I’m not here to debate the benefits of pacifiers. Pacifiers can serve many purposes. In the early months, they satisfy an innate urge to suck. This can be particularly beneficial for premature babies and colicky infants and they may lower the risk SIDS. They can be of great comfort at difficult times. But some studies imply that the use of pacifiers by breastfeeding infants may reduce the length of time they breastfeed. And some research indicates that long-term use of a pacifier (4-5 years) can lead to a change in the structure of the mouth and positioning of the teeth. Read what’s out there and make your own decision. If you are a parent who has chosen to use a pacifier, however, there will come a time for your baby to give it up. This can be easy and it can be really hard.
It’s a pretty sure bet your child won’t go off to college with his binky. Most children will stop using it between the age of one and three, as long as the parents do not encourage its use. (Parents who constantly use a pacifier to keep their child quiet may find it harder to eliminate its use later on.) Many parents begin withdrawal by limiting the use of the pacifier to the home, then his room, then just at naptime and bedtime. Be sure to offer other sources of comfort like hugs and kisses, cuddling, listening to soft music, sharing favorite stories. Be sure your child uses his mouth for all sorts of activities like singing, sucking water through a straw, laughing, telling stories, making goofy faces with you.
Praise all “big boy” behavior, but don’t put him down when the baby behavior pops up. Putting on his own socks, potty training, graduating to a “big boy bed,” climbing on the playground equipment all deserve praise and reinforcement. My daughter reinforced the “big girl” behavior enough that, after months of gradual withdrawal, her daughter decided she should mail the binky to the hospital for the babies. Together they put her pacifiers in a box, took them to the post office and mailed them to the babies (a local friend who tossed them out). Got any suggestions you’d like to share?