In the first few months of life, a pacifier often called a soother can be a Gods send. Not only that but the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends allowing your baby to sleep with a soother during infancy as a way to help reduce SIDS. A soother can also come in handy acting like a crutch with the magical ability to soothe your baby during the fussiest of moments and seems to make them automatically relax. The uses are vast and the benefits to mom and baby can be like nothing else. The unfortunate part is that taking away a child’s soother can prove to be one of the most difficult endeavors of early parenthood.
By the time your baby is six months old, the absolute need and suckling effect of a pacifier is non-issue. While they may have helped your baby sleep initially, suddenly they become a nuisance – because every time your child loses it they wake up screaming hysterically. Eventually it disrupts more sleep than it causes. Drop it in the car and you would think they end of the world is around the next corner as you dig and dive through the leftover happy meals on the floor of your van to find it. Eventually it becomes annoying to see your walking baby with a pacifier in their mouth; it impedes everything from teeth development to speech and can become a disgusting source of germs and contamination that has no chance of every really being clean. It must be taken away at some point, but when and how? No exhausted parent wants to face bedtime without the soother and it almost seems cruel to take something so comforting away.
For parents who have never done this before, be advised right now – that taking away a child’s soother is easiest around the 6-7 month mark. Beyond that, your child’s brain has developed to the point that out of sight doesn’t mean out of mind and they realize the concept of object permanence. This means that just because you hide it, bury it in the yard, throw it in the trash or ‘accidentally’ lose it doesn’t mean it will be forgotten and you are more likely to be cruising for an open drug store at midnight than put up with the frustration from your child. Yes, at 6 months, your baby is very much a baby but in just a few weeks they will turn the corner to hardheaded toddlerhood and are closer to the terrible two’s than ever before. The best advice you can follow is to take away your child’s soother sooner rather than later!
Consider limiting its use at 6 months during the day and only using it for the first few minutes of sleep. Then remove it completely and don’t offer it back. They are likely to forget about it in just a few days. If you wait until your child is a year or more, you will be facing a hiatus at night and any other time your child needs to self soothe. If your child is already older and completely addicted to their pacifier there really is no easy way to do it except to just take it away and endure the next few days.
You may think that the soother is not hurting a thing. The reality is that it is. Your baby can suckle with or without a pacifier in their mouth and as soon as teeth begin to erupt, the pacifier produces bacteria and can contribute to decay. In addition to that, the soft tissue of your child’s mouth is still pliable and the constant use of pacifier can alter the shape of their mouth and gums leading to orthodontics later in life. They also are communicatively inhibited because they will try to either talk with the pacifier in their mouth or remove it only to talk. This can delay speech and can also delay the development of self-confidence and lead to anxiety. Children who use soothers beyond 6 months are twice as likely to develop and redevelop thrush and it produces digestive enzymes that can lead to stomach upset because your child is not eating anything but saliva. In addition, pediatric dental specialists actually advise parents to transition to sippy cups as soon as possible avoiding those with spill proof lids so that your child will not be privy to constantly sucking which leads to tooth decay, caries and developmental issues.
If you send your child to preschool with a pacifier, realize that there is good chance it is taken away before you even restart your car to leave and that it is coated with bacteria and viruses from being stuck in other children’s mouths and nasty little toy boxes throughout the day. Similarly, you have for sure seen a 2-year-old drop their soother on the grocery store floor only to pick it up and pop it in before mom even looks back. Talk about disgusting. Do you really want to subject your child to this?
Taking away a child’s soother is not an easy thing to do for YOU! Going cold turkey is really the best way and if your child is old enough, chalking it up to being a big girl or boy and replacing it with a favorite new toy can be just the thing to make it all better. Soothers are unnecessary to your baby and are quite simply just an accessory that indicates mom and dad are addicted to the quiet that it brings. When your child realizes that they are fine without it and that mom and dad are not anxious about the whole thing they too will not be traumatized by its removal.