For young children, the pacifier can be a great source of comfort. It can also be a useful way for parents to soothe a fussy infant or toddler. However, many parents wonder about the best time to encourage their child to stop using it, especially as their child gets older.
A child’s pacifier is a way to calm themselves. In fact, when a child is too young to ask for comfort, it’s often the only way. However, as a child grows up, they will begin to look for other ways to help them self-soothe. These other methods include security objects such as blankets or stuffed animals, a snuggle with a parent, or talking about their feelings.
There are no hard and fast rules about when a child should give up the pacifier. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends limiting or stopping pacifier use after the age of 6 months to reduce the risk of ear infections. However, pediatric dentist John Stritikus recommends reducing pacifier use after age 2, and getting rid of it completely by age 4. By the time an infant becomes a toddler, they may also naturally develop other stress-management techniques, and give up the pacifier on their own.
Ways to encourage your child to give up the pacifier
If you’ve decided your child is ready to stop their pacifier usage, here are some ways you can help the process:
- Remove the pacifier in situations where your child is completely calm and happy, such as playing at home.
- Try distraction methods when you notice your child becoming upset. For example, give them a favorite book, or a stuffed animal.
- Gradually reduce the amount of time your infant uses their pacifier. For example, you may want to wean them off it at naptime to start, or let them use it for shorter periods of time during the day.
- Use the Tooth Fairy approach. Encourage your child to gather all their pacifiers for the “Pacifier Fairy,” who will take them in exchange for a toy or gift.
- Many toddlers like the idea of being a “big kid.” They may enjoy the idea of having a party to say goodbye to the pacifier, and say hello to being a big boy or girl.
- Encourage your toddler to choose some of their “baby” things to donate to babies who might need toys, clothes, and pacifiers.
- Read books with your toddler about giving up the pacifier, such as Pacifiers Are Not Forever, Bea Gives Up Her Pacifier, and Ben Gives Up His Pacifier. Together, you can talk about what it means to give up the pacifier, and how your child will feel.
When weaning your child off the pacifier, it’s important to remain consistent as well as optimistic. Your child has relied on the pacifier all of their life, and some rough nights are bound to happen. These tips will help you figure out when your child should give up the pacifier, and the best ways to do it.