Ultimately, the decision to use a pacifier is up to the parent. However, when it comes time to wean your child off it, you might experience your first bout of separation anxiety. Children can become reliant on the pacifier, and it will be a difficult habit to break. Within most local Philadelphia Montessori schools, pacifiers are not considered beneficial, which is why many schools do not allow children to use them.
Fortunately, we have some tips that take the Montessori approach to getting rid of a pacifier for good.
What is a Pacifier?
The pacifier or binky is made from plastic, rubber, or silicone and is used as a nipple substitute for an infant or toddler to suck on between feeding times or when they are stressed. Most human babies have a strong desire to suck. It’s no wonder some developing fetuses can be seen sucking their thumbs before birth.
Interestingly, versions of the modern pacifier have been in use since as early as the 15th century, which speaks to the usefulness of the tool in calming babies. But the drawbacks of the binky have also been noted throughout the years.
What are the Pros of Using a Pacifier?
A pacifier is often seen as a tool for contentment, because of the following advantages:
- Pacifiers soothe fussy babies.
- Using a pacifier may reduce the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Pacifiers can be a temporary distraction during shots, blood tests, and other medical procedures.
- Pacifiers can ease discomfort during flights. Sucking can relieve some of the pressure that builds up within the ear when at high altitudes.
- Pacifiers can help children fall asleep.
- You can easily dispose of pacifiers.
Why are Pacifiers Bad?
Now, let’s consider the pitfalls of using a pacifier:
- Prolonged use of a pacifier might cause dental issues. Using a pacifier normally in the first few years doesn’t cause problems, but as the teeth start to come in, the pacifier might cause misalignment. Dentists can often tell when a child has used a pacifier for too long, because the top front teeth tilt outward while the bottom front teeth lean inward.
- Pacifiers increase the chance of middle ear infections.
- Your baby can become dependent on the pacifier for sleep and for distractions. For example, if the pacifier falls out of their mouth in the middle of the night, they might wake up and have a crying fit.
When Should My Child Stop Using a Pacifier?
Reading about the cons, you might be wondering if it’s okay for your child to ever have a pacifier in their mouth. Yes, there are times when the pacifier can be useful, especially during the first few years of your baby’s life. It’s fine to offer the pacifier to your baby during naps or at bedtime until around age 1. If your baby is already slightly older than that, they can stay on the pacifier until around 3 years old. But you should start gradually weaning them off it so they use it only during naps.
Never let your child run around with the pacifier all day long. This is particularly important when your child is starting to pick up language. Children generally start wanting to talk around 1 year old. A pacifier in their mouth will hamper their ability to develop language skills.
A Montessori Approach to Getting Rid of a Pacifier
So, to be honest, there isn’t a set in stone Montessori way to weaning a child off a pacifier. There are principles, however, that you can follow that let you get rid of a pacifier that respects your child and their needs.
As mentioned above, if your child is using the pacifier for comfort throughout the day, you have to start limiting use to naps and bedtime.
Tell your child what to expect first, so that they understand that something they use as comfort is going to be gone. Don’t make the change right away, because that can lead to tantrums.
On the day you decide to start weaning, place the pacifier in a high position out of reach. This prevents you and your child from reaching for it whenever things get stressful. If your child asks for their binky, tell them it’s for bedtime now. Ask them if they would like to cuddle instead. Rocking and hugs can soothe the nervous system and help them relax.
Once your child is down to using the pacifier only at night, you can start to remove the pacifiers from the house. You might notice that your child is seeking you out for comfort more, and that’s okay. Talk to them about what they feel and let them know it will be okay. You can also provide alternatives to the pacifier, which we’ll discuss below.
Lastly, stick to this change. It might seem like getting rid of the pacifier is a terrible idea, because your child is stressed. It gets better! The first days are going to be the most difficult. Once you get passed several days, your child will soon be able to get through the day and night without needing their binky.
Alternatives to Pacifiers to Help Kids Relax
The suckling sensation can be soothing, which is why so many kids like doing it. Therefore, you’ll need to provide some alternatives and activities that help your child relax.
Some examples include:
- Using a straw for beverages, including water, smoothies, drinkable yogurt, and so on
- Kneading dough
- Tight bear hugs
- Back rubs
- Squeezing stress balls and bath toys
- Blowing bubbles
- Reading their favorite story
- Playing with their favorite soft toy
- Listening or dancing to soft music
Weaning a child off a pacifier isn’t going to be easy, but it’s worth it, especially if you plan on enrolling your child in a Montessori school in Philadelphia. Pacifiers can be detrimental during the formative years, so limiting the use or getting rid of them completely is more beneficial to your child. Use the tips in this article to make the transition as smooth as possible. And remember to be patient yet firm during this time!