If your baby loves their pacifier, they're not alone: up to 85% of infants rely on a pacifier at least sometimes.
Pacifiers can help keep your little one's tears at bay, offering them comfort and distraction when they need it most. But using a pacifier for too long may do more harm than good.
Find out when to get rid of the pacifier and what to try instead.
Why Use Pacifiers?
Since pacifiers should eventually be taken away from your baby, you may wonder why have one in the first place. But there are some benefits and practical reasons to give pacifiers to infants.
A baby pacifier can soothe a cranky baby because it satisfies their natural instinct to suck. If you don't have a bottle or aren't able to nurse, assuming the baby is already fed, a pacifier can be a comforting option.
Pacifiers may also reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). This makes them extra important at bedtime.
When to Get Rid of the Pacifier
Your baby's pacifier habit may be beneficial at first, but it shouldn't last forever. So when should the pacifier be taken away?
Because pacifiers can cause dental issues and dependence when used too long, one recommendation is to stop pacifier use at the age of two. That way, children can learn other ways to self-soothe.
If your little one isn't ready to part with their pacifier at two years old, give them a little more time. Most children lose interest in pacifiers on their own between the ages of two and four.
The final age at which the pacifier should be taken away is at four years old. Beyond this age, a pacifier is more likely to cause dental and oral development issues, which can be difficult to correct later.
If you're ready to wean your baby off their pacifier, try replacing it with another comfort item like a blanket. If the sucking feeling is what was most satisfying, you can also offer a child-friendly straw in place of a pacifier.
You can also try diverting their attention from discomfort in other ways, such as by holding them, rocking them, or showing them a favorite toy.
Bedtime is perhaps the hardest time to transition out of pacifier dependence. Click here for some helpful advice on how to help your child sleep without needing a pacifier.
Outgrowing the Pacifier
Pacifiers can be a useful tool for parents to use with infants. But eventually, all children will outgrow their pacifiers. And sometimes, you may have to guide them through this transition, especially if they don't initiate it on their own.
Choosing to get rid of the pacifier can be a challenge, especially for young ones who have learned to rely on it. But it's worth it to learn other methods of self-soothing and to protect their dental health in the future.
For more advice on child development, healthy habits, and more, read our latest health articles!