Like most things, the answer to this question isn’t black and white.
Bottles: It isn’t the bottle, in and of itself, that is the problem! It’s what is PUT in the bottle(juice versus water or milk) as well as how long a child is left with a bottle to drink. Using bottles for nutrition is absolutely okay, but once nutrients are consumed, the bottle should be taken away so excessive sucking isn’t a temptation for the little one. Prolonged use can cause misaligned teeth and jaws.
Pacifiers: Pacifiers are also okay, for a certain amount of time. The longer the habit goes on, the higher the chance of jaw and tooth issues developing. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that a baby be weaned by 6-12 months from the pacifier for optimum oral health.
Thumbs: Thumbs can be a little trickier to quit since they are attached to the body! By the age of 2-4, a child should wean from finger sucking. If not, palates, teeth and jaws can be negatively affected during prime growth years.
Breaking Pacifier & Thumb-Sucking Dependency
If your little one is old enough to break the habit and is struggling to give up these comforts, try the following methods:
- Praise them when they don’t use their coping method
- Comfort your child so they have an alternative option for security
- Incentivize the child with a prize when they’ve given up the habit
- Ask your dentist to explain the negative affects on the mouth to your child in a relatable, gentle way
As hard as it may be to reenforce quitting these behaviors, remember to think of the future for your child. Though it is hard in the moment, you are saving them from years of dental appointments, discomfort and preventable procedures.