Is Suri Cruise, Nearly 5, Too Old for Pacifier?

Photo of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' 5-year-old with a binky sparks debate.

Mar. 10, 2011— -- Suri Cruise has been making headlines since birth, for everything from her famous parents, Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes, to her designer dresses and high heels to the latest -- her pacifier.

A recent photograph of the nearly 5-year-old girl with a binky in her mouth has sparked debate about how old is too old to be using a pacifier.

"By the time babies reach their first birthdays, they are definitely ready to lose the binky and move on," said Ari Brown, an Austin, Texas, pediatrician and author of the "Expecting 411" book series,

"I think parents allow the binky to remain in their child's life long after infancy because life just seems easier with it around," said Brown, adding, "It only gets harder to take away as your child gets older."

Representatives for Cruise and Holmes did not respond immediately to requests for comment. But Holmes has spoken in the past about Suri's determination to do what she wants.

"She picks out all of her own clothes and has since she was 1 1/2," Holmes told New York magazine last year.

Rather than seeing it as a problem, Holmes considers it an asset.

"I'm happy that my daughter is strong-willed and determined," she said. "You really have to go with what the child is wanting."

Not too long ago, Cruise and Holmes were criticized for their daughter's designer taste in clothing, ranging from a Burberry coat to specially designed Christian Louboutin kitten heels. Before that, they got flak for allowing her to suck away on her bottle past the age of 2.

Prolonged Pacifier Use Poses Risks

Whether Suri's acting too old or too young for her age, her parents just can't win.

Nancy Massotto, founder of Holistic Moms Network, thinks everyone should stop second guessing the Cruises.

"I'd like to hope her pacifier is BPA-free," Massotto said, referring to the organic compound Bisphenol A found in some plastics. "Other than that, if it works for her, it works for her. Different things for different families."

Massotto said her nearly 5-year-old son still sucks his thumb and she's not concerned.

"My son sucks his thumb for comfort and when he wants to go to sleep," she said. "It does not affect his psychological development. I believe [by allowing it] we are doing the best thing for our child, knowing his circumstances."

But Brown said prolonged pacifier use can have some harmful effects.

First and foremost, it can lead to expensive dental bills by altering the bite position of the teeth. It's also a known risk for ear infections. And since it's often used as a sleep crutch, children who rely on the pacifier may be prone to more sleep problems.