Little kids suck! I say this, not making a qualitative judgment on their character, but simply making an observation that their insatiable desire to explore the world through their mouth drives them to chew and suck on just about anything within reach. Some young children suck on blankets, stuffed animals, or even their fingers. The majority of these mouth-fixated children resort to commercially available options like pacifiers, sippy cups, and all manner of bottles and teething toys. I have literally seen kids with key rings loaded, not with sharp metal keys, but with an assortment of pacifiers in a rainbow of colors. I have seen young children as old as 4 saunter around the house with a sippy cup or bottle dangling from their lips. For my son, he was not so big on these store-bought suckers, so taking away the “binky” or pacifier was never something we needed to wrestle with, but zillions of parents have this fight. A question adding fuel to this fight is whether or not all of these sucking toys and thingamajigs are actually safe.
Now volumes have been written about whether or not pacifiers and the like are good or bad for kids. Obviously having your kid habitually suck on latex, rubber, or plastic should probably raise some red flags, but what we are talking about here has more to do with the immediate physical threat of having a sizable piece of hard or soft plastic in your mouth while toddling around the world. According to a report in the journal Pediatrics, kids who routinely get hurt while sucking on one of these contraptions would likely be in better shape if they just unplugged (or at least had their parents unplug them). The Los Angeles Times reported last month that researchers at the Nationwide Children’s Hospital and the Ohio State University in Columbus reviewed Consumer Product Safety Commission records to try to ascertain how many kids wound up in emergency rooms with injuries associated with bottle, pacifier or sippy cup use between 1991 and 2010. In all, they estimated that number to be 45,398 children — an average of 2,270 cases per year. One-year-olds accounted for nearly two-thirds of the injuries. Over 60% of the injured kids were boys. Bottles were the offending item in 65.8% of cases. While none of these injuries were fatal, we parents know that a trip to the ER is just not the optimal way to spend a Wednesday night.
So is the answer to never introduce such pacifying devices, or just to take them away well before the kids become ambulatory? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends dumping bottles in favor of lidless cups at 12 months; binkies are best gone by 6 months. But that is easier said than done, as most parents can attest. So what is your view on the matter? Is it best to never introduce such sucking devices in the first place? If so, what would be your sucking alternative?