My son loooooves his pacifier, so I began to get concerned when I heard from a number of experts that pacifiers aren’t great for teeth and might hinder speech development. I was told that around the six month mark breaking a pacifier habit is the easiest because it’s around when children start solids, but it’s around this time that my son seemed the most attached to his pacifier! With that in mind I reached out to the preeminent expert in pediatrics, Dr. Harvey Karp, founder of Happiest Baby and Snoo (which I will forever consider to be the BEST invention) to get his expert insight on how and when we should help our little ones give up the pacifier.
“The easiest time to wean the pacifier is around 6 or 7 months of age because children haven’t developed an emotional attachment to their binky yet, but unless your pediatrician recommends stopping, don’t worry if your 7-month-old still loves the paci,” says Dr. Karp. “Sucking is wonderfully calming and will help your baby deal with all the crazy, unpredictable new things he or she encounters every day. For many infants, pacis can be a great emotional support for up to 1-3 years.”
He goes on to note that unlike what I heard and, unlike finger sucking, pacifiers usually have no permanent effect on misaligning the teeth and the need for braces later in life. “Pacifiers can be very helpful for falling asleep and even sometimes during the day to relieve stress in little ones, like when they’re sick, starting daycare or traveling to a new place. As kids get over 18 months, it makes sense to start reducing their access a bit to just nighttime or other stressful situations.”
One caveat: Dr. Karp notes that pediatricians often recommend switching infants who suffer from frequent ear infections from pacifiers to the cuddly support of little security blankets or stuffed animals a sucking hard can disturb the pressure in the ears and lead to infections. Checkout our feature on loveys. “If your toddler is still using a paci at 3 years of age, they should be flexible enough to wean off sucking replacing it with another security object like a blanket or cuddly toy.”
If you’ve decided to wean a 6- or 7-month-old from their paci, take baby steps.
“First, limit paci-time to naps and night-night,” says Dr. Karp. “That means, if you notice your little one sucking ‘just because,’ offer an alternative form of stimulation like a little, hand-sized silkie lovey. Next, use white noise to help replace sucking as one of your little one’s sleep cues. You see, sucking and shushing are both part of the 5 S’s, which are sensations that replicate what your baby experienced in the womb. The 5 S’s work to turn on your little one’s calming reflex, which aids sleep. To get the most out of white noise, opt for continuous, monotonous, and low-pitch sounds, like ones that mimic a hair drier, fan, or rain sounds—not inconsistent ones, like waves or birds chirping.”
Click here to read more about Dr. Karp’s pacifier tips.