When Should Your Baby Stop Using a Pacifier?

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There comes a time in our child’s life when we have to separate them from their beloved binky. It’s a tough ordeal, and one very few parents want to come face to face with.

There are many tactics available to get your baby to stop using a pacifier. Some are a lot easier than others—I know from experience. But what age should we decide enough is enough?

How Old Is Too Old?

There is no defining age for your child to stop using a pacifier. It’s more when you feel like they are too old or that their relationship with their binky should come to an end. Some babies or toddlers might stop using it on their own, but for the most part, you as the parent will have to make the decision.

There are some factors you need to take into consideration before stopping the use of a pacifier.

Six Months Old

This is considered the easiest time to reduce or stop the use of the pacifier. They are not as emotionally attached to it and only use it as a soother.

Pacifiers are said to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). For young babies, they can improve sleep and decrease crying. The paci was a powerful tool that helped me get through the dreaded four-month sleep regression.

As a baby grows, it can be very easy just to give them one when they cry. But remember that crying is a baby’s way of communicating. It’s best to try and figure out what they need before offering the pacifier.

Experts have said that pacifiers are known to increase the risk of ear infections, especially after the age of six months. If your child is prone to them, I suggest weaning them off at this age.

Nine Months Old

At around nine months, pacifiers still provide great comfort and support. They are a godsend on long journeys or in the shops.

When my son was this age, his binky became my favorite friend when we were out and about. It kept him quiet long enough for me to get my daily groceries and take him home.

Saying that, babies of this age have now developed an attachment to their pacifier. It has become a sort of safety blanket for them. When taking it away, be ready for some protests and tears. As they are still young, it should only take a week for the tears to reduce.

Two Years Old 

By this time, the pacifier has become your child’s best friend and support. When upset, they reach for their binky out of reflex to suck on and gain comfort from. This can be great when you need them to be quiet but can be a hindrance in the long run.

The toddler years are an excellent time to start introducing them to different items such as a teddy to stop the use of a pacifier. We started doing this with my eldest, and he slowly let go of his pacifier.

Four Years Old 

It’s now or never. Your four-year-old may have gotten to the point where they are dependent on their pacifier in everyday environments. It may stop a lot of tantrums, but they can’t continue using it. No one goes to college with a pacifier.

There may be lots of arguments and tears, or they may feel totally ready. At this age, they are old enough to emotionally process what is going on. Introduce them to the idea and encourage them to give it up. With time they will stop using a pacifier as they learn to deal with their emotions in other ways.

How to Wean Them Off 

So you’ve decided it’s time for your little one to stop using a pacifier. But how do you go about doing that? And what’s the easiest way?

Don’t do what my dad did to me and cut them all up and bury them in the garden. You will have tears for weeks and a very grumpy baby. You need to wean them off slowly and gently.

The Binky Fairy 

Much like the tooth fairy, the idea of the binky fairy is to take the pacifier and replace it with either money or a toy. Introduce the story to your child before you do it, so they already know to expect what’s coming. This is a good way to do it if you’ve tried other methods and they are just not cooperating.

I tried this one with my youngest and it worked wonders! Instead of dealing with the stress and hassle of arguing, it took only three nights of tears and cuddles.

Don’t Give In 

Your baby may be crying like anything to get it back, but stick to your guns. It will be tough, and you will have to deal with temper tantrums a lot. In the long run it’s always worth it.

If you give it back, it can encourage the idea that if they cry, they’ll eventually get what they want. Be strong, not only for yourself but for your baby too.

Slowly Does It 

Start to take it away at home when they’re having fun and playing. This way they are distracted by what they are doing to not even realize their misplaced binky. Eventually, the home will be pacifier free, but it will take some time.

Once they are used to not having it as much, try going to the shops without it. Your child will surprise you and not need it as much as you think.

Over Four Years Old?

It’s up to you and your partner at the end of the day when you decide to stop using a pacifier. However, when your child passes the age of four, there are some health risks that you need to consider.

There is the possibility of dental problems or exacerbating speech impediments due to the overuse of a pacifier. It may also be that they have become emotionally dependent on it and refuse to let it go.

Bye Bye Pacifier 

Whenever you decide to stop the use of a pacifier with your child, make sure you go in with a clear head. It will need time and patience to fully get rid of it.

Once you have stopped the use of a pacifier, never reintroduce it. Your baby has learned to live without it so should you!

If you’ve decided that the time is right, do not put it off. Stopping the use of a pacifier is another sign that your baby is growing up. Your parents had to go through this with you, and now it’s your turn. Good luck.

Cristin is a co-founder of Smart Parent Advice, and the loving mother of two wonderful children. In her free time, she can often be found in a yoga studio or catching up on her favorite shows.