Baby Your Baby: Pacifier Dilemma

We call them all kinds of things (binkys), but no matter what you call pacifiers, families with babies and toddlers usually have one thing in common, they have plenty of pacifiers lying around the house. But when has your baby's binky worn out its welcome? Lately parents have been hearing a lot about how those binkys might be bad, especially for teeth, but you'll want to hear this before you throw it away!

Eight-month-old Brielle Blackman has been using a pacifier since she was born. She doesn't want it all the time, but when she gets sleepy it seems like she needs it. Her mom, Amy, says, "It seems to soothe her in times of need, especially after eating. After dinner she'll take it and it seems to relax her more." Fonda Temple, the lead teacher of the Early Headstart Program at Southeast Missouri State University says, "It can be a real comforting thing, some babies need something oral, that's why some take a pacifier and some suck their thumbs."

But what if your baby seems to want his or her pacifier all the time? Experts say don't worry, because that binky could help your little one get through the little challenges of her early life. If your child depends on a pacifier it's encouraged that you don't take it away from them if you're not going to be with them or if they're in an unfamiliar place. A pacifier may bring them the only comfort they'll have.

But the age old question is how old is too old to pacify your child's binky binging? Temple says, "It's not uncommon for children to have them up to the age of two. Probably after two, the need for oral stimulation is not as strong and it's probably a habit after that." Even after two though, it's still not a problem.

But what about their teeth? Will they suck their way right into a dental disaster? Actually the American Dental Association says children can suck a pacifier or even their thumbs until they're four or five without hurting their teeth.

Another thing you need to look out for is how hard your child sucks their pacifier. Parents who have children who suck their pacifiers hard may want to kick them of the habit a little bit earlier. Some research shows they can do some damage to their teeth if they suck it intensely. But don't necessarily take it away, because if they suck their pacifiers hard, that probably means they really need it. Just monitor them closer.

Someday it will be time to take away binky and experts say you should have something to trade! Temple says, "It's a good idea if you take something away from a child, to replace it with something else. If you could, give them some ways to comfort themselves.

If you have any concerns about your child using a pacifier, talk to your dentist. Thursday "Baby Your Baby" week continues when we take a look at potty training, and when children are ready to start the new challenge.