The pacifier has long been a reliable go-to for parents when it comes to providing comfort for toddlers. While many parents see it as a must-have, especially when dealing with screaming and fussy babies, there comes a time when the use of pacifiers becomes less helpful and more of a problematic baby item. While most children wean themselves around ages two and four, some need extra help in the process when it comes to ditching the pacifier.
Why Should Babies be Weaned from their Pacifier?
While pacifiers are often beneficial to newborns, pacifier use for longer than six months as new teeth develop may cause them to grow in crooked.
So when exactly should little ones quit the pacifier? How can parents help them? Here are a few steps by pediatric dentists on how to wean your baby from the pacifier:
Get the Timing Right
Timing is everything when it comes to weaning your child off the pacifier. While pacifier use up to the age of 6 months is recommended, delaying its use any longer than 2 years of age can start causing problems with speech development and healthy teeth development.
When it comes to weaning your child, you’ll want to avoid taking away the pacifier during any major or stressful events like when they’re starting daycare, when taking long rides, during vacation, when moving to a new house, or at the arrival of a new sibling. Choose a time when your child is comfortable handling the changes with fewer distractions.
Start Limiting Pacifier Use Early
The earlier you can start limiting pacifier use, the better. In fact, some experts recommend that you ditch pacifier use at 12 months. While it sounds easy, kids will often pose a challenge to parents when it comes to getting rid of pacifiers. Be ready to deal with tantrums, whining, and crying when your kid can’t have what he or she wants. To make it a smoother process, limit pacifier use during the day as your child grows older.
For instance, you can let your child only have it when you’re around. With time, you can ditch it entirely during the day and offer it only during naptime and bedtime. Considering that kids are used to pacifiers during nighttime, limiting its use at this time will be challenging. To succeed, you need to embrace a new bedtime routine, such as having a bath, reading their favorite book, singing and rocking them to sleep. Try different approaches recommended by pediatric dentists on how best to wean your baby from the pacifier.
Transition Your Child to Something Else
Young kids often feel stressed when something they’re used to on a daily basis is taken away, or when major changes happen. To avoid this, consider transitioning your child to something else equally interesting that will help them adjust with little fuss. For instance, you can get them a new toy, a new colorful blanket, or anything else that they can carry with them to bed safely. You want something that offers the same soothing effect as a binky.
To encourage your child, consider praising them for choosing not to use the binky. Offering compliments like, “What a big boy you’ve become!” and “I’m so proud of you princess!” can help them feel appreciated and make your work easier as you try to wean them from the pacifier. In addition to offering transitional items, consider offering them some fun small rewards like stamps and stickers of their favorite cartoons.
Consider Applying the Age Two Rule
Decide to get rid of the pacifier by age two. Before this, your child will not likely suffer any long-term teeth damage. Any tooth development issues that may arise from pacifier use at less than two years are likely to self-correct within six months of ditching the habit. After two years of age, continued use may lead to problems like slanting teeth. Binky use beyond four years, when adult teeth start erupting can lead to long-term dental problems. That’s why learning how to wean your baby from the pacifier at an early age is so important.
Ensure All Hands Are on Deck
From caregivers to both parents, and even older siblings, make sure everyone is well aware of the plans to ditch the pacifier. What you want is consistency across the board: at home, at grandma’s, and at daycare. The last thing you want is to confuse your child with conflicting approaches to pacifier use. So if you only want your child to use a binky at naptime or bedtime, communicate that to everyone who’s involved in advance.
Make Pacifier Use Unappealing
Sometimes, weaning your baby can prove more challenging than expected. If you’re running out of options, one unorthodox way of learning how to wean your baby from the pacifier is to make pacifier use unappealing. For instance, you can dip it in bitter lemon juice or vinegar to make it distasteful. Once your child is aware of the bitter taste, they’ll most likely spit it out right away and eventually break the habit.
Another alternative method that mums use is cutting off the tip of the pacifier so that the child can no longer enjoy the sucking power. Be aware that this is not recommended as altering a pacifier could lead to choking if any pieces come apart. The smart way to use this trick is to show your child that the pacifier broke and then get rid of it together.
Go Cold Turkey on Them
While some parents will consider this method for how to wean your baby from their pacifier as not right, going cold turkey on your child may as well be your last play card, especially if your child is reluctantly sticking to the binky. Of course, you’ll have to deal with a few rough days, but your child will get over the pacifier attachment after a few days. If you decide to go this route, you’ll have to be gentle with your child and explain why it has to be done in a simple and loving way.
Create a “Special Moment”
When your child finally says goodbye to pacifier use, consider creating a special moment for them. For instance, you could plan a small celebration to say farewell to the binky. This will work best if you have older siblings, as it will make it more fun. Go shopping with your child and ask them to pick a new toy and allow them to pay for it using their pacifier. A small party back at home, complete with balloons, party hats, and treats, could top off the special moment.
Putting the Plan Into Action
Learning how to wean your baby from the pacifier can be both a challenging and rewarding process. While not every method will work for every parent, it’s always good to try out different methods to see what works best. If you’re having trouble weaning your baby from the pacifier on your own, perhaps consulting a pediatric dentist could help. You could share this during your regular pediatric dental care visits.
If you’re looking for a dentist to help you wean your child or treat tooth cavities, feel free to contact us at Tooth Fairy Pediatric Dental. We offer a range of dental services, including pediatric dental X-rays, dental sealants, composite fillings, root canals for children, special needs dentistry, and sedation dentistry. Schedule an appointment with us today!