I just asked my parenting guru (early childhood family ed parent teacher) her opinion about this, my ds is a little over 2, and I'm starting to wonder if he'll stop nursing before he lets that "naa" go. Anyway, I emailed her and she said (not exactly, I'm paraphrasing to keep within the UA):
her perspective is biased toward emotional well-being.
and (I think thisis similar to the Brazelton stuff)between 18 months and 3 years, "loveys"--like pacifiers--become a security object (read emotional, sensual, physical support) during the difficult period of Autonomy-vs-Doubt and Shame (Erikson). My ds is working on his ability to do things for himself--including comfort himself when upset and calm himself so he can go to sleep. His security objects help him develop the autonomy and self-control he needs to be able to continue his journey of caring for himself. Taking away these security objects can result in kids doubting themselves and their ability to comfort themselves--or more extreme cases, become kids may become ashamed of their impulses (due to excessive parental criticism).
Around 3, kids are better able to reason and want to demonstrate their competence (by giving up "baby" habits).
RE: teeth. even experts disagree, some dentists say it's huge, others say there's a reason we loose baby teeth.
RE: dislike of seeing kids with pacifiers (I had talked about my perrsonal issue of hating pacifiers in general, but having a kid who had an obvious need for one) . This is the best thing you have going for you. It will help you set limits, begin to lessen the habit, while still letting Jalen meet his emotional needs. This approach helps Jalen work on his developmental task of separating thinking (about the pacifier, therefore wanting it) from feeling (knowing when he "needs" the pacifier for comfort or for calming before sleep).
It could look like this:
1. Explain to Jalen the new rule: Pacifiers stay in the bedroom or in the car seat ONLY. Kids can go to the bedroom alone to suck on the pacifier at any time."
2. Get him a special box--preferably with a lid that he can open and shut--to keep his pacifiers in. Let him choose a special place in the room to keep it. (the "Kitty/paci combo" from earlier reminded me of this)
3. Help him remember the rule by posting a sign inside the bedroom door (a pacifier with circle and slash, or a stop sign with a pacifier in it, etc.).
4. Every morning and after naps ask him to look at the sign and remind you of the rule. You may need to help him put it away the first few times ("I can wait with you until you are ready to put it away. Then we'll both go...have a snack, story, etc")
5. During the day when he asks for it, remind him he can go to the bedroom (alone) if he wants to, or he could choose another way of getting comfort (hug from mom/dad, story, cuddle with blanket/stuffed animal, etc.) Try not to express negative feelings about either choice so he doesn't create a power struggle with you around using the pacifier--let him know only the place has changed: he can go use it when he wants it.
This generally really lessens the amount of time it is used, since who wants to leave the scene of action? Then decide on a time to give it up totally, like when he is 3 (but not on his birthday) and talk about that as another big achievement that lies ahead "when he is bigger".
All in all, I thought it was a pretty good set of ideas. She's a really great parent-teacher and comes from an attachment parenting background (lower case ap, not API), so I usually trust what she says. Plus, she has known me for a long time and knows my parenting style and has never given me advice that contradicts it.
I have yet to act on any of it though
I just gotta get through the next couple of months here and feel like I have time to devote to it.