My daughter is 17 months now and I'm starting the process of weaning her from her soother. All three of my children have used pacifiers and all of them under different circumstances. (I've previously written about my sookie babies here) My first started using one at about 6 weeks of age. He was a constant nurser and I needed something to help him comfort suck. My second I transitioned to a soother when he was an older baby, as he started to use me as a pacifier. My third was put on a paci at the hospital as a preemie in the NICU. Preemies are often put on a pacifier to help their jaw muscle development so that they can have the strength to become good nursers.
My first was weaned from the soother at about a year and a half. He had been finished nursing at 12 months. I used a 'lovey' (stuffed toy) to as a sleep aid rather than the paci. And then when we moved we 'lost' the soothers in the move.
My second was a little bit older to stop using a pacifier. It happened around his second birthday. He nursed for longer (17 months) and never did take to a 'lovey'. Getting rid of his paci was tougher as we couldn't find a good transition sleep/comfort object for him.
My third child is still nursing and I'm hoping that she nurses until close to her second birthday. I think as long as she is nursing before her nap and bedtime I will be using the soother with her. Right now I'm working on making it available only for sleep time. So far, it's working. Out of sight, out of mind.
As I've been re-reading and re-visiting the idea of pacifier weaning, I came across some articles that for lack of a better term fall into the great pacifier debate: "How old is too old for a pacifier?" It reminded me of once seeing a child who was about 6 still using a pacifier, out with his parents for the day. The look just took me by surprise. As much as I try not to judge parents, I couldn't help the thought of, "that's just not right". I will confess that I was a long term thumb sucker as a child (till age 6). One of the reasons I like(d) having my children on a pacifier rather than a thumb is that a pacifier can be taken away, a thumb can't. My parents had the cost of orthodontic bill for me to fix my crooked teeth partly caused by thumb sucking.
Famously in the media is celeb offspring, Suri Cruise, who at age 4 still uses her paci. Toddlers and Tiaras star Mackenzie has been caught on camera more than once freaking out looking for her 'ni ni'. (As a side note, wouldn't you love to see the Supernanny take on Mackenzie and her mother?)
So what's the big deal? When is a good age to remove the paci? How old is too old for it?
A paci is designed for infant use. We all know that sucking is an important part of an infant's development. Most pediatricians recommend losing the paci by age 1, and definitely by age 2. The rationale is to allow for the child to find another way of comforting themselves and to allow the child to develop proper speech. Yes, I've seen plenty of older children trying to speak with a paci in their mouth and you can't understand what they are saying. There is also the danger of using the paci as a way of keeping your child quiet. Daycare centres who are successful in not allowing the child to use a paci all day are often frustrated that the first thing the parent does when they pick their child up is put 'the plug in the mouth'. I think pacifiers have their values and benefits, but they are not something that should be used long term. If you are having troubles getting rid of the soother, there may be deeper parenting issues there. Look at the reasons why you are using it. Is it to make your child happy at all costs? Is it to make your life easier and quieter? Or, maybe you just aren't bothered by it and it isn't an issue for you. I'm interested to hear what other moms think on this topic. It's a great debate. There are those who wear their status of "my child never used one" with pride. There are others like me who found them useful, but were happy to be done with them once their purpose was served. And then there are those who have long-term paci users. I could be opening a can of worms here, but I think that's a good thing, I love a good debate.