Babies and toddlers have a natural sucking reflex. It is totally normal for them to want to suck on pacifiers, thumbs, bottles and other items until they are between 2-4 years old.
However, beyond age 3, frequent pacifier use (or thumb-sucking) can have a negative effect on the way their bite develops. It can cause crooked or outward tipping upper teeth and jaw alignment issues. That is why we recommend that children begin the process of weaning off of pacifier-use by the age of 3.
To which we hear you respond, “easier said than done”. We understand that it can be a challenging process, so we would like to offer these tips for weaning from the pacifier.
- Give them an end date: Let them know a few weeks ahead of time leading up to the time when you will be getting rid of the pacifier. For example, you might tell your child “after your third birthday, we won’t be using Binkie anymore because you are becoming a big kid. “
- Make it Fun! Have them exchange the binkie for a toy at the toy store, or have a celebration for becoming a “big kid” who doesn’t use a pacifier anymore. More than one parent has had success with the “Binkie Fairy”!
- Offer extra support during the transition. They may have given up the pacifier, but that doesn’t mean they still don’t need soothing from external sources. Be ready with extra hugs, a favorite stuffed animal or blankie and distractions as needed.
- Step down approach. If cold-turkey seems like it will be too difficult for your child, a step-down approach may be better. First, have them give put the pacifier away during the day when they are awake. Then during naps. And finally during nighttime sleep.
- Don’t be surprised if your child gives up the pacifier willingly. For some children, the transition is actually not too difficult, they are simply ready to move on without their pacifier and may even just “hand it over” to you one day.