Newborns have very few skills to soothe themselves—sucking being one of them. So, it’s commonplace to find an infant using a pacifier or sucking his thumb or fingers. But by 4—6 months of age, babies have other strategies to calm themselves down. And by the time babies reach their first birthdays, they are definitely ready to lose the binky and move on.
But, we’ve all seen kids who are much older than that clinging to their beloved binky. Case in point: Suri Cruise, who turns 5 next month. Other than this accessory clashing with her Dolce&Gabbana handbag, is there any harm in continuing to use the binky?
Yes. And that’s why I am bothering to write this blog. It’s not because I really care what celebrity families do. It’s because MANY other parents continue to give their kids a pacifier long after they really need it and it can have some adverse health effects. Here are a few:
1. Pacifier use is a known risk factor for ear infections. Ear infections are not fun.
2. Prolonged pacifier use in preschool years and once the permanent teeth come in (around age 5) can lead to an altered bite position of the teeth or a cross bite. Can you say expensive orthodontist bills?
3. Older kids who use pacifiers also put other things in their mouths to explore them, instead of using their hands. That means more risk of germs entering the mouth and leading to infections. Also not fun.
4. Pacifier use at bedtime is a sleep crutch. Kids think they need to be sucking to fall asleep, thus they need to suck when they awaken at the end of every sleep cyle (about every 90 minutes). If the pacifier falls out, they wake up and start looking for it (or scream for a parent to come put it back in). There is a real health value in a good uninterrupted night’s sleep for both child and parents. Most parents are too exhausted to get out of this vicious cycle to realize that!
I think parents allow the binky to remain in their child’s life long after infancy because life just seems easier with it around. It calms and quiets the child, or it helps the child fall asleep. But the truth is, kids are much more resilient than parents give them credit for. Out of sight is out of mind. If the binky disappears, the child quickly moves on and adapts. Really! And, it only gets harder to take away as your child gets older.
Sometimes Mom and Dads need to grow up with their child!