Bye Bye Binky!
Paci. Binky. Plug. Whatever your family calls that beloved (or despised!) piece of plastic in your child’s mouth, eventually the time comes for all to let it go.
“Babies are born with a need for sucking. It establishes breastfeeding and initiates a calming reflex,” says Dr. Stephen Ezzo, pediatrician at Matthews Children’s Clinic. “Sucking soothes babies when they are tired, hungry, scared, or in distress. So it is natural that parents use pacifiers to do just that – pacify a restless or cranky baby.” In addition to calming a baby, there is compelling medical evidence that pacifier use decreases the rate of crib death in newborns, says Ezzo.
Despite the benefits, long-term pacifier use can hinder proper tooth development and language development, as well as trigger ear infections and illnesses because of the germs found on pacifiers.
Dr. Scott Goodman, D.D.S., from Pediatric Dentistry of Matthews, recognizes the importance of pacifiers for babies, but warns of the effect long-term use can have on dental development.
“Parents should try to stop [pacifier use] by age one, but definitely by age two, before the upper canine teeth come in,” says Dr. Goodman. “Prolonged use beyond age two or three can lead to overbite (top teeth overlap bottom teeth), upperbite (space between upper and lower teeth), overjet (position of front teeth), and crossbite (jaw shifts to one side).”
Cold Turkey or Snail’s Pace?
First decide if you will break your little one’s habit gradually or all at once. People often disagree as to which is the better plan, so you will need to consider your individual child, as well as your own patience level. Goodman encourages parents to go cold turkey. He says that in most cases, a child will have 1-3 rough nights but then will be fine and never look back.
Parents who want to move gradually often begin by only allowing a child to have his pacifier if he asks for it, only at bedtime, or just until he falls asleep. Once you choose the sudden cessation of pacifier use, however, you and your child’s other caregivers must all be 100 percent committed. Be consistent. Giving in will only start the process over again while also teaching your toddler that crying or begging will get him what he wants.
A Fib or the Brutal Truth?
Some parents throw out all the pacifiers and pretend they got lost. Others tell an elaborate story of a Pacifier Fairy. Still others consider those methods to be deceitful and choose instead to use a logical, truthful explanation about where the pacifiers went (or will go). Only you can choose the best tactic for your family.
Now comes the fun part – choosing an exciting way to make the transition. Here are some clever methods to help your child break his habit.
• Poke several small holes in the tip or cut the very tip off, both of which will make the pacifier less desirable to suck.
• Encourage your child to leave his pacifiers for the Pacifier Fairy, who will visit while he sleeps, and replace his pacifiers with a special toy or book.
• Have your child give his pacifiers to a new baby who needs them.
• Tie the pacifiers to a helium balloon and allow your child to release the balloon into the sky at a special send-off party.
• Help your child make his own teddy bear at Build-A-Bear Workshop. Bury the pacifiers amidst the stuffing inside the bear before stitching it up.
• Check to see if your child’s dentist will assist. Goodman and his colleagues offer children a prize if they bring their pacifiers to their office.
With a little patience and effort your toddler will soon be a big kid who no longer uses a pacifier and you’ll be left wondering where these days went.
The Do’s and Don’ts of Pacifier Weaning
DO find a way for your child to participate in the process, which will help her feel more in control.
DON’T start the pacifier weaning process when your child is experiencing another big change, such as the transition from bottle to cup, potty training, or the birth of a new sibling.
DO replace the pacifiers with something positive and nurturing, like a teddy bear and extra cuddles from Mom and Dad.
DO remember that this is a big change for your child, so be consistent and patient.
Lisa Hassell is a stay-at-home mom to her 20-month-old son, who lives in Indian Trail. When she isn’t doling out goldfish crackers, she shares parenting tips and stories on her blog, www.tottalks.wordpress.com.