Using pacifiers for the first year or two isn’t harmful. In fact, many hospitals are recommending to new mothers to use a pacifier during bedtime because it may slightly decrease the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in addition to soothing your baby and helping to develop important muscles around the mouth. As your child develops a full set of teeth, however, sucking can impact teeth’s positioning. This is particularly true if your child is still using a pacifier by the time permanent teeth come in, which can happen as early as 5 years old.
Three Ways to Bid Adieu to the Binky
The Three-Day Plan
The three-day plan gives kids advance warning that the pacifier is going away. On the first day, parents should tell their child that, as a big boy or girl, it’s time to get rid of the paci. Repeat the message several times on days one and two, keeping the message firm and matter-of-fact. On day three, parents can devise a scavenger hunt to find all of the binkies in the house. Even if your child protests, be firm and round up the pacifiers. Then, leave them on the front step for the “recycling truck” to pick up.
The Gradual Approach
Start by removing the pacifier during stress-free situations, like at home during playtime. Then, introduce a new rule: Pacifiers don’t leave the house. After that becomes a habit, limit pacifier use in the crib or bed only. Finally, eliminate pacifiers at bedtime. The last step will likely be the hardest, and there’s nothing wrong with resorting to a little bribery: Let your child know that if they “donate” their pacifiers to other babies (you won’t, of course, but children like to think they’re helping others), they can pick out a special toy.
The Pacifier Fairy
Turn the situation into a rite of passage. Tell your child that they’ve graduated to big kid status and the Pacifier Fairy is coming to give their binkies to new babies who need them. In return, the Pacifier Fairy will bring a big kid toy.
No matter how old your child is, be sure to clean pacifiers well when they inevitably fall on the floor and collect germs and bacteria. Scrub them or rinse them in a baking soda solution if possible. While many parents clean the dirty pacifier in their own mouths before handing them back to baby, it’s not advisable. Rinse it off, or if no water is available, wipe it with a clean cloth.
Whatever method you choose to help your child ditch the pacifier, know that you may still be in for a few rough nights. But there’s good news: According to Mark Brenner, author of Pacifiers, Blankets, Bottles, & Thumbs: What Every Parent Should Know About Stopping and Starting, it takes most kids less than 48 hours to get over it.