Pacifier Basics

I am always amazed at the guilty look that comes across parents’ faces when they “confess” that their child uses a pacifier. Pacifiers have a bad rap. They actually can be quite useful. However, they are frequently used inappropriately by some parents, and this perhaps contributes to their negative reputation.

What’s good about a pacifier?

  • They help an infant or toddler self-soothe themselves to sleep—a great skill to learn.
  • Recent studies have contributed to the evidence that using a pacifier at naps and bedtime until the age of 1 year can decrease the risk of SIDS.

How do you best use a pacifier?

  • If you are breastfeeding, try to wait until breastfeeding is well-established (i.e., your milk supply is good and the baby is feeding well, usually 3-6 weeks) before introducing a pacifier.
  • Don’t immediately jump to the pacifier every time your child is upset. Try other strategies to calm your child when they are upset.
  • Clean the pacifier…a lot! Run it through the dishwasher or wash it with warm, soapy water.
  • Don’t put the pacifier in your mouth. We see this all the time and it can actually transfer germs to the infant or toddler.
  • Don’t dip the pacifier in sugar or something sweet before giving it to the child.
  • Avoid pacifier clips with strings that go around your child’s neck.
  • Don’t let your child walk around with a pacifier in their mouth. This can lead to injuries; plus, this probably isn’t a time when your child needs a pacifier anyway.
  • Don’t encourage your child to talk with a pacifier in their mouth. Make them take it out if they want to tell you something.
  • Plan to wean the child from the pacifier by 3 years of age at the latest. According to dentists, continued use after 3 or 4 years of age can lead to dental problems.

Time to get rid of the pacifier?

  • I’m a big believer in getting rid of the pacifier “cold turkey.”(Having weaned 3 kids from sucking their thumbs—which you can’t easily take away—the fact that you can take away a pacifier is a great advantage.)
  • Discuss with your child in simple language how they don’t need the pacifier anymore, and then plan how the child will stop using the pacifier together.  Some people have found it helps to say that they will send the pacifiers to a baby who needs them; you can involve the child in packing the pacifiers up in a box.
  • Get the pacifiers out of your house. Not because your child will find them but to give you the strength not to give the pacifier back when your child screams for it. Consistency again is key. Most kids do surprisingly well.
  • Celebrate the fact that they have outgrown their pacifier and have given it up as a positive and exciting event.

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