Breaking the Binky Habit
Whether they’re crystal clear, neon bright or covered in rhinestones, pacifiers are the modern baby’s accessory of choice. Thanks to studies showing that they reduce the incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), most pediatricians have given pacifiers the green light. A study in Pediatrics found that a whopping 68 percent of parents give them to their babies before 6 weeks of age
Babies aren’t the only ones who love them; parents quickly appreciate the pacifier’s soothing effects on their offspring. Unfortunately, it may become a habit that overstays its welcome. When negatives outweigh the positives, it’s time to make a break from the binky.
While some children give up non-nutritive or comfort sucking on their own, others cling to the habit well into the preschool years. According to pediatric dentist Lotus Su, using a pacifier too much or for too long can contribute to dental problems, including deformation of the palate and shifting teeth, as well as mouth breathing and dry mouth, which may increase susceptibility to tooth decay.
Many doctors and dentists don’t have a problem with pacifier use in babies and toddlers, but they usually recommend ending the habit before permanent front teeth begin to emerge, which can happen before kindergarten. “I recommend stopping pacifier use by age 3,” Su says. “The earlier a pacifier habit is stopped, the less likely that there will be any dental problems.”
Potential problems extend beyond the teeth. Pacifier use is associated with otitis media, or middle ear infections. Minor health upsets like gastrointestinal infections and oral thrush are also more commonly seen in pacifier users.
Parents may be swayed by medical data and dentists’ recommendations, but kids often need some coaxing to give up the long-held habit. Guilt-inducing lectures about dental problems or germs may be counterproductive, causing them to dig in their heels. Instead, help them become confidently pacifier-free with the following tactics.
Literary loss – Before embarking on a pacifier purge, check out some children’s books on the topic. After listening to stories like The Last Noo-Noo by Jill Murphy or Pacifiers Are Not Forever by Elizabeth Verdick, your child may be more receptive to the idea.
Pacifier bear – When 3-year-old Violet was ready to give up her pacifier, mom Bec Marcher took her to a popular build-your-own-stuffed-animal store. Violet deposited her last pacifier safely inside the teddy bear before it was sewn up. The bear is now both a cuddly friend and a unique reminder of Violet’s younger days.
Baby charity – Your child may be willing to donate her pacifiers to a good cause. Gather the binkies and visit a friend with a young baby. Have your child “gift” the baby with the pacifier collection, and shower her with praise for her generosity.
Paci fairy – Steal this idea from Supernanny Jo Frost: Have your child place his pacifiers in a large envelope to mail to the “pacifier fairy.” Put the envelope in the mailbox together before bed. Once he’s asleep, swap the envelope for a new toy. When he wakes up, excitedly take him to the mailbox to find his new treasure.
Make the cut – Snipping a small hole in a pacifier can help it quickly lose its appeal, encouraging a child to give it up on his own. Be sure to dispose of a broken pacifier promptly because it can harbor bacteria or become a choking hazard if a child continues to use it.
Out of sight – Parents seeking the quickest route to pacifier-freedom can simply throw them all away. Kelly Stallings opted for the cold-turkey approach with daughter Taylor. “The first night was rough, but after that, she didn’t care,” she says. Just make sure to get rid of each and every one, so your child isn’t tempted to relapse (and you’re not tempted to cave).
No matter how stubbornly your child clings to a beloved binky, eventually it will be a thing of the past. Once he’s confidently pacifier-free, you’re free as well — from relentlessly searching for them, washing them and buying them. Enjoy your well-earned liberation. At least until the next must-have item comes along.
Malia Jacobson is a freelance writer and mom to a former binky addict.