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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Off the Paci (or fingers)

How do you wean your child off the pacifier, or off of sucking their thumb or fingers?

I can tell you what has worked for us for our past three children, and what we are currently doing with F, who is 9 months old. Once we decide they are old enough and don't need to depend on the pacifier (or sucking their thumb/fingers) as much, we start to make it into a game. When they put the pacifier or their fingers in their mouth at a time they don't really need it, we pull it out and say with a smile, "you don't need that right now!" Here's what I mean:

(Sorry about my annoying baby voice!)

We usually begin the process of weaning them off of the pacifier (or their fingers) before they turn one year old. We've found that the earlier we start the process, the easier it goes. This doesn't mean that they need to be off the pacifier completely, but that they aren't using it all day and aren't dependent on it. We start the process as above, and then start limiting the pacifier to in the crib, in the carseat, and in the diaper bag (to be used by church nursery workers or in emergencies!).

Some say it's harder to break the habit of sucking on thumbs or fingers since you can't take them away. It's true that you can't take them away completely, but we had a finger-sucker and we used the above process every time we saw her fingers in her mouth. "You don't need those, no you don't! You're fine right now!" and then redirect them or distract them with a toy or something else to put in their mouth (like Cheerios). Again, the younger they are when you start this process, the easier it will go!

I am not against pacifiers in any way, in fact I was glad when F finally started taking one, but I also don't want my kids to be dependent on it for too long. Babies can benefit from sucking on something when they are younger, but I've found that the need for non-nutritive sucking seems to decrease around 9 months of age. Children need to learn how to soothe themselves eventually, and you want their mouth and teeth to develop normally, too. It also helps them to develop clearer speech when they aren't talking through a pacifier or around their fingers.

If you'd like to share a tip or have a parenting question you'd like me to try to answer (not that I'm an expert!), please leave a comment! I'll do my best to help, or maybe others can help, too!


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