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Getting Your Child to Give Up Their Pacifier, Plus Week in Review

Dear Elizabeth,
How can I help my child to give up his pacifier or to quit sucking her thumb?
Elizabeth's Tips
Elizabeth Sanchez
Elizabeth Sanchez
  • Sucking a pacifier is a calming reflex for children.
  • At five months old, infants become more resistant to transition away from using the pacifier to sleep.
  • You can help child give up pacifier by giving them a teddy bear, playing white noise, and maintaining a consistent bedtime routine.
Week in Review
Donít forget about the great things that we learned this week:
Expert Advice
Dr. Harvey Karp
Dr. Harvey Karp
Author, "The Happiest Toddler on The Block"
Every child has the need to suck a pacifier or to suck on their thumb. This actually begins inside the uterus. Sucking turns on a calming reflex. It makes children feel more relaxed. So for babies who are dealing with a world thatís chaotic and over-stimulating or sometimes too boring, the pacifier or sucking on the thumb helps a lot.

Everybodyís in a rush to stop a child from sucking on a pacifier, but Iíve never seen a child go to college sucking on their thumb or a pacifier! In general, by 5 months of age, Iím usually transitioning kids away from the pacifier for sleep. If they want to suck their fingers, they can at that point in time. Or you use white noise at night, all night long, and that helps to keep them calmer so they donít need the sucking as much.

Also, it turns out sucking may be a genetic predisposition. In other words, usually in families where a child loves the pacifier or the thumb, either the mother or the father really used the pacifier or the thumb when they were growing up. Or they had a teddy bear that they really were attached to. In fact, thatís one way you can help your child give up the pacifier is by giving them a little teddy bear. Play the white noise at night. Have a really nice bedtime routine so they have other things that calm them down, and then it isnít only about sucking.

There are some medical reasons why children should give up sucking. Damage to the childís teeth is one -- especially thumb sucking when you get over 3 years of age. Thatís why 3 years becomes a difficult time. Also, if you have frequent ear infections, sucking on the pacifier can make that worse, so thatís something that you want to steer clear of.

The other thing is, you donít want your child walking around with a bottle in their mouth, hanging from their mouth for 30 or 40 minutes at a time. Children should drink it and within 20 minutes, they should be done. Prolonged exposure to the sweetness in the milk or the juice can cause dental cavities.

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Topic: Social & Emotional Development
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