How to Wean Your Baby From the Pacifier
Our Dental Blog | Info & tips | 08.13.2019
Babies love their pacifiers. They’re soothing, help them to relax, get to sleep, and stop fussing. But as babies get older and develop teeth, it’s time to start thinking about how to wean them off. Mainly because prolonged pacifier use can lead to slanted teeth and other oral health complications.
As your baby’s head and jaw grow, their jaw will accommodate any object whether it be a pacifier, their thumb, or any other object they use to self-soothe. If a baby sucks on their pacifier during this stage, it will affect their development. Pacifier use past infancy can cause teeth to grow on an angle which in turn leads to misalignment and bite problems. It’s hard to do, but parents need to wean their babies off their pacifiers as early as possible.
It may seem cruel to take away an object that brings comfort to your baby, but you can always substitute one comforting object for another, more importantly, one that won’t hinder their oral health. Eventually, they won’t need to soothe anymore.
Here are some methods you can take to wean your baby from their pacifier. Choose the option that works best for you and your child, and be gentle but firm. Make it clear that “big kids” don’t use pacifiers, and that giving it up means your child is being very brave and mature.
One way of weaning your baby from their pacifier is to do it gradually instead of cold turkey. To start, offer the pacifier only during naptime and bedtime when your child is winding down to sleep. Then maybe only every 2nd day, and so on. Before you know it, your baby will be happily going to sleep without it, especially if they have a replacement object.
Most babies tend to have comfort items like a blanket or stuffed animal. When you take away your baby’s pacifier you can reduce the separation anxiety by offering an alternative object instead. A new soft toy or even just some extra cuddles should do it. Now your baby can feel safe and relaxed without the negative effects on their teeth.
By cutting a hole in the tip of your baby’s pacifier, the air will be released and it will be more difficult to suck on. Your baby may find their pacifier to be less satisfying after that and might just lose interest on their own.
Another way of weaning your baby from their pacifier is to coat it with something that is safe and non-toxic, but that doesn’t taste very good, such as vinegar or lemon juice. Doing this, particularly if they have an alternative comfort object on-hand will likely divert their focus away from the pacifier completely.
Quitting cold turkey is the most distressing way of kicking a habit, but can sometimes be the most effective. The first couple of days will be the hardest for your baby, but after those initial 48–72 hours, they’ll begin to calm down. Make sure you give your baby a toy, a blanket, or a stuffed animal to substitute the comforting feeling they once received from their pacifier. Make sure to give them extra affection, maybe even a gentle massage, so they feel safe and calm.
If your child is old enough to understand words and sentences, tell them there is another baby who needs their pacifier more than they do. Your child may understand the importance of doing something good for someone other than themselves. They’re giving up something they loved to benefit someone else and becoming “grown-ups”.
We recommend scheduling your baby’s first dental appointment when their first tooth erupts. This is around the same time they should be weaned from their pacifier. A dentist can confirm if your child’s mouth and jaw are developing properly, they can even help dispose of old pacifiers! Just bring them in a box to the dentist and let your child know that the pacifiers are being given up for a good cause. If your child feels included in the decision, they’ll be more inclined to relinquish them.
Pacifiers are a great soothing aid for infants, however, they can interfere with proper oral development. That’s why it’s necessary to wean your infant from their pacifier between the ages of six months to two years. It may seem daunting, but by using one of the methods provided, the process should go smoothly and quickly.
Treehouse Dental provides kid-friendly dental services in Toronto, Thornhill, and Etobicoke. Give us a call at (416) 922-2668 or visit our contact page here for more information or to set up an appointment.