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How to Drop a Baby's Pacifier: Avoid Over-attachment

Updated on November 5, 2012

The Use of a Pacifier

A pacifier can be the most wonderful tool to provide peaceful evenings for both babies and parents. From a baby's end, the sucking motion outside of feeding can actually be healthy. From a parent's end, a pacifier can help keep the baby calm and stabilized. There are so many advantages to allowing your child to experience the benefitss of a pacifier, but as the baby ages, a time comes when there is a fork in the road: the parent can either allow the baby to become over-attached to the pacifier or the habit can be broken in a gentle yet effective manner. Allowing babies to maintain pacifier use for too long is actually associated with health risks and emotional issues. Although pacifier use can be wonderful for both parent and child for a time, there is also a time to break the habit and move on with life.

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Reasons to Use a Pacifier

As a parent, why would you utilize an object, such as a pacifier, that will later just become a habit needing broken? There are two sides to every argument, so we will discuss both sides.

Use a Pacifier

  1. A pacifier provides a form of non-nutritive sucking. Some newborns need some additional non-nutritive sucking. Even if they are not hungry, they may desire a pacifier after a meal or to tide them over, say on they way home from the grocery store.
  2. A pacifier will calm down a baby unless he or she has a need that cannot be met through non-nutritive sucking. It can keep a baby quiet during church or at a restaurant, so a caretaker may appreciate the practicality of a pacifier.
  3. A pacifier may help premature infants learn to suck or they may strengthen the suck reflux. This is important because it may cause the infant to soon breastfeed successfully. My premature infant was born with a weak sucking reflex, and while we never successfully breastfed, he has caught up in weight and development thanks to his ability to suck well, eating large meals of bottle-fed breastmilk and formula. To some extent, I attribute his incredible health to pacifier use.
  4. Using a pacifier may prevent SIDS. Researchers are still unsure why this is the case, but a connection has been made between the safe sleeper and the pacifier.

To support my position on the use of a pacifier, the American Family Physicial journal online asserts:

"Nonnutritive sucking is a natural reflex for a fetus and newborn...Pacifiers provide a calming effect and have been used for pain and anxiety prevention. A subgroup of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) lists pacifiers as one of the key methods for pain relief in newborns and infants younger than six months undergoing minor procedures in the emergency department...The exact mechanism of benefit for reducing rates of SIDS is not fully understood, but pacifier use may decrease the likelihood of rolling into the prone position, increase arousal, maintain airway patency, decrease gastroesophageal reflux and resultant sleep apnea, or increase respiratory drive with carbon dioxide retention."

There are plenty of healthy advantages to using a pacifier, but some claim there are also downsides.

Don't Use a Pacifier

  1. Some research claims that prolonged use of a pacifier can affect babies emotionally, specifically baby boys. According to cbsnews.com, "Pacifiers may hinder males' emotional growth... because when a baby has a pacifier in his or her mouth, they can't copy the expressions or emotions they are feeling." To read more details about the long-term risks of utilizing pacifiers, visit the link to the right.
  2. Immediate pacifier use can cause nipple confusion, leading to the disruption of breastfeeding. If a baby adjusts to the plastic of the pacifier before adjusting to breastfeeding, he or she may never be able to adapt to breastfeeding.
  3. When a pacifier is used for too long, there are other risks involved, such as dental hygiene, ear infections, sleep dependency, or over-attachement.

After performing the research, I would have to say that I promote pacifier use within reason. Now that we have weighed the pros and cons of the use of the pacifier, we must discuss breaking the habit of the pacifier at an appropriate age.

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Breaking the Pacifier

Breaking the pacifier is an extremely difficult, but equally important, milestone in your baby's life. There are several reasons to break the pacifier, some of which are review from the previous section.

Reasons to Drop the Pacifier

  1. The number one reason in my opinion to break the habit of using the pacifier is to avoid over attachment. The longer the parent allows the infant to utilize the pacifier, the more difficult the habit-breaking will be. According to the AAFP, "The risks {of using a pacifier} begin to outweigh the benefits around six to 10 months of age and appear to increase after two years of age... Physicians should be prepared to counsel parents about soothing alternatives and pacifier weaning. Physicians should be mindful that after six months of age, pacifiers transform from a means of nonnutritive sucking to objects of affection that give the child a sense of security." This resource explains that nonnutritive sucking is unnecessary in babies six months of age and older; attaching to "objects of affection" becomes unhealthy and even dangerous.
  2. Another equally important reason to avoid pacifier use after 6-10 months of age is to avoid health complications. Health complications that can ensue are predominantly ear infections and dental infections.
  3. A third reason to stop pacifier use is to avoid speech issues, as the baby's teeth may be pushed forward, mimicing the shape of the pacifier, according to babycenter.com

I see no reason to continue pacifier use based on all the possible negative side effects after 6-10 months of age. See the link to the right for more details.

Three Best Ways to Drop the Pacifier by 10 Months

  1. Cold turkey. At a time and age that you as the parent feel is appropriate, you can simply quit using the pacifier. If the baby is incredibly fussy, there are other ways to soothe the child. Try swaddling, rocking, distracting with a toy, or maybe even burping the baby. If the baby strongly resists the cold turley method, there are other ways the baby might prefer. When using this method, the parent must remain strong. If the parents breaks down and allows the baby to have the pacifier when screaming and demanding it, then next time the baby wants something, he or she will think that the way to get it is through screaming and demanding, which is not a good mindset to establish with young children.
  2. Puncture it with a needle. The only reason the pacifier is desirable is because of its vacuum effect, and when it is punctured or cut, it loses its desirability. The baby will then make the choice on his or her own to abondon the pacifier, as it has now become undesirable.
  3. Slowly. You can start by limiting to naps and bedtime, and once your little one has adjusted to the decreased use, you can limit it just to bedtime. After a week (or more if needed) of adjusting to that routine, you can simply take it away at that time. Some parents opt to do it the opposite way (using pacifier for outings, etc. instead of naps) because their babies are more prone to incessant screaming. However you choose to do it, you must remain consistent using this method.

The Bottom Line

Regardless of how you choose to drop the pacifier, it must be done at some point. Your sixteen year old daughter is not going to prom with a pacifier in her mouth. So, health risks and practicality are enough for me to believe that the sooner the parent decides to drop he pacifier, the easier it will become. Instead of allowing our children to fall in love with something we are just going to have to take away, let's replace that affection with something healthier, such as a strong parent/child relationship. So say good-bye to the bond of a pacifier and hello to a bright future with your cherished little one!

Peacefully Sleeping Baby

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    • randomcreative profile image

      Rose Clearfield 4 years ago from Milwaukee, Wisconsin

      Great job with this topic! What a comprehensive article.

    • wizardofodds profile image
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      Kayla Brown 4 years ago from Wichita, Kansas

      Thanks for reading, randomcreative!

    • Beata Stasak profile image

      Beata Stasak 4 years ago from Western Australia

      Good work, keep hubbing and keep us well informed about your parenting experiences, there are many parents to be up there who need to know...B

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