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  • How to Wean Your Child From Pacifiers: Know When to Start and Stop

    Pacifiers can be helpful for babies, but may only cause several health issues to your growing child.
    by Kate Borbon .
How to Wean Your Child From Pacifiers: Know When to Start and Stop
PHOTO BY iStock
  • Most parents will agree that pacifiers are beneficial tools in caring for small babies and even children. But as helpful as they are, prolonged use of pacifiers can end up causing undesirable effects on your child’s health and well-being. It can be difficult to reduce your child’s pacifier use, especially if they’ve become dependent on them. As parents, what can we do to address this issue?

    The pros and cons of using pacifiers

    According to parenting resource site HealthyChildren, “All babies are born with the need to suck.” This innate need is necessary for babies since the primary way for them to get the food is by breastfeeding. But sucking is also helpful in several other ways — it can help soothe and comfort them as well as help them sleep more easily.

    The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has also stated that infants who use pacifiers are less likely to experience sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) than babies who do not use it. This could be because pacifiers help keep babies’ airways open and unobstructed when they are asleep although the exact link between pacifier use and SIDS is unclear.

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    However, pacifier use has child development and health-related downsides. While using a pacifier can help cater to your baby’s innate need for sucking, using one for too long can cause various dental problems. One dental issue that can develop, according to pediatric dentist and former president of the Philippine Pediatric Dental Society, Inc. (PPDSI) Dr. Carina De Los Reyes, is malocclusion, a condition where the upper and lower teeth are not aligned properly. Aside from malocclusion, prolonged pacifier use can also cause children to develop open bites, cross bites, and protruded teeth.

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    A second health issue from pacifier use — and one that might surprise many of you — is ear infections. In an article for Parents, Nina L. Shapiro, M.D., an assistant professor of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine, says, “Pacifier sucking promotes fluid collection in the ears, which can lead to ear infections.” How? The motion of sucking hinders the Eustachian tube from functioning correctly, keeping the middle ear clean and open and therefore keeping the fluid in the middle ear.

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    Finally, prolonged pacifier use in children can impede speech development. While research investigating how pacifiers can really affect children’s speech patterns have produced mixed results, it can still be noted that speech and language development happen rapidly in kids at age 1, and if they still use pacifiers at this age, it can affect their speech patterns.

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    Weaning your child off a pacifier can be a long and tough process, but there are things you can do to make it easier both for you and your little one.
    PHOTO BY iStock
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    Three ways to help your child reduce his pacifier use

    1. Pick the right timing

    When it comes to helping your child withdraw from the habit of using pacifiers, timing is everything. The AAP suggests offering pacifiers to babies during the first six months of life, which is when they can experience the benefits of pacifier use.

    Dr. De Los Reyes advises parents to start weaning their kids off of their pacifiers when they reach the 1-year-old mark. Marolyn Morford, Ph.D., a developmental psychologist in State College, Pennsylvania, tells Parents that 1 is an ideal age to discontinue your child’s pacifier use because “at that age, a child’s developmental needs do not include sucking.” For example, it is during this time that kids cultivate their ability to talk more coherently, and the constant use of pacifiers may hinder their speech.

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    Another thing to take into consideration when thinking about when to start weaning your child off their pacifier is the circumstances at home. If a significant change or event is happening to your family — for example, the birth of a new sibling, moving to a new home, or taking a long trip — then it might not be the best time to start the weaning process. It will only add to the stress your child is already going through.

    2. Start slow

    Though for some parents going cold turkey may prove a more effective method, taking your time in phasing out pacifiers in your child’s everyday life can also be very helpful. You can start by restricting his use of pacifier to a specific time of day, such as siesta time or when he goes to bed at night, until eventually, you can work towards completely taking away the pacifier. It can also be a way to get your child used to falling asleep or calming down even without the help of a pacifier.

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    3. Always be encouraging when you're weaning him from a pacifier

    The process of weaning off an object that your child has become dependent on can be difficult on your little one, so as you help them along, don’t forget to encourage them. You can give them compliments or even simple rewards whenever they get through a whole day of reduced or no pacifier usage. And even if they end up resorting back to using their beloved pacifier, remember to keep their morale up, and remind them that it’s okay to start over.

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