When Should My Toddler Be Weaned From The Pacifier?
The decision to wean your toddler from the pacifier can be a difficult one. Many toddlers become extremely attached to their “binky,” “nookie,” “plug,” “paccie,” or whatever you call it. The pacifier can be one of your child’s favorite and most comforting possessions.
There is not a specific age for weaning from the pacifier that applies to all children. Some children will just give up their pacifier and lose interest in it by 18 months or so; others might use it indefinitely if allowed. Many pediatricians suggest that the age of 18-24 months is the best time to wean your toddler from the pacifier. There are some reasons, however, to wean your child from the pacifier. They can include:
- Tooth and mouth concerns. While many pediatric dentists don’t see any long-term damage coming from pacifier use, others suggest that long-term and extended pacifier use may lead to problems with tooth alignment and/or the formation of the jaw.
- Language concerns. Some speech therapists suggest that babies who constantly use a pacifier might not experiment with making sounds in the same way that they would if they weren’t using the pacifier.
- Ear infections. Some studies suggest that pacifier use leads to increased ear infections.
When you decide to wean your toddler from the pacifier, she may struggle with you. She might throw fits, or she might not be able to sleep at all without it. If this is the case, there are some techniques that you can use to wean your toddler from the pacifier. They include:
- Offer rewards. Make a sticker chart that tracks each nap, day, or night where your toddler doesn’t have to use his pacifier. When your child decides on his own not to use a binky at nap time, reward him with extra hugs and praise.
- Substitute. Have your child trade his pacifier to you in exchange for a special toy. Offer a new stuffed animal for naptime or bedtime, and explain that the animal is a special “big kid” animal.
- Go slowly. Your child will eventually get there, but it may take some time. Start by encouraging her not to use her pacifier during a nap. Work up to more time, such as a full day, giving the pacifier only at night. While nighttime will be the most difficult transition, by going slowly you can ease the process of weaning your toddler from the pacifier.
- Pick the time to wean with care. If you have just moved, if your child is in daycare or preschool for the first time, or if you have just had another baby, it may not be the best time to wean your toddler from the pacifier. Give these major life changes some time, and your toddler some time to adjust.
- Be consistent. Don’t give the pacifier back if you’ve already taken it away. This will confuse your child, and can also promote more and more fits.
- Be safe. Don’t cut holes in the pacifier, as this is a choking hazard. Don’t coat the pacifier in mineral oil, as this can cause the pacifier to break down.
While the process will probably not be easy, you can wean your toddler from the pacifier with a little bit of effort and a lot of extra patience.