Thursday, April 7, 2016

Therapy Tip: Getting Rid of Pacifiers

Happy Therapy Thursday--the day I share a therapy tip based upon my experience as a pediatric speech-language pathologist and a mother of a child with special needs.

Today's tip is:

Getting Rid of Pacifiers

Pacifiers. They have their uses for your baby. But, sometimes your sweet baby sucking on a pacifier turns into a toddler completely attached to it. A two year old with a pacifier in his mouth all the time is never a good plan, especially if your child is having delayed language.

Prolonged pacifier use can lead to problems with teeth. Teeth can become misaligned or misshapen due to pacifier use for long periods of time. There are some children that I have seen with open bites (a space between the upper front teeth and the lower front teeth) due to thumb sucking or pacifier use. Pacifier use also promotes an immature tongue forward position in the mouth due to the child sucking. This can result in a tongue forward position when speaking making speech sound errors. Like a bottle, the sooner you get a child off of the pacifier, the better.

How do you help your child get off the pacifiers for good?
First, understand that this won't be easy for some children. If it were, then it would have happened already. If you are dreaming of the day your toddler takes out his pacifier and declares that he is done with it, then you will be waiting for a long time. You are probably going to have to start this process.

Second, you need to be willing to try a variety of methods more than once to determine if they work or not. Many parents try something once and give up. Don't do that!

Third, some parents choose to strip all the pacifiers away and go cold turkey. Others fade the pacifiers away. Parents will allow pacifiers only at night or for decreasing times during the day. This is a decision best made by the family since they are the ones implementing it.

Some methods to try:
1. Keep the pacifier out of sight! I cannot stress this enough!! Find all the hidden pacifiers and put them up! Once your child wakes in the morning, get the pacifier and put it out of sight.

2. If your child asks for the pacifier, don't give it immediately! Determine beforehand what your plan is. If you are working on decreasing the time with the pacifier through the day, your plan will be different than those going cold turkey. If you are decreasing your time with the pacifier, then choose your next move. If they ask for the pacifier, you can -ignore, -wait until the child asks 5 times before giving in, -or wait a certain amount of minutes before giving it to them. Determine what your plan is and stick to it.

3. I have heard of people who have used a pacifier fairy as a cold turkey method. Basically, the child turns in the pacifier to someone (i.e. doctor) or leaves them on the porch for the pacifier fairy to pick up. If you do this method, just know there's no going back.

4. Several families I have worked with have snipped the ends of pacifiers to make them less desirable. I have always been leery of this approach because of safety and possible choking issues. I really don't like this method and personally don't recommended it. Some people love it though.

5. Another approach is to replace the pacifier with a different activity. Some children who are attached to pacifiers are constantly chewing on things and seeking oral input. To combat this need for putting things in their mouths, the child may benefit from other suitable things such as: chewy tubes, gum, sour candy, a toothbrush, or another food that is high in flavor.

6. A final method I have come across over the years is putting the pacifier in a special spot during the day. This spot could be a cup of water (to clean the pacifier) or a special box the child has helped decorate. This spot is the pacifier's home during the day and can only leave it when it's night time.

If you have a toddler that is strongly attached to a pacifier, then I hope one of these can help you. You can do this!!

Therapy Thursday is for educational purposes only and not intended for therapeutic advice.

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