How to wean your child off a pacifier is often a challenging task for parents. After all, the soothing sucking most likely provided more than comfort to the baby — it probably gave you some moments of peace as well. Ridding your little one of the sucking device requires knowing when to wean off a pacifier and a whole host of patience.
When To Wean the Pacifier
Timing is everything when it comes to pacifier weaning. The Academy of Pediatrics AAP actually recommends pacifier use for up to six months during sleep times to help reduce the risk of SIDS Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. However, after your baby turns one year, they no longer recommend using a pacifier since it has been associated with developing middle ear infections. AAP recommends weaning from the pacifier sometime during the second six months of life.
Dentists have weighed in on the opinion as well. Most dentists agree that it is best to wean away from the pacifier after the first year of life so it doesn’t become an issue with swallowing patterns, tongue positioning which guides the upper and lower jaw growth and developing cross bites.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry AAPD recommends that children put an end to their non-nutritive sucking habits by the time they are 3 years old or younger. Breaking the pacifier habit by 2 or 2.5 years is best.
Steps for Weaning From Pacifier
While some kids have no problem ditching the pacifier, others are very attached. The actual process of ridding your baby’s mouth from the soothing sucking aid can be extremely tedious and tricky.
Some tricks that have worked for other parents include:
Always stay encouraging throughout the entire pacifier weaning process. Do not scold the child. Instead, offer praise when they are not sucking.
Modify the Nipple
Start by cutting off a small sliver of the tip of the nipple. Slowly and gradually, cut off more as you go. Eventually, the baby will find that the pacifier no longer provides comfort.
Replace the pacifier with another soothing item, like a small blanket or stuffed animal. While this method may simply transfer the attachment, it is at least taking away the physical problems that the pacifier can cause.
If the child is old enough to understand, discuss with them a day or timeframe when they will need to give up the pacifier. Count down with fun stickers and excitement.
Host a going-away party for all the pacifiers in the house. Make sure it’s not a sudden, surprise party! Talk about it ahead of time, so the child has time to prepare.
While babies develop a need to suck before they are even born, hanging onto the pacifier well into their toddlerhood can cause some dental or ear infection issues. Know when and how to wean your child off their pacifier, and be sure to give yourself a pat on the back when it’s all said and done.