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Using Soothers and Stopping When it's Time


toddler smiling with mouth open




Some parents swear by soothers. Others avoid them. Only you can decide what's right for your baby. Here's some information about the pros and cons.

For some toddlers, using a soother satisfies a need to suck. But it’s best not to use one every time your child seems upset. Before you offer a soother, try to find out if your toddler wants something or is hungry, bored or tired. A soother should never replace cuddling, comforting or breastfeeding.

Soother use can contribute to ear infections. If your toddler experiences frequent ear infections, limit the use of a soother.
Sucking a soother or thumb can also affect the development of teeth. Try to get your child to stop by four or five years of age - before permanent teeth come in.

To help your child to stop:

  • Choose a time when no other changes are happening.
  • Start by limiting where and when your toddler can have the soother, slowly reducing to one place at one time. This often ends up being during naps or bedtime. Once your toddler's is asleep, gently remove the soother.
  • Use comforting and calming techniques like extra hugs, story times and listening to music. 
  • Praise your toddler for using the soother less frequently (stars on a chart, a phone call to Grandpa to report on how long the soother has been put away).
  • Avoid the use of punishment to make your toddler give up a soother.

Soother Safety Checklist

If your toddler is using a soother, make sure it's safe:

  • The soother should be a one piece design.
  • Check regularly that the nipple is firmly attached to the handle by giving it a good tug.
  • Replace the soother every two months. If it's sticky, cracked, or torn, throw it away. It can easily tear and become a choking hazard.
  • Sterilize the soother before the first use by boiling it in water for five minutes and then letting it cool completely.
  • Clean the soother in warm, soapy water. Avoid cleaning it in your own mouth, which can transfer bacteria to your toddler’s mouth.
  • Never tie a cord to a soother and hang it around your toddler’s neck or attach it to clothes. It can get tangled around your toddler’s neck. You can use a clip with a short ribbon attached.
  • Avoid letting your toddler chew a soother for teething. It can tear or break and become a choking hazard.
  • Never dip a soother into honey, syrup or any other sweetener. This can lead to tooth decay. Also, honey should not be given to children under 12 months of age.
Last Updated: August 10, 2013