Tag Archives: pacifier

Throwing Things

Object permanence is knowing that an object you can no longer see still exists.  It is why Peek-a-boo is so fun.  The child is not sure if you are around the corner or not.  Oh wow! Mommy’s back!

A typical scenario involves a child sitting in a high chair playing with a toy while mom cooks dinner.  Mom is talking to the baby and the baby is banging the toy on the high chair tray.  Suddenly, the child throws the toy on the floor.  She then leans over to see if it still exists.  She smiles and is pleased with herself because it does and then starts to fuss because she can no longer reach it.  Most often, mom interprets this as a game of fetch.  In reality, her child is checking object permanence.  It is simply inconvenient that the toy is now on the floor and mom must pick it up again.  Having mom hand the toy back is merely a consequence of this exercise in checking object permanence.  The best part of the game is looking over the edge and seeing the toy.

Parents can take advantage of this developmental milestone.  If you eliminate your child’s pacifier before object permanence develops, it will be easier on your child.  He will forget it because it is out of sight.  Also, babies no longer get endorphins from nonnutritive sucking (ie. Pacifiers) by 6 months old.  For lots of children, learning about object permanence starts around 8 months so throwing away the pacifier at 6 months makes a lot of sense.  After 7-8 months, babies are often very noisy just for fun.  Pacifiers stifle this and can quickly be a crutch for parents who want their child to be inappropriately quiet.

Do you want your baby to look like Maggie Simpson?

Even before a baby is born, it enjoys non-nutritive sucking, that is, sucking just for fun.  Many ultrasound photos show this behavior.  Sucking a fist, thumb or pacifier can be self-soothing.  The important thing to remember is that babies stop getting endorphins from non-nutritive sucking by 6 months old.  Endorphins are brain chemicals that make you feel good.  (Sex and chocolate both cause the adult brain to release endorphins.)

Using a pacifier to distract an infant during a particularly unpleasant brief event is a good use of a pacifier.  Putting a pacifier into a baby’s mouth every time it makes a sound is not appropriate.  Babies are supposed to be noisy for goodness sake!  Do you put candy in your kindergartener’s mouth every time he gets loud?  Of course not.  Is a pacifier candy?  No but still, think of Maggie Simpson.

Pacifiers certainly have their uses but I see them overused.  By 6 months old, a child should be able to self-soothe without a pacifier.  Interestingly, this is before object permanence develops and therefore eliminating the pacifier suddenly will be well-tolerated.  The pacifier after 6 months is often used to make noisy babies or children be quiet.  I see far too many children take their pacifier out of their mouth to repeat what they said because their mother didn’t understand them with the paci in their mouth.

If you are going to stop the paci habit, choose a day and make it happen.  The Farmers Almanac has a day each month that is well-suited to weaning baby animals.  Will starting on this day make it easier?  I don’t know but it can’t hurt.