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Is it time to put the pacifier away?

Even though your baby has become a full-fledged toddler, you shouldn't be surprised if your little one still wants to suck on a pacifier or on their thumb or finger sometimes. But you might wonder: Is that OK at this age?

You can rest assured that it's totally normal. You shouldn't feel embarrassed or worry that you're doing something wrong. In fact, you deserve a thumbs-up for always being curious and caring when it comes to your little one! Read on to discover more about this habit, as well as to learn what to expect as your child gets older and to get helpful tips you can use right now.

Why do they do it?

Sucking on a thumb or pacifier can serve a purpose. It can be soothing to your toddler. It may help your child to feel calm, safe and content. And it may help your little one sleep. So it's OK if your youngster still wants to suck their thumb or use a pacifier.

Remember to frequently clean pacifiers with soap and cold water. Or you can run pacifiers through the dishwasher instead of washing them by hand—just make sure they're dishwasher-safe.

When will it stop?

Most children stop sucking on their thumbs or pacifiers on their own, usually between the ages of 2 and 4 years. By then, they usually learn other ways to soothe themselves. But if the habit continues after permanent teeth come in, it can cause some problems with the teeth and shape of the roof of the mouth. There's a chance it could cause teeth to come in crooked—especially if the child sucks strongly. If the thumb or pacifier just rests in the mouth, it's less likely to cause this problem.

If you start to notice that your child's teeth aren't lining up right or if you have any other concerns, you can always ask your child's dentist or doctor what to do. Praising children for not sucking can go a long way toward helping break the habit.

Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics; American Dental Association

Reviewed 9/12/2022

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