There is evidence that babies have used some version of a pacifier for “non-nutritive sucking” since 1,000 B.C. Also, “non-nutritive sucking” begins in the womb and is clearly a part of normal development.
Regarding the pacifier, the American Academy of Pediatricians (AAP) recommends:
- Offer a pacifier at nap time and bedtime.
- Do not force an infant to use a pacifier.
- Do not reinsert a pacifier after the infant falls asleep.
- Pacifiers should not be coated in any sweet solutions.
- For breastfed babies, the pacifier should be delayed until 1 month of age to ensure that breastfeeding is firmly established.
- Clean pacifiers frequently and appropriately
- Do not attach cords to pacifiers
Ask a pediatrician or speech pathologist about when to discontinue Junior’s bottle/pacifier, and you will probably get a variety of “conventional wisdom” (e.g., discontinue at 12-months, 18-months, 24-months). It may indeed be time to discontinue use of the bottle/pacifier when the bottle/pacifier:
- creates dental problems
- creates an oral motor problem
- creates an articulation problem
- creates a hygiene problem (e.g., at a daycare setting with many children)
- leads to ear infections
But what if these problems do not occur? While there are plenty of strong opinions, there is no broad-based consensus among professionals on what specific age the bottle/pacifier should be discontinued. Let’s turn to Mother Nature. A new mother is able to lactate and a child can breastfeed until about 3 or 4 years of age. So, absent of the aforementioned problems (with dental, oral motor, hygiene, or ear infections), is it so unusual, bizarre, or unnatural for a child to use a bottle or pacifier (in moderation) until age 3 or 4? Not according to Mother Nature.