The Do's and Don'ts of Pacifier Use

DO

  • Use a pacifier for babies to help self soothe
  • Use a pacifier until your child is 1 year
  • Use a pacifier to introduce different flavors (e.g., dunking in apple juice)
  • Use a pacifier to help with establishing an appropriate suck-swallow-breathe pattern
  • Use a pacifier for children who are getting food intake through a NG (naso-gastric) or G (gastric) tube    
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DON'T

  • Use a pacifier just because it is there
  • Use a pacifier beyond the age of 2

  • Use a pacifier while your child is walking around

  • Use a pacifier as a substitute for giving coping strategies for emotional regulation

  • Use a pacifier when your child is in an emotionally regulated state (or calm)

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Why? 

Pacifiers are a good beginning for babies to help them learn how to self-soothe.  When babies use a pacifier or a bottle they use an immature suckling pattern as they have not learned a more mature tongue movement pattern.  As kids develop, we want them to be able to explore the range of freedom that the tongue has which will be necessary for feeding, swallowing and speech production.  Use of a pacifier beyond the age of 1 can lead to dependency on the pacifier rather than learning coping strategies for self regulation.  When children walk around with pacifiers in their mouths, there are several consequences that may result: they use the pacifier as a point of stability (which can lead to impaired dissociation of the tongue/jaw or lip/jaw needed for the structures to function independent of each other for speech sound production), it encourages the child to talk around the pacifier resulting inappropriate tongue patterns for speech sounds (articulation errors) and it discourages your child from communicating.  There are varying opinions among professions (speech-language pathologists, dentists, doctors) but all agree that after age 2 the pacifier should be eliminated.  See upcoming articles for "how to eliminate your child's pacifier". 

Written by Lisa Morris, MS, CCC-SLP/L