your kid to the store and allow them to pick a favorite toy as a replacement.

Keep a detailed journal.

Before you wean your baby off the pacifier, attempt to identify the connections between the child’s urge to suck and specific situations. Then, you should be on the lookout and intervene with alternative options.

Teach your kid self-soothing techniques.

Parents should focus on teaching kids how to self-soothe at an early age. Kids perform well when they focus on fun activities, favorite stories, or happy thoughts. Too, you can encourage your kid to talk and sing.

Each child is different.

Each family will find a suitable way to proceed, but positive reinforcement that makes the child happy is effective. For example, using a calendar with star stickers or something else to support progress. Or exchanging the pacifier for a beautiful gift.

Sometimes, the child himself wants to throw away the pacifier because “he has become a big kid.” Express to the child your admiration for his effort, that you are thrilled. Then, support even his moments of anger or agitation with an extra dose of cuddling.

But it’s not always straightforward…

Everything seemed to be going well. Now my toddler is crying his eyes out, fussing, and wanting his pacifier back. What do I do?

Once the pacifier is removed, even in the face of the most insistent cries of the child, you absolutely must not give in. Explain calmly and firmly that the pacifier has been removed forever and that he has now grown up.

Clearly, it is essential that those who take care of the child, grandparents or babysitters, do the same thing and do not give in to the child’s insistence.

How long should a toddler use a pacifier?

Babies should use a pacifier for around twelve months. Prolonged use can increase the risk of ear infections and lead to tooth misalignment. Once your kid is about one year old, you can reduce pacifier use.

Also, be advised that babies become dependent on pacifiers when they use them for a longer time. Therefore, consider taking the pacifier away from your baby and observe what will happen. The first few days can be challenging and heartbreaking. However, the results might surprise you. You can also keep your baby busy and try replacing the dummy with a healthy treat.

How do I wean my baby off the pacifier at night?

How do you help your baby get some good night’s sleep without using a pacifier? Dummy use at sleep time decreases the risks of infant death syndrome (SIDs).

I personally recommend that at night you wean your baby off the dummy between 12 months and two years of age. However, it’s of utmost importance to examine your baby’s sleep patterns. After 12 months of age, you can try putting your baby in bed without the pacifier at all.

Final Thoughts

The bottom line, there is no perfect time to wean your kid off using a soother. According to health care professionals, the consensus is that three years is the absolute limit and one year old is the ideal limit. After that, most kids stop using dummies on their own. If you have any doubt, consult the pediatrician. This way, the doctor will be able to offer guidance tailored to your baby. In the long run, your baby can rest comfortably and efficiently.

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About the author

Hi. My name is Sandro Cantoni. I’m a Pediatrician. I work in the General Pediatric Clinic. Hospital of Neuchatel, Switzerland.

References

Niemelä M, Pihakari O, Pokka T, Uhari M. Pacifier as a risk factor for acute otitis media: A randomized, controlled trial of parental counseling. Pediatrics. 2000 Sep;106(3):483-8. 

Ollila P, Niemelä M, Uhari M, Larmas M. Prolonged pacifier-sucking and use of a nursing bottle at night: possible risk factors for dental caries in children. Acta Odontol Scand. 1998 Aug;56(4):233-7. 

Sexton S, Natale R. Risks and benefits of pacifiers. Am Fam Physician. 2009 Apr 15;79(8):681-5. PMID: 19405412.

Barca L, Mazzuca C, Borghi AM. Pacifier Overuse and Conceptual Relations of Abstract and Emotional Concepts. Front Psychol. 2017;8:2014. Published 2017 Dec 1. doi:10.3389/fpsyg.2017.02014

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