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For most children, there are no hard-and-fast rules. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until your child is at least 12 months old before you wean her from her binky. That's because pacifier use at nap time and bedtime lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
One important exception: If your child is prone to ear infections, ask her doctor if it's a good idea to banish the binky earlier (say between 6 and 12 months), because pacifier use may lead to fluid buildup in the middle ear, increasing the risk of ear infection.
Pacifiers can reduce stress
For many kids, the pacifier serves as a transitional object or lovey: It relieves stress and helps them adjust to new or challenging situations, like starting daycare or even going to sleep. If your child takes great comfort from his pacifier, you can let him continue to use it.
Some children use a pacifier well into their toddler and even preschool years, and they typically stop on their own between the ages of 2 and 4.
Can pacifiers harm my child's teeth?
It's unlikely that the pacifier will cause permanent damage while your child still has her baby teeth, and her permanent teeth won't typically start appearing until she's about 6 years old.
Still, if your child shows no signs of quitting when she's 3 years old, it's a good idea to have her dentist evaluate her jaw and teeth. Depending on how frequently and earnestly she sucks on her paci, the dentist may recommend that you start weaning her from it to prevent permanent damage. Strong sucking can potentially change the palate and/or jaw shape. And that can affect how her adult teeth come in.
Can long-term pacifier use cause other problems?
Even if your child has no trouble with ear infections and the dentist doesn't see any potential problems, you might want to consider removing his binky sooner rather than later. A pacifier habit can be difficult to break.
Some experts think pacifiers could interfere with speech development. If your child often has a pacifier in his mouth, he may be less likely to babble and practice talking, or the pacifier may distort his speech.
How should I wean my baby or toddler from a pacifier?
There are many ways to wean a child from a binky, so choose one that you think best suits your child. Some parents think a cold-turkey approach works best. Others find it easiest to start by limiting daytime use, then work their way up to phasing it out of the nighttime routine. Starting a new bedtime ritual can help.
Learn more about how to wean your child off the pacifier.