You just might love the pacifier, lovingly referred to as a "binky," as much as your child does. It's an easy remedy for crying, fussing and boredom. If your child accepts one, it can be a life saver in the middle of night when you just want to sleep. While using a pacifier during the infant years reduces your little one's risk of sudden infant death syndrome and allows everyone in the house a few hours of restful slumber, it can actually delay her speech development if she keeps using it during the toddler years.
Who It Affects
Don't panic thinking that letting your infant suck on a pacifier will delay his ability to talk as he grows. The delay of speech only becomes an issue with prolonged binky use in children who have reached the age of 3 and beyond. In other words, your child's history as a pacifier user is more important than whether he used one as a newborn. If your toddler or preschooler is still using a pacifier, you should consider ways to convince him to give it up because it could be causing changes in his mouth that will get in the way of talking.
When your toddler sucks on a pacifier, especially when he's age 3 or older, it changes the shape of his mouth. According to a 2006 article published in the "International Journal of Orthodontics," prolonged pacifier use can cause "an anterior open bite, posterior cross bite and narrow intercuspid width." It can also cause your child's teeth to to grow in improperly, MayoClinic.com reports. If your child constantly has a pacifier in her mouth, it also interferes with the development of the tip of his tongue, which gets in the way of his ability to form words. Coupled with the teeth and jaw changes that go along with chronic pacifier use, improper tongue development makes it harder for your kiddo to mimic the sounds of language.
Pacifier use in the first six months of life is beneficial, but anything beyond that can start to cause problems. According to a 2009 article published in "American Family Physician," about 71 percent of children using a pacifier for more than 48 months develop malocclusion, which is the misalignment of the teeth and jaw. Only 32 percent of children developed it if they stopped using their pacifier between 24 and 36 months of age, and only 14 percent of children who stopped using a pacifier before 24 months developed malocclusion.
The Best Time to Give Up the Binky
According to research, the sooner your child gives up the binky, the better off he'll be. If you want to avoid any risk of problems, wean your infant from the pacifier at about 6 months of age. The longer you wait after that, the longer it'll take and the harder it will be. According to "American Family Physician," the absolute latest you should take the binky away is 4 years of age. If your child still doesn't want to give it up, speak to her dentist or pediatrician for tips that can help her separate from her beloved binky.