Social norms that conflict with expert advice have made pacifier (“paci”) use a confusing and sometimes controversial topic for parents. As a pediatric specialist with decades of clinical experience and working with families, I’ve got a more comprehensive recommendation. I recommend using a pacifier 1) with an infant to provide comfort and 2) with babies to help with reflux. I’ve witnessed the problems that emerge from paci overuse (having a pacifier in a baby’s mouth all day) and prolonged use (four and five-year-olds still using them). If you want to avoid expensive developmental delays that will require therapy AND skip any future ‘pacifier battles’ with your toddler, I suggest weaning your baby off the paci by 6 months of age. You might be thinking, “how the heck do I do that?!” Don’t worry, it’s not a hard & fast rule and I’ve got your back… Here are my four practical, experience-based tips to help you say “bye to the paci” by 6 months of age:
1. Start Open Cup training
This is perfect timing to meet the swallowing milestone that states that a baby should be drinking from an open-cup (held by an adult) at the 6 month time frame. When parents ask for my #1 tip for getting baby get off the pacifier, I tell them to start open-cup training. An open-cup filled with breast milk or formula (not water until 10 months of age) is an excellent way to work on this developmental milestone. If you are looking for a safe and developmentally appropriate open-cup, consider the infant Tiny Cup that I designed for ezpz.
2. Start Solids
I recommend waiting to introduce solid foods until your baby is six months of age. This age range is appropriate for starting purees as well as Baby-Led Weaning (“BLW”). In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics (“AAP”) and the World Health Organization (“WHO”) also recommend delaying solid introduction until six months of age. It’s a perfect opportunity to exchange one oral comfort (pacifier) for another oral comfort(solid foods). Introducing first foods while simultaneously stopping the pacifier at the same time makes the transition that much easier!
3. Start Planning
The AAP also recommends stopping the pacifier at around six months in order to decrease the risk of ear infections and keep your baby healthy. Clinically, I also find that my infants in feeding therapy have reduced ear infections when they transitioned to an open cup by 6 months of age, while simultaneously stopping pacifier use. However, oftentimes life has a way of throwing curve balls. Like when you’re trying to wean your baby off a pacifier. If baby (or you) are going to be overwhelmed by a life change or stressful situation, then start planning for a few extra weeks to overcome that hurdle and then tackle the pacifier transition. Some of the hectic circumstances that have required my clients to delay their pacifier exodus have been:
- Moving to a higher elevation (pacifiers can help with ear pain associated with altitude change).
- Mom going back to work.
- Moving to a new home.
- Parents going through a divorce.
- Baby going into daycare.
- In-laws taking care of baby.
4. Start a Conversation
If your baby has a cold or a respiratory issue, then you should wait until your baby recovers completely. Have a conversation with your healthcare provider so you can both be on the same page. Here are some additional health topics to consider:
- Swallowing Issues. Dysphagia (a swallowing disorder) and reflux are also reasons why parents and therapists may continue the use of a paci for a few additional weeks. Since the sucking may help stimulate a swallow and/or decrease the pain associated with reflux.
- Surgery. If baby is scheduled for surgery, keep that pacifier a while longer to help baby soothe and recuperate before transitioning.
- Growth Spurts. If you take the pacifier away and your baby immediately sticks their thumb or fingers in their mouth, they might be going through a growth spurt. Baby may need a few more days to adjust to growth changes or fatigue associated with maturity.
The pacifier can give your baby some much needed sucking comfort during their early months. I hope these tips help you decide the right time for your baby to give up the paci. If you are having problems finding a therapist in your area that can help you transition smoother, I provide virtual parent coaching to help you and your little one! Email firstname.lastname@example.org. #MsDawnSLP
Xo Ms. Dawn