Does he/she like it, or need it? This is a burning question that many parents have when they find their child (as well as the entire family) is enslaved to that dreaded pacifier.
Babies are born with the need to suck. Some even suck their thumbs or fingers in the womb. The desire to suck is actually an important factor in helping newborns naturally breastfeed. Beyond nutrition, sucking is also often a way for babies to sooth themselves. It is a comforting and calming mechanism that helps them cope.
But are pacifiers really OK for your baby? Although the answer to that question is often debated, for many reasons, the American Academy of Pediatrics does give pacifiers the green light throughout baby's first year.
Although pacifiers are intended primarily to ease the desire to suck, many parents take the name pacifier literally; they use it to pacify a restless or cranky child. As time marches forward, this kind of use usually will increase a child’s dependence on the pacifier for comfort and stress relief, which can cause difficulty when it is time to wean. The problem comes when we wait too long.
So, when do I begin to wean my child away from the pacifier? Although that is not a straight forward question, because every child is different, weaning should typically begin between the ages of 10 and 16 months. After that, the longer you wait, the harder it gets to quit!
When do you know if it is time? Weaning should begin when the pacifier begins to become a pleasurable want, verses a tool to help the child cope with fundamental needs. At this point in time, it all boils down a distinction of pleasure.
As outlined in Bye-Bye-Binky, all of us are a Pleasure seeking, Pain avoiding machines. It is fundamental to being human! This is true on both a conscience, and sub-conscience level. So here is the situation. Your child has this thing, called the Pacifier which he or she is attached to. They are deriving pleasure from it on a conscience and sub-conscience level. If you have any doubt about this, watch the next time your child reaches for their beloved pacifier. Notice the facial expressions and the body language. No matter what you say to your child, or no matter what kind of logic you try to apply, their brain will still associate pleasure from reaching for, and sticking that pacifier into their mouth.
It then basically boils down to one of two solutions: Cold (painful) Turkey, or gently recondition the behavior as it translates to pleasure. The key here is to become educated on the various techniques that incorporate the dynamics of altering pleasurable behavior.