They have gone by many names in many different households over the last century: binky, paci, lovey, wubby. But for many parents, pacifiers are a wonderful soothing tool for babies. They’ve also been shown to greatly reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) or sudden unexpected infant death (SUID).
Like with all good things, however, pacifiers must come to an end sometime. So, when is the best time to say bye-bye to paci?
The best age to wean your little one
“If you ask any parent when they weaned their child, you’ll get a myriad of answers,” Dr. Antonescu said. “But, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends weaning around 6 months. Around this time, children can experience an increase in separation anxiety, stranger danger, and will seek ways to soothe themselves, so it could become more difficult to wean them.”
While many little ones use the paci for a couple years after this, the AAP says sucking on a pacifier past age 4 can affect the shape of baby’s mouth and how her teeth align as they come in.
Two methods to wean your child
“There really is no one approach that works for every parent,” Dr. Antonescu said. “There are so many factors involved, but two approaches that I’ve seen work are either weaning cold turkey or slowly.”
1. The “Cold Turkey” Approach
This approach can work really well as long as everyone is on board. That means, no hiding a binky, just in case you can’t take the crying or begging. This will take a great deal of patience on the part of the parents. You may have a rough couple days/night or weeks but stay strong.
2. The Slow Transitional Approach
If you can’t bear tearing your child’s pacifier away from them cold turkey, a slow transitional approach may work better for you. It may take you a little longer to wean them off of it, but this approach may work, particularly those with older ones still attached. Dr. Antonescu recommended limiting the pacifier to only naps and bedtime for two weeks, then only bedtime for two weeks and then no more pacifier.
Whatever approach you choose to use, here are some additional tips that can aid you in your efforts to wean:
- Find a Paci Replacement: This may be a struggle at first for your little one, so give more snuggles and hugs. If they are still having trouble, “you can even get them a new lovey, whether a stuffed animal or blanket, to help soothe them when they miss their pacifier,” Dr. Antonescu said.
- Don’t Start During Life Changes or Illness: Delay weaning from the pacifier during an acute illness, infection or surgery. This can be a source of comfort and aid them through those times. If you are moving or have any major life changes, Dr. Antonescu also recommended delaying – too much change can be too disruptive.
- Use Positive Reinforcement: If your child is old enough to understand, use praise to help encourage the behavior you want to see.
- Don’t Cave: “Whatever you do, don’t give in,” Dr. Antonescu said. “Whether you have a couple bad nights or a week, that’ll be it. Some sleepless nights are a small price to pay for saying bye-bye to the pacifier.”
If you are concerned about your child’s attachment to their pacifier or are looking for advice from a pediatric expert, visit bannerhealth.com to locate a provider near you.