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The Informed Parent

Pacifier Use

by Peter W. Welty, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on Aug. 29, 2005

Sucking for nourishment and non-nutritive sucking are natural responses for infants and children. Pacifiers function as transitional objects for the developing personality. Many children develop normal emotional attachments to objects such as a blanket, pillow, nursing bottle, pacifier or toy. Pacifier sucking is more common today than it was ten years ago. Pacifier sucking may contribute to alterations in the development of oral structures. Malocclusions often occur in the baby or primary teeth, and nearly always self-correct if the pacifier is stopped before five years of age. Dipping the pacifier into honey or syrup contributes to dental caries in the child.

The psychological effects of pacifiers have not been established. Pacifier sucking usually stops at an acceptable age. Sixty percent of children who use pacifiers discontinue the habit before three years of age, and after five years, only one percent continue. Some children depend more on the pacifier during naptime and bedtime. The pacifier may be successfully discontinued by permitting the child to have it only at those times. Abrupt weaning is not always successful.

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