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Pacifiers have a lot of great benefits. They can help soothe a baby, strengthen your child’s oral motor development and according to the American Academy of Pediatrics or AAP, the use of pacifiers under the age of one may help reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). With that being said, families can sometimes rely on pacifiers to keep their child “content” when they aren’t even upset and it can turn into a learned behavior of just having it when their child might not necessarily need it. So what does that mean for you? In this post, we are going to discuss when should pacifiers be used, what products are recommended to be used and to be avoided, and how to transition your child off of the pacifier if needed.
When should pacifiers be used?
As of today, lactation consultants and many pediatricians are recommending to try to avoid the use of pacifiers during the first month of your baby’s life if you are nursing in order to avoid nipple confusion.
Whenever you decide to introduce the pacifier to your newborn, I recommend using pacifiers for sleep times only. If the child, regardless of how old they are, has something blocking their mouth during wake times, that limits their ability to produce sounds, babbles, and words which can eventually lead to a speech delay. In addition, excess pacifier use in children over the age of one, has been linked to increased ear infections as well and dental issues.
What products do you recommend?
I personally liked Avent. What I liked about them:
- They weren’t attached to a separate plastic part so I didn’t have to worry about the nipple becoming detached from the base.
- They are Latex and BPA free.
- They have different sizes up to 18 months.
- Multiple colors available.
Which ones do I recommend to avoid?
The main pacifiers I recommend to avoid using are the Wubbanubs.
Yes they are cute, soft and fuzzy. But let’s break it down.
- This type of pacifier is essentially a stuffed animal. Stuffed animals and soft objects are not considered to be a part of safe sleep practices for infants.
- They are heavy. Once your child starts to develop teeth, the weight of the animal can actually pull down on your child’s teeth leading to dental issues.
When should pacifier use be stopped?
At the end of the day, you know your child best. Personally, I stopped my son’s pacifier use at the age of one. I did not see the benefit of him having it any more. My son was sleep trained, he was at a reduced risk of SIDS at 12 months old, and I wanted to remove it as an additional sleep prop. So in my opinion there wasn’t really a need or benefit to continue it over the age of 12 months.
How do I stop the use of the pacifier?
You have a couple of different options:
- Gradual transition.
- Cold turkey.
The gradual transition option A.
How it works:
- Start during nap times.
- Find a replacement item such as a lovey.
- When you are reading a book with your child during their nap time routine, have your child continue to use the pacifier during naps however, introduce this replacement time while they still have the pacifier. When you are reading the book, your child can use the pacifier and then you can hold the lovey or replacement item or encourage them to hold it but respect their body boundary if they choose not to.
- When you are ready to put your child in the crib, do not place the lovey or replacement item in the crib with them as it is recommended no soft objects in the crib under the age of 12 months old. ALWAYS, consult with your pediatrician prior to placing any additional items in your child’s sleep space. Allow your child to still sleep with the pacifier.
- Continue their exposure to this new item during their nap time routine for about 1 week.
- After the week is over, and if your pediatrician has given you approval to have a soft item in your child’s sleep space or approved your preferred replacement item, remove the pacifier during naps and allow your child to sleep with the replacement item during naps only. Continue pacifier use for bedtime.
- After about a week of no pacifiers during nap times, now you can present the replacement item during your child’s bedtime routine as well. Allow your child to use the pacifier during night time while they sleep and present the replacement item during their bedtime routine, such as reading books as stated above, however do not place the replacement item in the crib overnight.
- At the end of this week, remove the pacifier for nighttime use and allow your child to sleep with the replacement item overnight.
Gradual approach option B (not recommended for children under the age of 18 months):
How it works:
- Take a picture of your child’s pacifier and print out 5-7 copies.
- Pick a spot on the wall in your child’s room and tape the pictures of your child’s pacifier at your child’s eye level.
- Show your child the pictures and talk to them about how “They have this many more sleeps until their pacifier is all done.” “5 more sleeps.” Get your child involved in the process by having them rip off a picture of the pacifier each night and have them throw it in the garbage.
- The morning after your child’s “last sleep” with the pacifier, you and your child collect all of the pacifiers in the house and throw them in the same garbage can as you threw out the previous pictures of the pacifier.
Why is this approach recommended for children over the age of 18 months:
This specific approach is recommended for children over the age of 18 months because they are more likely to understand this concept.
The cold turkey method:
How it works:
This method works as it sounds. You remove the pacifier suddenly without any transition of decreased use. No more pacifiers during nap or bedtime.
You can read books such as Pacifiers Are Not Forever as a part of story time to start talking about the decreased usage of your child’s pacifier.
The pacifier “fairy” can come to your child’s room in the middle of the night and remove all of the pacifiers and instead leave a note explaining, in child’s terms, that they are a big kid now and that they won’t be using the pacifier any more. The “fairy” can leave some goodies or surprises to help make this a smooth transition.
Whatever pacifier you decide to use, I encourage you to research different options. It’s okay to purchase a couple of different brands to see what works best for you and your baby. Always remember to consult with your pediatrician, and try to use pacifiers during sleep periods only.
Whatever method you decide to use when removing the pacifier, keep in mind that consistently is KEY. The more consistent you are, the more consistent your child will be. Once the pacifier is removed completely, I strongly encourage you to not go back to it. Yes it might be a “quick fix” in the moment if your child is having a tantrum, however it will only make it harder on you and your child in the long run.
Most importantly, remember that there is always going to be a variety of information out there so trust what you know about your child’s needs.