There is no black and white guideline for when you should stop your toddler from using his/her pacifier. If you do research, you'll find lots of different people saying lots of different things - so when should you start trying to get your little one off the pacifier?
Nonnutritive sucking (NNS), sucking without gaining any nutrients, is an important part of development and is used as a comfort mechanism. However, NNS after the age of 3 (pacifier or thumb) is highly discouraged. Research studies show prolonged pacifier use has a negative impact on dentition. Dentists have reported issues such as dental malocclusions, anterior open bite, posterior crossbite, and mean overjet. (American Dental Association 2003).
From a speech pathology standpoint, there is no direct research stating prolong usage causes speech-sound errors at this point in time. However, most speech pathologists agree prolonged usage does not help expressive language and speech-sound development. Imitation skills may be hindered due to the pacifier being in their mouth and limiting opportunities to imitate sounds and words in combination with oral structures being affected.
So, if you think it's time for your kiddo to put that pacifier down, here are a few tips to help with that transition:
When the child begins to crawl/walk it is a good strategy to give them less access to the pacifier and then when they begin to talk to continue to limit access to the pacifier.
Gradually reduce the amount of time. The child does not have to “quit cold turkey”, but can start to wean from it by only using it at nap/bed time.
As with any issue, be consistent. Children need consistency to learn.
Out of sight… out of mind! Redirect your child to something else when they begin to miss their pacifier.
Find the child other ways to comfort/self-sooth (i.e. favorite toy/stuffed animal).
Every child is different, and you know your child best! Begin when you both are ready, and when you know it will be beneficial for your child.