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Pacifiers—help him stop: Advice from Moms

When your child asks about the paci, explain that you don't know where it is. Comfort him and be there to nurture him, and he will learn to lean on you rather than on a paci.

Rene in Rockmart
My daughter wanted one until she was 3. Her dentist actually said she could have it until then. Your son will let you know when he is ready to let go of it. And he may just need that little extra comfort right now.

Marie in Hickory
Leave his paci in his crib or bed, and he can only have it there. After about a week, take it away for nap time. After another week take your son to the store and buy him a special "big boy" toy. Tell him that you will keep the paci and he will keep the toy.

Sammy in Detroit
When my sister had the same problem with her first one, she used to lightly coat his pacifier with something either bitter (grapefruit or lemon juice) or foods the taste of which he disliked. He wouldn't touch his pacifier after about 2 days.

Rhonda in Laurinburg
I let my first child know that the paci was only for "sleepy times," so he could only have it in the crib. At 2 years old, he understood what I was saying. Eventually, he decided it was time to throw it away. He was a big boy. He carried the paci to the garbage can and felt all grown-up.

Bettye M. Caldwell, Ph.D.
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, 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.

Dr. Bettye M. Caldwell Ph.D. Professor of Pediatrics in Child Development and Education