While your grandmother may have turned up her nose at pacifiers, we now know they have benefits for babies during the first six months of life, including reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
But even babies can get too much of a good thing. It’s a good idea to wean your baby from the pacifier between 8 and 12 months and definitely by 2 years old. That’s when increased dental problems and ear infections caused by pacifiers start to outweigh advantages.
Take it Slow – and Be Consistent
If your child is a baby, you may be able to take the pacifier away cold turkey without too much ado. But for toddlers, and some babies, you may need to take a gradual approach.
First, limit pacifier use to the bed, then only to go to sleep. Continue decreasing the allowed time until it’s no longer needed.
Sound easy? For some it is, but others need a bit more attention. Here are some tips I share with parents in my practice.
- Take a close look at the situation. When does your baby want the pacifier most? Is he upset, hungry or bored? How do you react? Do you automatically reach for the pacifier or give it a few minutes?
- Try something else. It’s more effort on your part, but when the fretting begins, try holding, rocking, playing music, singing or massage for infants. For older children try distraction with toys or other fun activities.
- Plan activities with children who are good role models and don’t use pacifiers.
- Be sure everyone who takes care of baby – sitters, grandparents, day care, your spouse – is on the same page concerning pacifier use.
Don’t Get Discouraged
Keep in mind a few other suggestions.
- Don’t make it a power struggle.
- Try not to wean when there are other changes in baby’s life, such as toilet training or a new baby.
- Don’t switch the pacifier for the baby’s thumb.
If you try and fail, don’t give up. You baby just might not be ready. Try again in a few weeks.
In the meantime, continue to gradually cut down on pacifier time and only offer it when your child is desperate.
And try not to worry. Your child will outgrow it eventually!
Does your baby use a pacifier? Do you have any tips for weaning babies from pacifiers?
Dr. Jennifer Lai is a board-certified pediatrician at Kelsey-Seybold’s Spring Medical and Diagnostic Center. She’s accepting appointments for kids of all ages. Her clinical interests include general Pediatrics, newborns, autism, and obesity.