As a mother, I know in the hustle of today’s society it is easy to pop that pacifier into a crying child’s mouth to get five minutes to fold laundry, or to get through the supermarket checkout without stares from people who seem offended by a crying child. With this mindset Heather Belajac spoke regarding to her five year old daughter, and the pacifier, stating that “it was clipped on her all the time. It was practically an extension of her!” Heather remarked that she doesn’t recall her infant daughter ever crying, but she always had a pacifier.
Pacifier, tootie, sucky…whatever you choose to call it, how do you eliminate it from your child’s life? At one point that pacifier seems like a saviour, but eventually its true colours show, as it is sought after for comfort and security. Knowing what I know now, I would have avoided pacifier use. However, not everyone agrees with me. Fourteen year dental hygienist, Tanya Gallant, recommends pacifier use for comfort, and as a sleep aid. “It has benefits against sudden infant death syndrome, but I recommend weaning a child off the pacifier between eighteen and twenty-four months.”
When asked if she would use a pacifier again, eleven year registered nurse and mother of two, Jennifer Vanderburg responded by stating: “Absolutely, I would use them again and recommend them! The key is consistency when you are starting to wean. Don’t give in if they have a meltdown. Re-approach and distraction are elements we used.”
For parents whose child never used a pacifier, I applaud you! My oldest boy was never interested, so when my younger son came along and was inseparable from it, I drew a blank. How do I separate the boy from his pacifier? And at what age? Heather’s daughter was weaned by two and a half. She stated, “I don’t feel it had any adverse effects, but I think if we had let it go longer, we would have seen speech issues and certainly the self-soothing would have been harder.”
General consensus is that the age to wean a child from a pacifier is a personal decision, but many recommend weaning by two. Concerns around elongated use of pacifiers include effects on speech development, self-soothing, and sleep habits. Jennifer’s daughters, who are seven and five now, stopped using pacifiers around one and a half, “I believe weaning the tootie at a very young age helped. We see no negative effects in relation to speech or tooth/palate formation. With children who are known to suck thumbs, or use a soother, into older ages you see their front teeth are pulled forward and the palate in the mouth becomes elongated. Research supports that this causes speech impediments and increases dental costs.” Jennifer remarked that she has seen patients that required orthodontist assistance because of lisps, and severe overbite related to elongated pacifier use.
When asked what effects she has seen in the dental field, Tanya said they see developmental issues in palate that are related to pacifier use after the age of two. “Pacifier use forces the teeth forward which can result in an overbite. The overbite can contribute to speech impediments such as lisps.” Tanya advised that when pacifier use is eliminated by age two effects to palate and teeth can correct themselves within six months. “If it is not removed ‘til later, most times, orthodontics will be required.”
Armed with that knowledge, I decided it was time to eliminate the pacifier at just over the age of one. I started with naps, but by day three I found my youngest son with his thumb in his mouth! I gave him back his pacifier, reasoning that I can control the pacifier, but not his thumb. Children will often develop a bond with another comforting item, like a blanket or a stuffed animal, my son choose his thumb.
However, neither of Jennifer’s girls, who used the pacifier primarily as a sleep aid, switched to thumb or finger sucking. “They both have blankets and stuffed animals that are comfort items.” She stated, “We wanted to ensure they were old enough to understand when things break we throw them out. When both of their tooties were cut, they tossed them in the garbage and never turned back.” Heather also references the pacifier cutting method, but she employed a different tactic. “We snipped off the tip of the soother a little more every night until there was nothing left.”
I personally limit pacifier use to the crib, and in the morning we drop the pacifier in the crib and wave goodbye until nap time. It has worked well for us. Whatever your choice for age and method of elimination, consistency and patience seem to be the best advice.
By Shari Marshall – 2015