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Bye, Bye Binky

Love them or hate them, pacifiers are as much a part of babyhood as burp cloths and a.m. naps. Trouble is, they, too, often hang around well into toddlerhood  -- and sometimes beyond.Where to draw the line on pacifiers varies for every family. But by the time your child is 3, they should be a thing of the past, as pacifier use can change the mouth in ways that can require orthodontics down the road, says Alan Greene, M.D., author of From First Kicks to First Steps.

If the pacifier has become your toddler's comfort object, you're in for an uphill battle. Some kick-the-habit strategies:

? Phase it out. Try telling your child he can use his pacifier at bedtime or naptime, but that you won't be taking it out in public anymore. (Be sure to bring along something else that'll soothe him.)

? Make it less comforting. Dr. Greene suggests dipping your child's pacifier in vegetable juice. It's not so nasty he can't stand it, but it won't taste as good as it used to.

? Capitalize on his desire to be a big kid. Have your child gather all his pacifiers and then take him to the toy store, where he can trade them in for a big-boy toy. Or suggest he give them away to a new baby your family knows (don't forget to warn the mom ahead of time to toss them!).

? Defer to an expert. Let the no more pacifier decree come from someone your child sees as an outside authority. Karen Skorochod of Wind Gap, PA, asked her son's dentist to tell him that he had to give up his pacifier or he'd ruin his teeth. It worked. "We got home and he asked for the scissors and cut them up himself," she said. "We were Binky-free after that."