Pacifiers. I know. I am probably going to lose some friends over this one. But it has to be done. Really though, I am not going to lose any friends over this. I don’t have friends that sensitive. It would never work.
I am not going to go into anything I am not a specialist in. I am not going to talk about the long term effects on teeth or the use of pacifiers to self calm (which is a good reason to use a pacifier, I think? See, that is why we won’t talk about it.) We are just going to talk about speech.
Let’s start by closing your mouth and relaxing. I am serious, there is a point to this exercise. Do you notice how your tongue rests at the top of your mouth, not the bottom? (If it doesn’t, well, maybe call me.) Sometime around one year of age our tongue transitions from resting at the bottom of our mouth to the top. As our tongue lifts to the top of our mouth, it shapes our palate (the roof of our mouth). This takes our palate from being peaked, like a roof, to a slightly rounded shape, like an umbrella. If you have an infant at home, take a minute to check it out. Or you can just trust me. Babies tongues rest at the bottom due to low muscle tone and the lack of tongue use. They really don’t need to use their tongue muscles until they start eating solid foods and producing consonant sounds.
When a kiddo has a pacifier longer than one year, the transition from bottom to top of mouth does not occur. Pop a pacifier in your mouth and suck. Notice where your tongue is? Yeah, at the bottom of your mouth. But then the tongue needs to transition. What happens if it doesn’t? Well, you get a tongue thrust. What is this? It is when your tongue rests between your teeth and “thrusts” out during feeding and speaking movements. And when your tongue thrusts out during speech, you get what is commonly known as a “lisp.” Nobody wants a lisp.
This is my mouth. First at typical rest. Second how I would have looked if I had a pacifier for a really really long time. This is how much I love you guys. I did this for you.
So what should we do? I am a mom first, and I know how hard it is to break a habit. Especially if that habit makes bed time easier. But if you are ready to get rid of the paci, I encourage you to trick them. Yes, trick them. Find a pin and poke a hole in that sucker. The reason kiddos love pacifiers is because they love the seal. That sealed suck is soothing to them. Take that seal away by poking a tiny hole in it and they are most likely going to think it is broken. They might take it out, give it a look, and try it again, but it will be “broken.” Some kids are very resourceful and will use their tongue to plug the hole. For those kiddos, I encourage you to use a scissors to make a slit down the middle. If that isn’t enough, just cut the end right off. That’ll show that pacifier.
That being said. Do what you need to do. It has been a rough week here. If giving Gus a pacifier this week would make him sleep…well, I might be interested.