You might be dreading it, but there will come a day when your baby’s pacifier has to go. In general, experts recommend weaning your child from a pacifier between his or her first and second birthdays.
By that time, toddlers can learn to use different, more mature means of self-soothing, and while pacifiers are recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for the first year of life, they are not proven to be beneficial beyond age one.
Even so, half of toddlers haven’t given up their pacifiers by 28 months of age. At 36 months of age, about 30 percent of kids are still sucking for comfort, and by 4 years old, 10 percent continue the habit.
Extending pacifier use too long can result in problems. The American Dental Association recommends that a child stop using a pacifier before permanent teeth have come in. The prolonged use of pacifiers (as well as bottles and sippy cups with hard spouts) can change the shape of the jaw and palate, alter the position of the tongue in the mouth, and impact the placement of the teeth. This is especially true for kids who suck very vigorously or who suck for many hours per day.
If pacifier use continues as a child enters the preschool years, it’s more likely that orthodontic treatment will be needed down the road. Fortunately, dental effects are usually reversible if sucking is discontinued by age four or five.
In addition to dental effects, this kind of sucking can have effects on speech. Sucking creates oral habits that form well before permanent teeth have erupted. A pacifier in the mouth interferes with the position of the tongue at rest and the movement of the tongue tip. These oral habits can affect speech, since tongue tip movement is needed for the production of certain speech sounds. And oral habits can be hard to change, often causing the child to need speech therapy later on.
Because of the potential effects on speech, eliminating the pacifier sooner rather than later is a good idea. Not every child’s teeth and speech are affected the same way by pacifier use, and it’s hard to predict which kids will be most significantly affected. But even if you can’t predict it, it’s still best to wean your child as soon as possible.
- Wean your child off pacifier use between 1-2 years old.
- Excessive pacifier use can change the shape of the jaw, alter the tongue position, and impact teeth placement.
- Prolonged pacifier sucking can have negative impacts on speech.
- Bad oral habits affect speech, which make speech therapy necessary later on.