Soothing a fussy baby isn't always easy. As a result, tired parents the world over will do nearly anything to stop the wailing, if only for a second. Yes, usually that means relying on that trusty pacifier. But how long should your baby use a "binkie" before learning a few self-soothing techniques. More specifically, when should you give up the pacifier cold turkey? Turns out, there isn't one specific answer for everyone because, hey, this is parenthood we're talking about: there's no "one size fits all" rule, my friends.
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), use of a pacifier can reduce your child's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). But all good things must come to an end, so if you're considering taking pacifiers away cold turkey, it's important to consider the age and temperament of your child. Dr. William Sears, pediatrician and author of over 30 parenting books, told Parenting that replacing pacifier use with a stuffed toy or another comfort item from you might make the transition easier. So while you can take the pacifier away immediately, you'll probably want to provide some kind of alternative, at least for the time being and until your child adapts to this new change.
So, why should you, eventually, take away this wonderful baby product that keeps your little one content? Well, Parents reports that the use of a pacifier could cause dental issues and have been linked to recurrent ear infections. Doctors seem to have different opinions as to when parents should ditch the pacifier, ranging from "by the end of the first year," to "weaning off by the third year, and cut-off completely by their fourth birthday." BabyCenter does suggest, however, that past six months a pacifier is more of a habit than a helpful product.
Regardless of when you're deciding to take the pacifier away from your little, there's some prep steps you should consider. Mark L. Brenner, author of Pacifiers, Blankets, Bottles & Thumbs: What Every Parent Should Know About Stopping and Starting (Fireside) says, "parents can have their child pacifier-free within just three days by first prepping your child by telling them you're getting rid of the pacifier in three days," combined with repetition of the phrase, brief explanations as to why, and confidence-building words of encouragement. It just goes to show that there are multiple opinions, and methods to the pacifier debate.
For some children, and their parents, the cold-turkey method might be too much. Trying a gradual phase-out, limiting pacifier use to nap and bed times only. The Baby Sleep Site says that whenever you choose to forgo the pacifier, the earlier you try, the easier it will be. Just as you'd prepare with sleep training, taking the pacifier away can be difficult if you wait too long. In taking the pacifier away early, and at least by 12 months of age, and then reenforcing consistently, the Baby Sleep Site suggests there might not be much of a fight, aside from a few restless nights, put up by your child.
Waiting through toddlerhood to take a pacifier away, however, could pose more of an issue. So if your pacifier-loving child is well into their toddler years, you might have to be creative to get your little one on board by use of a scavenger hunt or that you'd like help donating all pacifiers to kids who need them (or whatever you can say to make this thing happen).
Going "cold turkey" doesn't have to be traumatizing if you're patient and persistent, but Parenting suggests that you make sure to time it correctly. You never want to go through this kind of transition when there are other life events unfolding around you, as it could add to the stress of an already stressful time (moving, traveling, other developmental milestones, etc.). Even if you're ready for the thing to go, it's also important to take cues from you child. If you're lucky, they'll be an active participant in losing the pacifier because they're ready.
No matter when you choose to give up the pacifier, or how you decide to go about it, take comfort in knowing you'll get through it eventually. After all, your kids probably won't go to high school with one. Probably.
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