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Mother Nature’s guidelines for giving up the bottle/pacifier

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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 breast-feed 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. 

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