The “Pacifier” may well be the best-named item in the inventory of objects designed to keep babies—and their parents—in a peaceful state. Would that we had one for the Arab-Israeli conflict, or for the Balkan countries!
The value of a pacifier is based on the infant’s need to suck. The sucking reflex is fully developed at birth, and the healthy infant begins to suckle vigorously as soon as put to the breast or given a bottle. The purpose of it is to allow the infant to be nourished, but, perhaps because it is always associated with our #1 reinforcer, food, it comes to have value on its own. Although all infants have a sucking reflex, it appears to be much stronger in some than in others. The easiest thing to suck on is something that is always available—the thumb. But fortunate indeed is the baby who is tricked—and that’s what it is—into sucking on something else. Because that baby probably won’t have his teeth pushed out of line, and the family won’t be subjected to the expense of orthodontistry, by long-term thumb-sucking. And it seems to be easier to give up the pacifier than to give up the thumb.
So yes, Lisa, your son will probably abandon his pacifier gradually within the next year. And you can restrict its use in increasing steps—only in the house, only in bed, only until you get over this cold, etc. And, if he is really resistant, you’ll get a lot of help from his friends. Because a boy who sucks a pacifier much beyond three years is going to be in for a lot of hard teasing (from other kids who wish they still had one). And when that happens, you may well be instructed to throw it away.
Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.