Monday, December 27, 2010

The Great Pacifier Debate

Q: I am against pacifiers big-time, especially since kids seem to hold on to them until they're 4, 5, 6 or older these days. My husband thinks I'm exaggerating and worried for nothing.
My eldest child, Katie, is 3.5 and has had a pacifier since she was 3 months old. From the age of one we have limited it to bedtime and naps.

We prepared her to get rid of her pacifier when she turned three and would be a "big girl," but when the day came my husband insisted she wasn't ready so we waited. A few months later Katie said "Let's have a party." We collected all the pacifiers, sang bye-bye to them, had cake, an it was finished! Or so I thought.

That night she was hysterical. We tried giving her toys and treats, staying in the room with her, nothing worked. It's been like this for a few weeks and I just don't know what to do.

I'm guessing that part of the problem is that Katie's brother, who is less than a year younger than her, still has a pacifier. The two are joined at the hip an think they are twins. I think he should give up his paci too, but my husband says I'd be "punishing" him by making him give it up at only 2.5!


A: There are two camps when it comes to pacifiers.

1) It's bad for kids' teeth and it looks ridiculous. Pacifiers are for babies.

2) Pacifiers fill an emotional need. If you take it away before they're ready, they're going to react/act out in some other way or just find something else to attach themselves to for comfort instead of the pacifier. Let your kid keep her pacifier for as long as she needs it. Eventually she will give it up on her own.

Until I heard position #2, I was a strong advocate of position #1. I still believe a pacifier should be gotten rid of at around a year, when dentists recommend it. Kids at this age should be able to soothe themselves to sleep and it's much easier to take it away when they're younger than if you wait till they're older. When they're young it's just a tool. When they're older it's almost a part of them.

Of course, this is irrelevant to you because your kid are long past that stage. So let's deal with the here and now.

You are absolutely correct that you're not going to be able to get Katie to give up her paci if her brother still has one. And at 2.5, he is old enough to get rid of his. Anyway it's best to deal with this all in one fell swoop - why have to do it all over again with him in a few months?

Unfortunately the bigger issue here is convincing your husband. Just like in my last post, this is not as much a parenting question as it is a marriage question. It is still partially a parenting question because you're still struggling with exactly how to get rid of Katie's paci, but it's more a marriage question because if you and your husband were both on the same page it would be a whole lot easier to make a plan and stick to it.

In general with questions like these in which the parents are at odds about how to approach a parenting issue, I say you have to pick your battles. But you NEED to get rid of Katie's paci. Dentists say a baby should not have a paci past a year old. Pacifiers can cause speech problems and recurrent ear infections. I suggest you collect some articles outlining these facts and present them to your husband. Tell him "To you it's not a big deal for Katie to keep her pacifier, but that's because you don't know the facts. Here are the facts. We need to do what's best for our kids, and we are starting today. I'm happy to discuss other aspects of parenting with you and come up with compromises, but when it comes to their health, if there is a clear-cut answer about what is better for them, we have to do what the research says."

Now, you're still going to have to deal with Katie's emotional attachment to her pacifier. She might become clingy, or weepy, or obstinate. She is definitely going to need a lot of love, attention, cuddling and understanding. One thing you have on your side is that your two kids have each other. If they're anything like my kids, Katie might be so busy taking care of her little brother and telling him "Don't be sad, it's OK, you can do it" that she'll forget about her own plight!

There's a good possibility that Katie will feel the need to replace her pacifier with a different comfort object. You'll probably be annoyed if she does, but I say let her do it if that's what she needs to feel secure. At least it won't be ruining her teeth. She'll get rid of her comfort object when she's good and ready.

I slept with my blankie until I was ten or so, and I think I turned out OK.


  1. This is one of the many reasons I am so happy that Asher never wanted a pacifier. He still sleeps with his blankie, but like you said, it's a comfort object and they'll get rid of it when they're good and ready.

    I've had my pillow since I was 2.5/3 and I still use it... :-/

  2. I used to be afraid of pacifiers but I don't think they're so bad anymore. I wished Eliana would have taken one - she was attached to my boob for 18 months.

    Anyway, supposedly pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS, so they're not all bad.

  3. Oh yeah, I definitely don't think pacifiers are all bad. But I'm just so happy I never had to deal with weening Asher off of one. Maybe I'll feel differently if I'm able to breastfeed this one and it's attached to my boob for that long, lol.

  4. I was just talking to a friend who had trouble weaning her daughter from the breast and actually introduced a paci at around 20 months as a replacement! She must have been pretty desperate. I remember that feeling. I think I might have even considered a paci but there's no way Eliana would have gone for it. And I'm glad. Although there's definitely an emotional attachment to the breast that's not there with a pacifier, I think weaning her from a paci would have been just as hard or harder.

  5. I'm pro paci now that I have orally fixated older kids...they stick every thing in their mouths and I can't really stop it.

  6. Did your kids never have pacis or did you take them away at some point? Is there no age that you would say "enough is enough" and take a paci away from an older child or try to help her quit?