Putting Away The Paci: When and Why It’s Necessary

Alright moms and dads, what is the ultimate comfort for your child? If I had to guess, it might be a lovey, blanket or most likely, a pacifier. However, let me present the case for why you should put away the paci, preferably sooner rather than later. There are plenty of creative ways to ditch the noonie/binkie/paci, whatever you call it, but it’s very important to understand why you should work on leaving it behind, including health, speech and dental reasons.

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Staying Healthy

First and foremost, they’re germ-y. Our kids pick up enough germs at school, on the playground or from siblings, so it’s never bad to eliminate one source of potential sickness. When examined under a microscope, used pacifiers were found to have fungi plus bacteria similar to E. coli on and within the nipple, according to recent studies by Richard Thomas Glass, D.D.S., Ph.D., professor of forensic sciences, pathology, and dental medicine at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences.

Reduce Ear Infections

According to study published in Pediatrics, babies who do not use pacifiers have 33% fewer ear infections than those who use them regularly. It is unknown why pacifier use increases the likelihood of ear infections, but it is speculated that it alters pressure in the inner ear and subsequently impairs the function of the Eustachian tube (which drains fluid out of the ear). Obviously this is not the sole reason that ear infections develop, but if your baby has a tendency to get ear infections, cutting out pacifier use may help reduce the number and frequency of them.

Dental Difficulties

“Before age 2, any problems with growing teeth usually self-correct within 6 months of stopping pacifier use,” says Evelina Weidman Sterling, PhD, MPH, co-author of Your Child's Teeth: A Complete Guide for Parents. Several studies have shown significant differences in dental characteristics in pacifier users at 24 and 36 months of age compared to those who stopped pacifier use at 12 months. Additionally, the longer the pacifier was in use, the stronger the association with abnormal bite patterns such as crossbite or openbite. To read more, click here.

Slowing Speech and Learning

Many speech-language pathologists recommend dropping the pacifier by one year old. One is an important developmental age for babbling and speaking, which are major milestones in the ability to speak. When a pacifier is in the child’s mouth, his/her speech will be distorted and in some cases can lead to abnormal tongue and lip muscles movement. Though research directly investigating the articulation (speech production) of pacifier users versus non-pacifier users has yielded mixed results, it’s always good to be proactive with your child’s speech and language ability. Consequently, investigators found that children who used a pacifier or sucked their fingers for three years or more were three times more likely to develop a speech disorder. To read more, click here.

Getting rid of the pacifier can be tricky and scary for both baby and parent. Just remember, like a bad habit, the longer its there, the harder it is to break. My recommendation is to begin to wean pacifier use sometime between 6 and 18 months of age (after the risk of SIDS decreases and before language acquisition rapidly increases).

You know your baby best, so be delicate in how you decide to phase out the pacifier. Some parents have had success with cold turkey methods and others with the gradual phase out. Whatever method you choose, make sure you involve your child and let them know what’s going on. Kids understand more than you think, so explain to them why it’s important to ditch the paci. Parenting.com has some cute ideas for parents and as always, let me know if you have any questions about this practice and/or process.