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My 5-year-old refuses to give up her pacifier.
Angela Xenia
Angela, you’re right that the pacifier has become a source of comfort and a habit for your daughter. Most children give up the pacifier by 1 or 2 years of age, as their need to suck decreases and they find other sources of comfort. However, some children continue to use a pacifier or suck their thumb to age 5 and beyond.

It’s a good idea to encourage your daughter to give up the pacifier. If she uses the pacifier during the day, it can interfere with her engagement in activities at school, her communication, and her social skills. Other children may begin to tease her for being “a baby,” which could affect her self-esteem and developing relationships. In addition, continuing to suck a pacifier or thumb during the day or night can interfere with the development of her teeth and jaw, and cause orthodontic and sometimes speech problems.

There are different strategies for giving up the pacifier. Some parents choose to take away the pacifier gradually, and others choose to take it away all at once. Here are some tips:
  • Discuss with her why it’s best to give up the pacifier to help her be a “big girl,” make good friends, do fun things at school, and help her teeth grow right.
  • Try to remain as positive as possible to help her feel okay about the plan. Give her lots of praise, consider using a star chart, and have her figure out a reward for giving up the pacifier.
  • Consider putting limits on when and where she uses the pacifier, e.g., only in the house; only in her bedroom; or only at night. Taking away the pacifier gradually can help her break her habit of using it throughout the day, and make it easier to give up altogether.
  • Consider using a needle to puncture a hole and let the air out of the pacifier. The unfamiliar shape will no longer provide the same satisfaction.
  • Consider packing the pacifier in a box to give away to a baby, and give her a “big girl” gift in exchange.
  • When your daughter asks for her pacifier, make an effort to engage her in other positive ways instead. For example, give her a hug, talk with her, read a book, sing together, play a musical instrument, give her a snack, take her to the park, etc.
Whichever way you decide to take the pacifier away, your daughter may initially protest, but she’ll be okay soon with your support.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician