baby with pacifier

It’s tough being a new parent with such profound life changes taking place. There is usually no shortage of advice from family members, other parents, and friends. One area where each experienced dentist on our team at Southeast Family Dental is asked for advice is in the continued use of a pacifier.

Primarily, we are asked when the weaning process should begin in order to prevent the formation of future dental problems. In general terms, it is important to wean your child off their pacifier near their first birthday. This is because a range of avoidable dental health problems can be caused by extended pacifier use. Prime examples are an open bite and narrow palate. These can lead to distressing tooth misalignment, future problems, and often the later need for corrective treatment.

Four-step plan

Knowing that your youngster should be weaned off their pacifier is one thing; successfully managing the operation is another! Just like the breast or bottle, your infant has gained an attachment to the comfort offered; therefore, a cold-turkey solution often won’t work. Here is a four-step plan that has often proved to be of use to new parents in this situation:

  1. Remove it from their sight at the times of day when your youngster is least likely to want it. When they demand it, tell them they’ll get it later and look to move their attention to another activity.
  2. Aim to distract them with a healthy snack or a favorite toy – giving them something else to concentrate on.
  3. Slowly increase the periods of time when they are pacifier-free, gradually reducing their reliance on, and desire for, it. Accept that sleeping times will be the last area where you can remove it.
  4. Find other methods of offering comfort when going to sleep – hugging their favorite furry animal or comfort blanket.

Other “instant” solutions

Finally, though, if you do want to try an instant removal operation, you might tell your child the old tale of the ‘Pacifier Fairy’ who visits and collects pacifiers from ‘big children’ to take them to new-born babies so that they can have the comfort of them. It might just work, if you are persuasive enough!