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How and when to pull the plug on your baby’s pacifier

How and when to pull the plug on your baby’s pacifier

Many parents of newborns know where it is at all times. It can be a parents’ best friend to soothe a screaming baby and provide relief for the parents’ eardrums. It, of course, is a pacifier. Even though pacifiers are generally safe, there could be some unintended consequences of relying on them too much.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that pacifiers don’t cause any medical or psychological harm. “If your baby wants to suck beyond what nursing or bottle feeding provides, a pacifier will satisfy that need,” the AAP says.

But if you use them too much you could create a dependence in which your child is looking for the pacifier when he or should shouldn’t have one. For example:

  • The pacifier should not be used to replace or delay meals, according to the AAP.
  • If they baby is crying, figure out why and try to address the problem, instead of immediately offering the pacifier.
  • It should not be used every night as part of the sleep routine. This will make it very difficult to wean your child off the pacifier down the road.

Parents also want to be careful of using the pacifier at a time when babies are trying to talk. Always having something in the mouth could possibly delay speech.

On the contrary, there are some occasions when it’s perfectly understandable for parents to use a pacifier: If the baby is crying for a very specific reason, like getting shots in a doctor’s office or if the baby having a bout of colic. A pacifier can be soothing and help the baby calm down and get through the discomfort.

But around age one, parents should try to wean the baby off the pacifier. Or go cold turkey and get rid of all pacifiers in the home. Usually in a few days, you will see positive results.

Some babies may try to substitute the pacifier for their thumbs. You can cover their thumbs with a glove or a sock and redirect them with a toy that doesn’t go in the mouth.

In the worst-case scenario, dentists can put a barrier in the child’s mouth if the child is age 3 or older and still sucking his or her thumbs. This makes it uncomfortable to put their thumb in their mouth.

The goal is to teach babies self-reassurance. Using pacifiers only in special circumstances allows babies to work through their agitation and feel comfortable without a device.

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  1. Angela Hacke

    My son loved his pacifier. But we only allowed it at naps and going to bed. We were terrified to take it away for fear he would never sleep again. But with encouragement from his dentist, we took it away cold tukey at age three and it was way easier than we thought! He had a hard time the first night than that was it! Now the challenge is getting by daughter to stop sucking her thumb. The pacifier was was easier to take away.

  2. Oh my goodness this was sooooo hard for us with our son! We let it go on far too long so this advice is great for parents!

  3. Abby Georgacopoulos May 7, 2013 at 10:01 am · Reply

    Our 2-year old was pretty well weaned from hers, and then we “lost it on the airplane” during a family vacation. There was plenty of fun going on and she forgot all about it! After we got home she asked once or twice for it, and we were able to reminder her it was lost – she was just fine without it. 😉

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About the Author

Dr. John Cabana
Dr. John Cabana

Dr. John Cabana is a pediatrician with offices in Downers Grove and Bolingbrook, Ill. He is on staff at Advocate Good Samaritan Hospital.