Discover how to wean your infant from his or her pacifier, as it is often a child’s first love and letting go can be difficult. These tried-and-true strategies will guide you through the pacifier-weaning phase, making the transition smoother for both you and your little one.
Your infant is wailing. Their mouth is gaping, their eyes are pressed tight, and their fists are clenched. You’ve tried every method to calm your baby, such as nursing, using a stroller, soft rocking, and singing. You hold a pacifier in your hand, which you hope will be the solution.
Experts concur that pacifiers are perfectly suitable for calming infants. However, pediatric dentists advocate limiting pacifier use once a kid reaches the age of 2 and eliminating it by 4 to prevent tooth problems. There are no other hard and fast rules regarding when and how to say “goodbye, binky.” Here is the information you need to make the best decision for you and your child.
When purchasing a pacifier, be sure to adhere to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommendations:
- Consider a one-piece style with a subtle nip.
- To prevent your baby from ingesting the shield, it should be made of sturdy plastic with air holes and measure at least 1 inch across.
- Until your infant is six months old, purchase dishwasher-safe pacifiers and clean them periodically in the dishwasher; after that, wash them with hot soapy water.
- Pacifiers are available in two sizes: 0-6 months and 6 months and older; for the baby’s comfort, ensure that the correct size is used.
- To prevent strangulation, never tie a pacifier around your baby’s hand, neck, or crib rails. Instead, use a pacifier clip.
- Never use a bottle’s nipple and ring in place of a pacifier, as the nipple could come loose and present a choking risk.
- Regularly inspect pacifiers for damage and replace them if the rubber changes color or becomes damaged.
The Fundamentals of Pacifier Use
According to Richard Dowell, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist, infants are born with an innate drive to suckle. This “suck reflex” serves as a source of nourishment and comfort for newborns. Dowell explains that young infants have no alternative means of controlling their anguish. “They cannot obtain a drink, request a blanket, or manipulate objects with their hands. They are able to soothe themselves through sucking.”
According to doctor Karen Breach, M.D., of Charlotte, North Carolina, babies will be sucking on a thumb, finger, bottle, or breast if not on a pacifier. She suggests that if your infant nurses more frequently than every two hours, he or she may be utilizing you as a pacifier. She adds that in these instances, a pacifier can assist in satisfying your baby’s non-nutritive sucking demands while providing you with a much-needed break.
Pediatrician Kellen Glinder, M.D., of the Palo Alto Medical Foundation in Palo Alto, California, advises parents to ensure breastfeeding is well-established before introducing a pacifier. The pacifier might teach undesirable behaviors to infants who have difficulty learning to breastfeed. Once your infant has mastered nursing and your breast milk supply has been established (usually within a few days), it is acceptable to introduce a pacifier.
Pacifier Pros and Cons
Parents worry that binkies may hurt their infant’s teeth, however, they normally have no effect on children under the age of 2. According to John Stritikus, DDS, a pediatric dentist in Dickson, Tennessee, it’s recommended to limit a child’s use of a pacifier when he or she is 2 years old and have the child cease using it totally by age 4.
Dr. Stritikus says that after age 4, pacifiers can induce an overbite, an open bite, or a crossbite, which impact chewing, speech, and appearance and sometimes require orthodontic treatment to rectify. Unfortunately, so-called orthodontic pacifiers have little impact. What is significant is the frequency and intensity of the sucking behavior.
Pro: Pacifiers offer a means of comfort.
The amount of time a newborn spends screaming grows from birth until approximately 6 weeks, when they cry an average of three hours per day. According to Cynthia R. Howard, M.D., M.P.H. in New York, “that’s a lot of weeping stress.” Dr. Howard notes that sucking helps relax a newborn, which is why pacifiers are so popular.
Pro: Pacifiers may provide certain health advantages.
The only medical benefits associated with pacifiers have been observed in premature infants. According to a study published in the Swedish journal Acta Pediatrica, premature infants that use pacifiers acquire weight faster. Other studies have revealed that premature infants who use pacifiers early after delivery have earlier sucking patterns and have fewer health issues.
Dr. Nina L. Shapiro, assistant professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, says sucking increases oral-muscle function and muscular growth.
Pro: Pacifiers may lessen the incidence of SIDS.
A 2005 study that appeared in the British Medical Journal found a link between pacifier use and a lower risk of SIDS (SIDS). Researchers discovered that babies who slept with a pacifier were 90% less likely to die from SIDS. Theoretically, pacifiers may prevent babies from rolling onto their faces or keep their tongues forward and away from their airways.
Since a cause-and-effect relationship has not been shown, experts do not know how or whether pacifiers prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The SIDS Alliance refrains from promoting their use in the interim.
Con: Pacifiers increase the likelihood of developing ear infections.
