Pat Cascio, Owner of Morningside Nannies in Houston, Texas and The Association of Premier Nanny Agencies 2008 Agency of the Year award winner emailed Be the Best Nanny Newsletter stating, "I would love to hear what professional nannies have to say about giving up the pacifier by age two."
Well known pediatrician and author of 30 books, Dr. Bill Sears, discusses the use of pacifiers and how to wean tots from using pacifiers in his article, "Bye Bye Binky," on the Dr. Sears web site.
The pediatrician says, "Babies have an intense need to suck, and some have more intense needs than others. Babies even suck their thumbs in the womb. Next to holding and feeding, sucking is the most time-tested comforter."
In the book Touchpoints The Essential Reference, T. Berry Brazelton agrees. Dr. Brazelton writes, "thumb sucking is a healthy self-comforting pattern."
Dr. Sears says, "Pacifiers are just that –- "peacemakers" –- which children return to as an attachment object. Some infants and young children have an intense need to suck for comfort, which lasts well into their preschool years. Seeing a plug in a three-year-old's mouth actually bothers adults more than children. This does not imply a psychological problem or a need unfulfilled by parents. On the contrary, the ability to use objects to self-comfort is a sign of psychological health."
He continues, "The only problem with pacifiers at three-years of age is the likelihood of exerting pressure on the upper front teeth, resulting in an overbite."
But, Dr. Brazleton also explains, "Very few people go to college sucking their thumbs or pacifiers. The children who keep on as late as kindergarten or the early grades are those in whom the habit was been reinforced by parents who interfered with it. If you want to set a stubborn pattern in a child, just try to interrupt it at a time when he needs solace."
If you are having trouble weaning a child off of a pacifier Dr. Sears recommends the following tips:
1. Use the distract and substitute technique. As soon as she reaches for her comforter, distract her ("Let's play…") and substitute an alternative activity.
2. The trade technique. Here's a binky-breaking trick I have oftentimes advised in my pediatric practice. Take [the]child to the toystore and let her pick out a toy to "trade" for the pacifier. Experienced toystore clerks are used to this trading game. By making the pacifier less convenient to use, distracting her, and substituting a treasured toy, you should be able to close the pacifier chapter of normal childhood.
3. Lose it. Make his plug less convenient to find. When he starts to look for it, engage him in such a fun activity that he forgets his rubber friend. Then, arrange for the pacifier to be permanently "lost," meanwhile substituting other touches of comfort, such as lots of snuggling, and a few cuddly toys.
T. Berry Brazelton
What successful tips can you share about weaning a child off the pacifier? What has worked for you?