There are a lot of different views on pacifiers. The hospitals freak you out about nipple confusion and most no longer offer pacifiers to newborns. Being a speech-language pathologist, I was skeptical about introducing a pacifier to my son, mostly related to oral motor development. But I did and I don’t regret it. When it came to pacifier weaning, I have always had a plan but I wasn’t sure when to implement it. I originally planned on doing a pacifier diaries blog series in anticipation that paci weaning was going to be a difficult process, but it actually wasn’t that eventful. My baby led the process by refusing his pacies one night and throwing all five of them out of his crib. Big mistake on his part, because mommy scooped them up and said “the time has come.” Here is our story and why I don’t regret pacifiers.
The Lactation Consultants in the hospital filled me with knowledge on nipple confusion, its impacts on breastfeeding and recommendations for when to introduce a paci to my baby. They recommended waiting 3-4 weeks after birth to allow baby to establish a good nursing latch. While I somewhat agree with that, I chose to offer my baby a pacifier the minute we got in the truck to leave the hospital. I observed my son’s innate desire to suckle and I wanted him to be calm, comforted and pacified. Sucking is a soothing, enjoyable activity for baby and is a reflex until around two to three months of age.
My son refused a paci at first. In fact, I tried three different types: Avent Soothie, Dr. Brown’s and MAM. Once we got home and settled, he accepted the MAM pacifier and we went with it. Throughout his first year of life, he used his paci on car rides to get him to sleep, when we were out and about for the hush button feature and when sleeping. I had originally planned to take it away at six months old but couldn’t pull the plug. I just loved watching him immediately go to the land of dreams as soon as he popped the paci in. Pacifiers have such a soothing and calming effect.
There was a time when I went in and put pacies back in his mouth at night because he dropped them out of the crib or lost them. While this was annoying, it didn’t last long. Once my son was around six months old, he was able to find his paci and put it in himself. I kept 4-5 pacies in his crib. So I changed the “no more pacies” goal to one year old. As my son’s first birthday has quickly approached, I began having second thoughts about taking his pacies away. I started questioning myself. What are we going to do in restaurants? On road trips? Naps? He loves it and there are things that I love that I wouldn’t want taken away. We all deserve to have a few guilty pleasures!
Luckily, the stars aligned for this mama and at eleven months old, my son led his paci weaning process. When he started cutting his top tooth, he began chewing on his pacies and not sucking. Obviously, this was not safe. One morning nap I went in and he had thrown all of his pacies out of his crib. I attempted to give them back and he refused. Big mistake, because the light bulb went off in my head and I decided the day had come. I had been waiting on the day, because I had a plan in mind. I had been yearning to give him a blanket or something soft to snuggle in his crib but my plan was to do this when I took his pacies away. Prior to this, it was just baby and his pacies in his crib, he knew no other way. I feel strongly that in order to break a habit you must replace it with something else, so this was my plan all along. And, it was a great plan! The day he refused his pacies, I swiped them up and gave him a snuggle blanket. This effectively redirected his attention and we are now paci free! He had three restless days with difficulty going to sleep and some crying, no longer than ten minutes. It now takes him five to ten minutes to settle himself to sleep, rolling around and babbling to his blankets but not crying. Of course, I have pictures to share! The best part about taking his pacifiers away is that he is now more vocal and playing with his voice, which is a great thing! Here we are nearly a year later and pacies are a closed chapter in our lives. A new chapter of big boy bedding has begun.
My reflections on pacifiers:
- The nipple confusion theory- not sure I agree with this, I think the more textures offered orally to baby, the more well-rounded and accepting they are to different oral stimulation. I do recommend waiting until baby has a good latch with feedings and is gaining weight before introducing a pacifier.
- Baby uses different muscles and sucking patterns with different nipples (breast, bottle, paci). I feel exposure to different nipples helps coordinate and strengthen oral muscles.
- Pacies come in different sizes, I only bought up to the six months size in hopes that the fit would become uncomfortable to baby and help with weaning, I think this helped.
- If baby is crying, make sure to rule out obvious reasons for the tears (diaper, hunger, illness) before inserting a pacifier.
- I recommend restricting paci for special times such as sleeping, the car or going out and about. Parents should keep control of the paci, it should not be free-rein for baby. Unlike a thumb!
- The sooner you pull the plug on pacies, the better. After six months of age, they become habitual. It’s beneficial for babies to learn other ways to self soothe. I personally feel like one year of age is a good time. Habits are a bit easier to break at this age. The longer a habit is formed, it becomes more hard-wired and difficult to re-wire, but it’s doable!
- Once you take the pacies, stay strong and don’t give them back. I don’t typically do things cold turkey, but with pacies I recommend it. There will be at least three days of wrath, especially the older your little is, but this too shall pass!
- If you choose pacies, have a weaning plan in mind from the get go. I recommend replacing the paci with something special such as a blanket.
Pacifiers and Speech-Language Development:
I haven’t been too concerned about the speech-language implications and my son using a pacifier however there are some things to consider. A pacifier suck is an immature sucking pattern that is similar to the one babies use to expel liquid from nipples. Immature sucking patterns typically dissipate on their own as baby begins eating solids and develops a more mature swallow pattern. Prolonged paci use and thumb-sucking too (toddler years and beyond), keeps the immature swallow pattern at a surface level and doesn’t support oral muscle strengthening and coordination. An immature swallow pattern (the tongue moving up and forward) could result in tongue thrusting, which may impact speech sound and dental development. On a personal note, I’ve noticed that my son is doing a lot more self talk and playing with his voice and speech sounds since we took his pacies away. I’m very happy about this! A paci can limit talking opportunities and distort speech sounds. It’s hard to coo, babble, smile and socialize with a paci in, so I definitely recommend restricting their use for fussy, grumpy and sleepy times.
All babies are different and to each is own, your baby will let you know if a paci is right for them. Pacifiers brought a large amount of pleasure and comfort to my little and I don’t regret them at all. If you decide to go the paci route, don’t feel guilty but do have a goal in mind for weaning! Everything in moderation!
I would love to read your thoughts and ideas on paci weaning, please share!