While parenting has been such a beautiful awakening since I read The Conscious Parent when my first child was so young, it is rare that I have nagging challenges where I feel as lost as I did around The Great Binky Debate.
There was pressure from my husband to get rid of it.
Pressure from some in the dental field to get rid of it.
Pressure from culture to get rid of it.
Pressure from daycare (teachers that of course do not have children of their own) to get rid of it.
And then my internal uncertainty, knowing she needs to learn to self-soothe but also knowing that at her age, the binky is one of her tools TO self-soothe.
I was finally released from my agony once and for all at her first dental visit, which I had delayed. Our glorious young dentist said: “Do not worry about taking it away until her teeth are getting loose. She will just find her finger and it shouldn’t affect her adult teeth unless she continues using it when they’re in.”
Ahhh, yes!! A professional was finally giving me a pass to STOP WORRYING about the damn binky. I had suspected that it was also a neutral thing that I should let her develop her own relationship with (as we do with food and electronics), but I had so many doubts and those cultural pressures trying to convince me that I needed to intervene.
Here are some facts about pacifiers/thumbsucking:
- Most kids will give it up on their own between the ages of 3-6
- It does not present a problem until their adult teeth are in
- It usually does not interfere with speech, however a lisp could develop if use continues past age four. This can be corrected with speech therapy including drinking from a straw. Do ask children to remove the pacifier or thumb while talking so normal speech patterns develop.
- Teach kids alternate coping strategies and emotional intelligence. Try switching them to a lovey, ideally something you’ve kept close to them from the start. Introduce meditation and yoga when ready. Be a strong emotional coach when they are upset.
- Investigate to be certain there aren’t serious issues behind their soothing. Stay connected and loving. If in serious doubt, take them to a professional such as a psychologist or play therapist.
- If they tend to gravitate to it when they are bored, keep them busy, especially with play (with you!) and physical games that will help move emotion out of their body.
- Take a good look at your energy and the energy of your home. Is there a situation or person that could be contributing to their anxiety or stress?
- Don’t try to take away the binky period until YOU are ready. They will sense YOUR energy around this boundary and will not comply if they sense you are not 100% confident in your decision to wean.
- Highlight periods they have gone without it by observation; “Wow, you went all afternoon without your binky! How do you feel?”
- Ignore everyone with an opinion on your child’s pacifier use. Don’t be tempted to take it away because granny says their mouth will be deformed.
- Empower your child. The more often they feel confident and powerful, the better!