From the first trimester in utero, each of us seeks oral stimulation for comfort. Babies seek pacifiers often for comfort. Pacifiers are a personal choice for self soothing, therefore I will not provide a definitive age as to when the use of pacifiers should discontinue but provide insight on limitations pacifiers may have on oral development and some suggestions to reduce potential speech and feeding difficulties.
Pacifiers become problematic for two reasons. The first being the amount of time the pacifier is used, second the size and shape of the pacifier. As the baby matures, the input to the mouth changes. This especially happens during the transition to chewing. During this time the increase in jaw stability is important. Sucking on a pacifier shows minimal jaw movement, reducing opportunities for development of oral patters towards sides and back portions of the mouth causing weakness in those muscles this could potentially cause future speech and feeding complications. Second the shape of the pacifier is important to consider. The pacifiers with the large rounded shape on the top and flat surface on the bottom limits the variety of tongue movement.
2 Pacifier Tips:
1. Limit the amount of time the pacifier is used. The goal is to provide a variety of movement opportunities to build a variety of oral skills. If the pacifier is used the majority of the day and night, important opportunities for oral development are lost.
2. Use the pacifiers that have the shape that is rounded on all sides. This allows for a more natural positioning of the tongue during no nutritive sucking.