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How Do I Help My Child Give Up the Pacifier?

Time to pull the plug on the "paci"? Here's how to do it without triggering a meltdown.

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A pediatric dentist reveals why it is important, and two parents who have been there offer solutions that worked for them.

THE MOM WHO FOUND A COMFORTING SOLUTION SAYS…

“My son used his pacifier until he was nearly two and a half for daytime soothing, naps, and nighttime. I grew concerned because his teeth curved top and bottom. The dentist confirmed it was time to let go of the pacifier, assuring me that his teeth would straighten out.

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We cut down the amount of time he used the pacifier outside of sleep, talking about other ways he could feel comforted like extra hugs, cuddling with a stuffy, or playing games. Then, we made a plan to put his last pacifier into a stuffy at Build-A-Bear, which he named “Paci Bear.” He could carry the bear around and sleep with it when he needed to. He even put away Paci Bear within a few weeks, saying he didn’t need him anymore. “

—Raye Ann C., mother of a son, seven, and daughter, eleven, Camarillo, California

THE PEDIATRIC DENTIST SAYS…

“Pacifiers can definitely impact a child’s developing mouth in a variety of ways including causing the palate (upper mouth) to become vaulted, creating tooth crowding, and impacting breathing as it pushes up into the nasal cavity. They can also move the front teeth too far forward which can impact speech, the ability to tear food, and chew and swallow properly. I don’t recommend using a pacifier at all, but if you do use one, stop doing so by 18 to 24 months for less impact. As long as it’s dropped by age two, we usually see these negative impacts self-resolve. If you’re having another child and plan to use a pacifier, break the habit with the older child at least a few months prior to help the distinction between babies with pacifiers and big kids without.”

—Bryan Savage, D.D.S., West Metro Pediatric Dentistry, Arvada and Centennial

THE MOM WHO MADE THE PACIFIER UNAPPEALING SAYS…

“Just after our kids turned two, we cut about ¼ inch off the tip of their pacifiers with scissors, just enough to put a hole in the end. We gave them their pacifiers and they immediately removed them to inspect them. When they asked what happened, we simply said, “It’s broken.” Both kept trying them the rest of the day but quickly lost interest. The hole prevents the pacifier from forming a vacuum and feeling as good, or staying put in the mouth, as it used to. After two days, they were done. Both kids got progressively more attached to their pacifiers from 18 to 24 months, so try to take it away before 18 months. If that doesn’t work, snipping the tip is a great solution.“

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—Jennifer B., mother of children ages five, three, and three months, Denver

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