Pacifiers are just that – “peacemakers” – which children return to as an attachment object. Some infants and young children have an intense need to suck for comfort, which lasts well into their preschool years. Seeing a plug in a three-year-old’s mouth actually bothers adults more than children. This does not imply a psychological problem or a need unfulfilled by parents. On the contrary, the ability to use objects to self-comfort is a sign of psychological health. The only problem with pacifiers at three years of age is the likelihood of exerting pressure on the upper front teeth, resulting in an overbite. If your child does not use a pacifier long enough and suck hard enough to be causing mal-alignment of the teeth, then there is no need to break this habit. If it is beginning to bother her teeth, here’s how to wave bye-bye to her “binky.”
1. Use the distract and substitute technique. As soon as she reaches for her comforter, distract her (“Let’s play…”) and substitute an alternative activity.
2. Here’s a binky-breaking trick I have oftentimes advised in my pediatric practice. I call this the trade-in technique. Take your child to the toystore and let her pick out a toy to “trade” for the pacifier. Experienced toystore clerks are used to this trading game. By making the pacifier less convenient to use, distracting her, and substituting a treasured toy, you should be able to close the pacifier chapter of normal childhood.
3. Lose it. Make his plug less convenient to find. When he starts to look for it, engage him in such a fun activity that he forgets his rubber friend. Then, arrange for the pacifier to be permanently “lost,” meanwhile substituting other touches of comfort, such as lots of snuggling, and a few cuddly toys.