What you should know about pacifiers
“Non-nutritive sucking” is a biological need for babies when they are tired, hungry, bored, or uncomfortable. In fact, fetuses start to suck in utero in the first trimester. This behavior is hardwired in an infant. A built-in reflex is controlled by the brain stem at first and comes under more conscious control in the first few months of life. Not only do pacifiers soothe and regulate babies, but research has also shown that using them at nap and nighttime decreases the risk of SIDS during the first six months of life. Most children have less of a need to suck as they get older.
When should your child use a pacifier?
Many children suck on a pacifier when they are upset. However, when your child is upset, examine your reactions as a parent. Do you find yourself reaching for a pacifier instead of reaching for your child? Some would say, “Pacifiers exist to soothe the parent, not a child.” Some parents to avert the tantrum sure to erupt when a child is denied a Blow Pop or M & M’s, hasn’t endured the disapproving glances of well-meaning strangers? Above all, always try other ways of comforting your child. Teach your child other self-soothing techniques (aside from thumb sucking, of course!) When your child is upset or anxious, distract your child with a fun play activity or give them a cuddly animal or another transitional object to help them make the switch from the pacifier to a more suitable soother.
Why wean your child from a pacifier?
Possible side effects of prolonged pacifier use include:
- Tooth Misalignment: Depending on how long your child sucks on his/her pacifier, she/he could end up with a small deformity in the upper jaw, which could cause his/her upper teeth to misalign.
- Slowed Language Development: With a pacifier stuck in your baby’s mouth all the time, she is less likely to babble and experiment with sound. This lack of practice could lead to slow language development.
- Increased ear Infections: Pediatricians say that pacifier use has caused a 50% rise in ear infections.
When to wean off a pacifier
My recommendation for weaning is between 10-12 months. While at Almost Mom, any child who uses a pacifier will be given the pacifier during nap time; upon waking, the pacifier will be left in their pack-n-play. Another reason to begin weaning at this time is; when your child transitions from two naps a day down to one nap sometime between 12-18 months, your child will graduate to sleeping on a cot and will no longer be given a pacifier.
How to wean a child from a pacifier
This can be a natural and gradual process. Most children between the ages of 10-12 months begin throwing their pacifiers out of their beds. At this point, please DO NOT go in and give the pacifier back to them. Your child, at this point, will begin to learn how to fall asleep on their own.
Most importantly, BE CONSISTENT! Do not give in to your child through tantrums or bedtime crying. If you eventually give in and give your child the pacifier, they will become confused. Stick to your guns, and they will come around quicker than you think. We, as parents, are quick to believe that our children are not as resilient as they are. We think they will crumble if any part of their perfectly routine day is out of whack. Nothing could be further from the truth. Sometimes it is harder for us, the parent, than for our children.
The first day may take a good hour for your child to fall asleep because they don’t know how to sleep without the pacifier. Be prepared for tears and screams, but do not scold your child; support your child as they work through this and create new habits. Give this a try for 7-10 days, and your child will have learned how to fall asleep on their own. You must make sure that you don’t substitute yourself as the new “object” that they need to fall asleep.
At Almost Mom, we believe that patience is a virtue. We are always here to set a child up to succeed and not fail. Children have all the time in the world to learn, and we will support them. We are always here to support, listen, and problem-solve with any parent anytime.