When to Take the Pacifier Away

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.pacifier

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.

Watch this webisode of Pediatric Therapy Tv about taking away a pacifier


What is Oral Motor | Pediatric Therapy Tv

Pediatric Speech and Language Pathologist explains what Oral Motor is and how it develops in babies through childhood. For more on Oral Motor and feeding problems read this blog:

In this video you will learn:

  • What is Oral Motor
  • How babies can build oral muscles
  • How oral motor realtes to speech

Video Transcription:

Announcer: From Chicago’s leading experts in pediatrics to a worldwide
audience, this is Pediatric Therapy TV, where we provide experience and
innovation to maximize your child’s potential. Now your host, here’s Robyn.

Robyn: Hello and welcome to Pediatric TV. I’m your host, Robyn
Ackerman. Today I’m standing here with Allison Raino, a
pediatric speech and language pathologist.

Allison, a question we get a lot from our viewers is what
exactly is oral motor and how does it relate to speech?

Allison: Oral motor is essentially the strength and coordination of the
oral muscles in the mouth. There are thousands of receptors and
muscles in the face that all need to work in conjunction with
each other in order to say speech sounds accurately, as well as
being important for feeding and swallowing.

Many of our responses are reflexive, such as coughing and
swallowing. Those muscles need to be strong enough. We do those
while we are sleeping so we don’t even think about those while
we are doing them. Building up their strength is important, and
is especially important for babies and toddlers. We want to
provide an environment where they are exploring the environment
orally so we are providing multiple ways to develop that oral
muscle strength and coordination.

As you know, babies stick everything that they find in their
mouth. That’s their first way of learning about their
environment – it goes right in their mouth. We want to encourage
that, because with that they are learning a variety of different
tongue movements as well as increasing their jaw strength.

How that relates to speech is we see their development grow from
the cooing stage, where it’s the very basic sounds of the vowel
sounds. As their muscles mature and they become stronger and
more coordinated, we see the babbling stage, and then eventually
the move up to true words and then to phrases. We want to
encourage them to develop those patterns and provide a variety
of opportunities for them to strengthen their muscles as well as
coordinate them.

Robyn: Great. Thank you so much. And thank you to our viewers. And
remember, keep on blossoming.

Announcer: This has been Pediatric Therapy TV, where we bring peace of
mind to your family with the best in educational programming. To
subscribe to our broadcast, read our blogs, or learn more, visit
our website at That’s

Oral-Motor and Feeding Difficulties in Young Children

All children are born hard-wired to eat. However, some children with poor oral motor skills may present with many challenges while feeding. Some children may appear to be “messy eaters”, but in reality, they may not have the strength to successfully close their lips around a spoon. Other kids may tend to rush through meals, however their oral awareness may actually be reduced and they may not even be aware of how much food is actually in their mouths. Therefore mealtimes may Young Girls Is A Messy Eaterprove to be difficult and frustrating for children, and equally as stressful for mom and dad.

Oral Motor And Feeding Red Flags

  • Lack of oral-exploration with non-food items as an infant
  • Difficulties transitioning between different textures of foods
  • Weaknesses sucking, chewing, and swallowing
  • Frequent coughing and/or gagging when eating
  • Vomiting during or after meals
  • Refusal to eat certain textures of foods
  • Rigidity with diet
  • Avoidance of touch on face and around mouth
  • Loss of food and liquids when eating
  • Obvious preference for certain textures or flavors of foods
  • Increased congestion during and after meals
  • Grimacing/odd facial expressions when eating
  • Consistent wiping of hands and face during meals
  • Pocketing of food in cheeks, or residue observed after swallow
  • Irritability and anxiety during mealtime
  • Excessive drooling and lack of saliva management
  • Sudden refusal to eat previously tolerated foods
  • Excessive weight gain or loss

Oral-Motor Skill Improvement

Fortunately, there are also many activities you can easily incorporate at home to facilitate improvements with oral-motor skills.

  • Blowing activities (blow-pens, instruments, whistles, etc.) help to improve posture, breath control, lip rounding, and motor-planning skills.
  • Infant massage may also help to increase oral-awareness and facial tone.
  • Straws, sour candies, and bubbles may help with drooling.
  • Constantly exposing your child to a variety of new foods will help to avoid food jags, and increase their tolerance to different textures and tastes.

If you notice that your child presents with some of the above-mentioned characteristics and does not seem to be improving, it would be advantageous to speak with a Speech-Language Pathologist about your concerns.