Help! My Child is a Pacifier Junkie!

mintle03(2).jpgWe are proud to have Dr. Linda Mintle in ParentLife each month answering questions submitted from readers. To submit a question for Dr. Mintle, e-mail it to and include "? for Dr. Mintle" on the subject line. This month we have an extra Q&A from Dr. Mintle we wanted to share.

Q: My child is 3 years old and still sucks on her pacifier. We want her to stop, because we read that this can harm her speech and oral development. Can you offer some tips on how to help her stop?

A: Saying goodbye to the pacifier can be traumatic for some kids. Experts usually recommend you begin trying around 18 months because of developing tooth alignment, language development, and even ear infections.

We actually had a ceremony with our son where we wrapped the pacifier and sent it to another child who was much younger and needed it. Our son gave a speech that was quite moving, said his goodbyes, and moved on with life. He told us weeks earlier that he was ready to give it up, and we allowed him to take the lead. We suggested the ceremony, and he really liked the idea. It doesn’t always go that well, so here are other ideas.

First and foremost is to never shame a child for sucking her thumb or using a pacifier. Don’t nag or chide or you will most likely engage in a power struggle. No threats or punishments. Anxiety will rise and the child will feel the need to hang on to the object even more! Some kids go cold turkey like our son did and others, like our daughter, gave it up gradually. Knowing your child makes a difference in how you approach this, so here are a number of ideas that have worked for different children:

  1. Limiting the time of usage and places it can be used, e.g., naptime
  2. Offering a reward or special treat for exchange
  3. Poking a hole in it and deflating it
  4. Creating distraction by playing an instrument, singing, or doing something else with his mouth
  5. Using a reward chart
  6. Going cold turkey

Some kids will cry for a few nights and then be done. It is also important to time the weaning. You don’t want to try this if your child is sick or experiencing a major change. Our first attempt with our son was when we moved him into his big boy bed. That was not the time to give up the paci! Once he adjusted, we had success! And you will too.