Parents of different aged children ask my advice about when to dump the beloved “binkie.” The latest inquiry came last week from a mom of a 3 month-old. I was having a “play on words” session with her and she was apologetic about using the pacifier and asked if it was okay. I told her of course it is okay for an infant. Since babies are born with a built-in need to suck, they will use their thumb, fingers, lip or pacifier. Ideally by the time your child is one year old, when he can hold and cup and drink form it, he can  give up his pacifier.

The trouble is that our little toddlers can become obsessed with their pacifier, far past the age of it’s usefulness. I get discouraged when I see a toddler walking around, well-rested after a nap, happily exploring his environment and sucking on a pacifier. I know clever marketers provide specialty straps to ensure that you can clip the pacifier to his clothes so one will be available at all times. But what is your child missing out on? Language. I tell parents to think about trying to talk with a big plug in your mouth. It’s hard, it sounds funny and it isn’t fun. Pull that plug out and you will be surprised at how your child talks more freely. Dentists will also tell you that prolonged pacifier use can lead to dental problems.

Now the question of how to wean him from his beloved pacifier. “Nanny 911” featured an episode recently on this very topic. The nanny made an elaborate pitch to the 2 year-old that he didn’t need his pacifiers anymore since he was a big boy and he should put them in an envelope for the “Paci-Fairy.” Somehow she convinced him and they mailed an elaborate envelope to the fairy. The next day, much to his delight, a return envelope was addressed to him and it contained several toy animals as a reward for his sacrifice.

You can also try the “slow” method of restricting pacifier use to nap and bedtime. I tried this with my oldest son who was addicted to his binkie. He was compliant about leaving it on his bed, but he would run in there periodically to suck on it, and then leave! Finally we boxed them all up for a friend’s baby who was to arrive soon and needed the pacifiers much more than my big boy.

Good luck. I know from experience that it’s not easy.