The main advantage of a pacifier is that if you can get your infant to use one, he probably won't become a thumbsucker. Thumbsucking can cause a severe overbite if it is continued after the permanent teeth come in. The pacifier exerts less pressure on the teeth and causes much less overbite than the thumb. It's also given up before any permanent teeth appear. The peak age for sucking is 2 or 4 months. During the following months, the sucking drive normally decreases. A good age to make the pacifier less available is when your child starts to crawl.
To prevent problems with pacifiers, make sure your child doesn't become overly attached to one. Consider the following tips for preventing excessive use and the "pacifier habit":
- First: During the first 8 months of life, give it to your baby whenever she wants to suck and isn't hungry. The only exception is during the first month when breast milk is coming in. At that age, we want most of the sucking energy to go towards milk production, so don't offer the pacifier if it's been more than 90 minutes since last nursing.
- Second: Never use a pacifier as a sleep transition object. It will become a bad habit that requires you to locate the pacifier following normal awakenings at night. Children cannot locate and re-insert their own pacifier until 10 months of age. Help your child learn to put himself to sleep. Keep the pacifier out of the crib.
- Third: By 12 months of age, phase out the pacifier. From here on it's not meeting any need, it's just becoming a habit. A pacifier can interfere with normal speech development. It's hard to talk with a pacifier in your mouth. Your child is more likely to lose interest in her pacifier if it becomes worn out and you don't replace it. You can accelerate this process by cutting the end off the pacifier. Sucking on a defective pacifier is hardly worth the trouble. Your child will probably toss it.
- Fourth: If by chance your child is over 3 years old and still using a pacifier, you can usually negotiate with her about giving it up. Pick a time when she is not coping with new stresses or fears. Make the transition as pleasant as possible. Take the last pacifier to the toy store and help her trade it for a brand-new, wonderful toy. Never force her to give up the pacifier through punishment or humiliation.
- Finally: Praise your child for these efforts at growing up.
If you have other questions about pacifiers, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 7/1/2005
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.