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Even Celebrity Moms Don't Always Know Best

When I see a child over the age of 2 with a pacifier clipped to her outfit, her mouth plugged up with a piece of plastic, I think, "Man, that looks stupid."

If your child is walking and talking, and also has a drool-covered binky hanging from the lapel of his Gap button-down, there's something wrong. And I'm not just talking about aesthetics, though I can imagine that no adult would want to look back at their baby pictures to see themselves as a growing child with his mouth stopped up.

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Last week, Melissa Joan Hart posted a picture of her 2-year-old son on Instagram, asleep with a pacifier in his mouth. The point of the posting was to show how cute her kid looked, asleep like a little man with his hand down his pants. But when some of the actor's followers questioned why a 2-year-old was still sucking on a paci, MJH came out fighting, saying, "If they have the guts to say it to my face, I think I have the guts to punch 'em."

Instead of threatening violence, the "Melissa and Joey" star should instead be thanking the commentators who made inflammatory remarks such as: "Why does he still have a pacifier?"

When our kids are babies, we all employ certain tools to help soothe them.

Why, indeed! When our kids are babies, we all employ certain tools to help soothe them. But as they grow up, these tools need to fall aside. The idea of a preschooler wearing a pacifier is just as ridiculous as the thought of putting my crying 3-year-olds in the baby swing or vibrating bouncy seats that used to do the trick when they were infants. It's easier in the short-term to get them to just stop crying. But damaging in the long-term, when they don't know how to self-soothe because they haven't had to learn.

"I've learned I just have to be me," says Hart, in response to the so-called haters. These days, we're all quick to say that a mother knows what's best for her child and that we shouldn't judge. But consider this: perhaps there's actually merit in people seeing something that's unhealthy for a child and—gasp—speaking up.

In an article for the New York Times, Dr. Abhinav Sinha, director of the pediatric dental clinic at NewYork-Presbyterian/Weill Cornell Medical Center says that the pacifier habit should end before the second birthday, but children should be coaxed to "give it up even earlier—the sooner the better."

Among the problems he sees caused directly by sucking a binky: adverse effects on the structures of the oral cavity, including an anterior open bite, "where the front teeth do not touch when the jaw is closed"; posterior crossbite, "when the upper back teeth are tucked inside the lower back teeth due to the constant sucking habit"; and overjet, "a marked horizontal projection of the upper teeth beyond the lower teeth."

Yes, parents can make bad choices—even celebrity ones.

He goes on to say that if a pacifier is used, it should be removed immediately once the child is asleep. Studies have shown, he says that "increased pacifier use is associated with more ear infections and more speech and language problems."

It's tempting to get behind a mother and reassure her in her bad decisions that only she knows what's best for her child. When there is sound medical evidence to the contrary, doing that is just nonsensical—just as most of us wouldn't tell a Christian Scientist it's OK not to get your dying kid treatment for cancer.

Of course using a paci past the first year isn't the same as not treating cancer. But it makes the child look ridiculous, all due to a bad choice on the part of the parent. Yes, parents can make bad choices—even celebrity ones. If Melissa Joan Hart doesn't want people weighing in, there is a very simple solution: keep her children off social media and out of the spotlight.

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If even one mama decides that today's the day to go out to the backyard and bury the binky so that a pacifier tree can grow for all the new babies that need them, then some good will have come from this "controversy." And who knows, Clarissa's mistake may just save some poor tike with a spitty giraffe hanging out of his mouth from becoming an adult with the Billy Crystal "white man's overbite."

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Image via Instagram/MelissaJoanHart

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