Babies come with an innate need and ability to suck. They start doing it in the womb where they suck their thumb, and after birth, they know what to do when put on the breast. This reflex is important because it is how they get sustenance and also because it soothes them.

To give or not to give

Something else that babies find soothing to suck on is pacifiers. The jury is still out on whether pacifiers are right or bad for babies. According to experts, they cause no harm. However, it is recommended that pacifiers are given to babies who are well-established in breastfeeding. Otherwise,  a pacifier can compromise their learning to latch on and feed well.

Experts also agree that they can be helpful in cases where a baby needs to nurse more than every two hours. Mum can get a break by giving such a baby a pacifier before it is time for the next feed.

No milk teeth harmed

A common concern is that a pacifier can damage the teeth. According to experts, they usually don't affect children under the age of two years. However, dentists recommend that pacifiers should be used on a limited basis at this age and should haves stopped completely by the age of four years. This is because, after the age of four, pacifiers can cause dental problems like open bite, overbite or crossbite. These are issues that can affect how a child chews, their speech and appearance. Also, these problems would need orthodontic treatment. Even so-called orthodontic pacifiers don't prevent this.

How to end pacifier habit

Once a child has been weaned and potty trained, ending the use of pacifiers should be next on the list. By this age which is around two years, children have developed skills to manage their distress.

One way to do it is with the three-day plan developed and written about by Mark Brenner. On day one, let your child know that the plan is to stop using the pacifier habit. Talk to them about getting a new toy or going somewhere fun instead. See how receptive they are. Do the same the next day and see how resistant or receptive they are to the idea.

On day three, make a game of it such as a scavenger hunt to find the pacifiers and get rid of them. Make a big deal about the replacement toy or fun place you'll be going to.

Slow but sure

If your child is completely resistant to the idea, take the progressive approach to end pacifier habit. Keep it away from their sight and reach when they don't need it only offering it when they are distressed and only when other attempts to soothe them have failed. With some kids, out of sight is out mind and they forget it.

With some children, it takes longer to get them over their pacifiers. Be firm about only giving it at night in their crib or when they are going to take a nap. A pacifier is just one of the things you will have to train your child about. There will be other things and habits that you want them to learn or stop and it will take a firm hand to teach them. Take the same approach to end pacifier habit. Be firm and be consistent.

Moving on

Children forget fast, and if you remain consistent, that pacifier that is kept out of sight will eventually be out of mind. Just have alternatives like other toys and fun activities ready to distract them with and keep them happily occupied.