In a 2002 study conducted by the University of York, pacifiers were revealed to be the cause of 34.5% of ear infections in children under three years old. Researchers found that there appears to be a cause-and-effect association between pacifier use and earaches or ear infections; however, the data is affected by external factors like as sociodemographic characteristics.
If a baby uses a pacifier, though, parents should be on the lookout for earache. Why the connection? Shapiro claims that using a pacifier causes fluid to build up in the ears, which can result in ear infections.
Con: Pacifiers may promote early weaning from breastfeeding.
Offering a pacifier to a full-term infant may prevent them from eating, which is what they require most. In fact, multiple research has connected pacifier usage to early breastfeeding discontinuation. According to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association, pacifiers are likely not to blame for premature weaning. Instead, the researchers came to the conclusion that their use is a sign of nursing challenges or waning breastfeeding interest.
While the pacifier-breastfeeding connection remains unclear, it is recommended to wait before giving a binkie. “Wait until your milk production has been stable for four to six weeks if you want to offer a pacifier,” Howard advises.
Con: Pacifiers might cause dental problems.
A study published in the Journal of the American Dental Association found that children who continue to suck after 2 have an increased chance of developing projecting front teeth and/or a crossbite in their baby teeth. In some circumstances, these issues continue even after permanent teeth erupt.
Methods for Weaning Your Child Off of Soothers
At this point, perspectives divide. A developmental psychologist in State College, Pennsylvania, Marolyn Morford, Ph.D., recommends stopping the pacifier after one year. She states that a child’s developmental demands at that age do not entail sucking. Dr. Breach permits greater latitude: “It is acceptable to make pacifiers the final item to be eliminated. After a child has been weaned and potty-trained, the pacifier should be removed.”
Dr. Dowell echoes this forgiving outlook: “Ultimately, children develop higher level ways to control their distress, often beginning at age 2,” he says. Babies gradually eliminate their pacifiers as they acquire abilities to replace them. Most children give up their binkies voluntarily by age 3 or 4.
The Three-Day Strategy
According to the author Mark L. Brenner, your child can be binky-free in just three days. Here is the procedure.
Tell your child in the morning and at bedtime that you can see they desire to do many things that will make them older. Tell your child that they should stop using their pacifiers in three days, as it is a good idea.
Assure your child that they are prepared and capable and that you will work with them to complete the task. Limit your speech to 30 seconds, and avoid requesting permission. If your child responds, think back on their sentiments and move on.
Do not be concerned that your youngster will get anxious if they are given advance notice. Brenner describes this as a myth. Children, like adults, enjoy physically, psychologically, and emotionally preparing for change.
Replace “in three days” with “tomorrow” and deliver the identical 30-second speech twice daily. Avoid selling the idea. Keep your tone and demeanor neutral.
Remind your youngster that collecting the pacifiers is the third day and time. Act as if you’re going on a treasure hunt and ask your youngster whether he or she would want to assist. Even if kids reject and protest, continuing to collect the pacifiers, throw them in a plastic bag, and set the bag on the front step for “recycling truck pickup.”
Describe how the pacifiers will be transformed into new tires or toys. Brenner states, “Children realize that recycling is purposeful and clever and will be lot less unhappy if you give away their cherished pacifiers” This does not mean that your kid will not have a tantrum. Brenner suggests being empathic but firm, adding that the majority of youngsters get over losing their pacifiers within 48 hours.
The Gradual Method
Begin by removing the pacifier in “zero-stress” conditions, such as when your child is content and actively playing at home. Once they are accustomed to not having their pacifier at home, ban its use outside. You are not required to provide an explanation. Dr. Dowell states, “Sometimes we talk to our children excessively.” Simply state that the pacifier does not leave the house.
From here, it’s usually a smooth transition to “The pacifier stays in the crib.” Convincing your child to take the final break may prove more difficult. Some parents employ the “Binky Fairy” or Santa Claus to ease the transition for their children.
Ivy Faske, M.D., a doctor in Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, recommends, “Around the holidays, you may tell your child that Santa collects all the pacifiers from newborns and provides toys for all the older girls and boys.” Alternatively, you may inform your child that the dentist or doctor collects pacifiers for newborns, and if they give theirs, they will receive a special toy.
However, don’t be surprised if the child who exchanged their binky for a new toy suddenly cries for their binky. “You must be willing to endure a few very terrible nights,” says Faske. However, the majority of children quickly discover alternative sources of consolation.
What to Do After the Pacifier
Prepare yourself for one to five nights of crying, regardless of the approach you pick, and do not give up. “If you give a child their pacifier back after they’ve wailed, shouted, and kicked for 45 minutes, you’ll just reinforce the notion that such behavior is rewarded,” explains Dr. Glinder. Remember that children (and their parents) have gone through this rite of passage for millennia. “Eventually, we all discard our pacifiers,” he explains.
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