A lot of parents who use soothers feel a twinge of guilt the first time they stick a pacifier in their baby’s mouth. However, dealing with a screaming infant in the grocery line or on a long car trip will make most parents try just about anything they can think of to calm the child down!
The truth is, it often works. Babies are born with the instinct to suck. They have limited means of expressing what they want and can’t let you know if they’re hungry, thirsty or in pain. Sucking soothes them and brings them comfort, which is why a baby will suck on just about anything you put in its mouth, whether it’s a bottle, breast, finger or toy.
But at a certain age, kids are more than capable of learning to self-soothe, and pacifier dependence can cause long-term problems. I recommend getting rid of the soother between 3-4 months if it is interfering with sleep. It is at this age, when that sucking reflex starts to diminish as well.
Here are some reasons you should consider ditching the soother:
Soothers interfere with the consolidation of nighttime sleep. If your child uses one to fall asleep, she will most likely wake in the night and then not be able to get back to sleep until she has it again. . Even if the child isn’t bothering you to help find the soother, there are still times when it’s causing a full wake-up for retrieval. While brief wake-ups are common in the night, when a child is soother dependent it often leads to fragmented sleep, which can make for a tired and cranky toddler the next day.
Pediatric dentists recommend getting rid of soothers by the age of 2. Overbites and crossbites can occur, which lead to problems with chewing, speech and appearance.
Studies are now linking pacifier use with recurring ear infections. In fact, children who use soothers regularly are up to three times more likely to develop ear infections.
Around the age of one, kids enter into their speech development phase. This means they will start trying on sounds and words and will often babble to themselves and others while they learn this new skill. If they constantly have a soother in their mouths, they might be less likely to practice talking.
Also, constant soother use can make it harder for a child’s tongue and lip muscles to develop normally, according to Patricia Hamaguchi, a speech-language pathologist and author of Childhood, Speech, Language, and Listening Problems: What Every Parent Should Know.
I have found that parents are often far more worried about the idea of taking it away, than the actual reality of it. Most children are over it within a day or two.