My two-year-old still uses a pacifier to sleep. I think it’s time to wean him. Is that right?You likely know that young children suck on their fingers, thumbs and pacifiers. From the early months, the sucking action becomes an activity that babies associate with comfort and sleep. Later in life, many toddlers will resort to sucking to unwind after a long day of exploring and growing. Many pacifier babies grow into toddlerhood with a rubber-nipple nighttime routine.
However, for every child there comes a time to pull the plug. The trouble with using a pacifier as a sleep-aid is that their overuse can result in an overbite – the upper teeth protruding far in front of the lower teeth. To see if it’s time for a binky ban, rub your finger along your son’s teeth as he sleeps to check for too-prominent top teeth. If you detect the beginnings of an overbite, it’s time to wean him off this particular bedtime habit.
The best methods for all types of weaning are gradual and involve substitutes. At first, continue letting him drift off to sleep with his pacifier. But one he’s deep in dreamland, ease it out of his mouth. If he has a strong sleep-pacifier association, however, he may need something to help him back to sleep when he wakes in the middle of the night. Introduce some alternative non-oral “pacifiers,” like a cuddly teddy bear or favorite blanket. In time, the stuffed animal should replace the pacifier as your child’s bedtime companion of choice.
Remember, pacifier means “peacemaker.” Artificial pacifiers should be in addition to, not a substitute for, parental nurturing. A person should always be at the other end of a comforting tool. You are your baby’s pacifier in falling asleep; the other pacifiers are an extra help.