Pacifiers: When (and Why) You Should Take Them Away From Your Children
For years, the common wisdom around pacifiers was to take them away as soon as possible. But new research into the short- and long-term effects of pacifier use is causing dentists and pediatricians around the United States to start reevaluating their pacifier recommendations. So when should you take away your child’s pacifier, and what’s the best way to do it? Here’s what you need to know.
Pacifiers Can Prevent SIDS in Infants
As it turns out, there’s good news for parents who are having trouble getting their little ones to give up pacifiers. A series of recent studies out of New Zealand, Norway, the Netherlands, Chicago, and the United Kingdom have consistently demonstrated that pacifier use in young children can prevent incidences of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. The evidence for a positive effect is strong enough that the study authors say dentists and pediatricians should think twice before opposing pacifiers as a general rule. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pacifier use throughout the first year of the child’s life. (You can view their full list of recommendations here.)
The Toddler Stage: The Prime Age to Wean Your Child Off Pacifiers
It’s generally uncommon to see pacifiers causing dental problems prior to age 3, but as a precaution, you’ll want to start weaning your child off pacifiers during the toddler stage. Luke Matranga, spokesman for the Academy of General Dentistry, says that prior to age 2, any consequences of pacifier use – like misaligned teeth or bone development problems – are temporary and will correct themselves within 6 months provided that pacifier use is stopped.
Most dentists agree that you should start reducing your child’s use of pacifiers around age 2, and aim for all pacifier use to stop by age 3. Pacifier use between ages 3 and 4 can cause some dental problems, but these issues are minor and largely reversible.
Pacifier use doesn’t generally start to cause serious long-term problems until your child is about 4 years old, but starting early means you’ll have more time to deal with your child’s resistance and gradually wean your child off pacifiers.
How to Take Away Your Child’s Pacifier Without a Fight
Most children find their pacifiers to be comforting, and it’s likely that taking away your child’s pacifier will be a challenge. But there are certain strategies you can use to get your child to stop using the pacifier without a fight.
One simple strategy is to round up all of the pacifiers in your home and get rid of them without saying anything to your child. You may have to deal with an upset child for a brief span, but with all of the pacifiers gone, your child will soon adjust to life without a pacifier.
If you can’t bring yourself to just take away the pacifier without saying anything, another great strategy that works for many parents involves a little bit of bribery. Take your child to a toy store, and bring the pacifier with you inside a sealed plastic bag. Allow your child to pick out a toy of their choice, and while checking out, explain to the cashier that you are “trading in” the pacifier. Cashiers with experience in the toy industry are quite familiar with this practice, and will happily play along for your child’s benefit by disposing of the pacifier for you.
If your child insists on continuing to use a pacifier, one last-resort strategy involves coating the pacifier in something that tastes bad. Humans have evolved an innate aversion to bitter substances, as most naturally poisonous plants have a bitter taste. Coating your child’s pacifier in something bitter, like apple cider vinegar or pickle brine, can be an effective way of making the pacifier unappealing and convincing your child to reject it. This method may sound a bit cruel, but it’s quite effective – making it ideal for when nothing else has worked.
Weaning your child off pacifiers isn’t easy, but it can be done – and by doing it at the right time, you’ll ensure that your child’s tooth development starts off right. For more information about pediatric dental care or to schedule a consultation for your child, contact Badie Dental today at (520) 433-9800.