Should we say “Good-bye” to the pacifier?

How and When to Stop Using the Pacifier

Say goodbye to the pacifier

If your child is older than four months, relies on a pacifier to drift off to sleep, and is experiencing sleep difficulties, it could be a good opportunity to bid farewell to the pacifier.

Hey there!
Are you struggling with sleepless nights because of your little one’s constant awakenings?

As a newborn, the pacifier is amazing for helping meet that strong need to suck some babies have. As they approach 4 months though, things start to change with your child’s sleep and physical development.

You may have started giving the pacifier at sleep times as a way to get your baby drowsy and to fall asleep and now it seems like they can’t live without it!

How Does Using a Pacifier Contribute to Night Wakings?

While it can help babies become drowsy and transition to the next stage of sleep, when mom or dad re-inserts it into their mouth, they may end up relying on it to stay asleep all night long.

This can cause multiple awakenings, leaving them (and you!) feeling unrested in the morning.

So you might be asking how using a pacifier can lead to night wakings? Isn’t it supposed to help them sleep?

Let me break it down for you.

When your child is sleeping at night, they go through different sleep cycles that last around 90 minutes. During each cycle, they transition through different stages of sleep, including REM- Rapid Eye Movement or dream sleep and non-REM- deep sleep.

If your child constantly needs the pacifier to soothe themselves back to sleep during partial awakenings between cycles, it can be a vicious cycle.

The pacifier gets them to that “drowsy” state which is actually the first stage of sleep. When they get into a deep sleep, the pacifier usually pops out of their mouth. As they cycle through sleep and come back up to the peak of a sleep cycle and are partially awake, they will be looking for that pacifier to get them drowsy and back to sleep again.

If you're dealing with this, you need to know- it's not normal for your child to keep waking up all night long. It doesn't have to be this way...

But don’t worry, there’s hope!

If they don't use the pacifier to get to sleep, then how will they get to sleep?

Babies are so smart! They will find a way and if they want to suck on something, they can learn to suck on their fingers to soothe. At least if they use their fingers, they are attached to their body…won’t get lost in the bed like a paci!

They might roll around in the crib to get in a comfortable position, thump on the mattress, move their legs up and down or move their head from side to side.

These are all self-soothing behaviors that they control. Each child will develop their own way of self-soothing if given the chance!

If your little one is under 12 months, the AAP for Safe Sleep says they shouldn’t have a lovie or a blanket in the crib with them, but if they are over 12 months, a lovie or a blanket is something they can control in the crib and can give them comfort to soothe themselves back to sleep.

Once they learn to self-soothe without using a pacifier, they may even babble themselves back to sleep. With a little practice, they can sleep a full 11-12 hours without the pacifier.

We usually suggest parents stop using the pacifier at around 4 months.

But, if your little one is older, and you find yourself here, just take a minute and reflect on why you’re reading about this subject in the first place?

Let’s figure out what’s going on first.

Have you been noticing any issues lately? Is the constant need for a paci to fall asleep causing trouble? If so, it might be time to stop using it.

So when it's time to say bye-bye to the paci, how do you do it?

It’s pretty simple, really:  Just throw it in the trash can….

I know that sounds a little harsh, but it’s really the best way not to go back to relying on the little rubber thing for sleep anymore.

The biggest thing is that you stay committed to no more pacifiers.
If your child is young, 12 months and under, there is no reason to try and reason with them…they can’t developmentally do that yet, so your commitment and consistency to no more pacifier is key.

Now, if you’re feeling a little uneasy or unsure about throwing that thing away, we can help!  We walk parents through how to confidently handle the sleep training process when there’s no more pacifier involved.

For toddlers between 12-36 months, you can introduce a stuffed animal or a “lovey” blanket along with removing their pacifier. Let your child latch onto the stuffed animal and after a few nights, remove the pacifier altogether. If you need more help for your toddler (17 months-2.5) we can walk you through everything! You can book a “Get Some Answers call” HERE or if your issues with your toddler’s sleep go beyond just the pacifier, schedule a “Get Sleep Now call” with us to see if working one one-on-one with one of us would be a good fit for you.

But what about older children, like 3-5-year-olds who still have an attachment to the pacifier?
It’s important to have a clear conversation with them about how they’re such a big kid now and they don’t need a pacifier anymore.
We even work with preschool-aged kids!  If you’re trying to drop your 3-5-year-olds pacifier and help them to sleep all night in their own big kid bed, it’s a good idea to wean them off or throw it away now. 

A Lot of children have a Wubbanub that they love. If your child has a Wubbanub, simply cut the pacifier off of it.

If throwing it away seems too harsh for you and you want to try a pacifier-weaning system, go for it!

Say goodbye to the pacifier

Make a plan and stick to it!

Whatever approach you choose, make a plan that works for you and your family.
Maybe you decide that over one week, you’re going to work towards no more pacifiers.

That’s great!

Just remember that whatever method you choose, you stay consistent with it.

Consistency is key, even when it gets tough.

I’d suggest sharing your plan with someone close to you, like a friend or family member, to help you stay on track.

So say goodbye to the pacifier and hello to a better night’s rest for you and your little one.
Your child will benefit from your commitment to making this change.

Grab our FREE “Sleep Needs by Age” cheat sheet so you can stay on top of your child’s sleep needs. 

Print out a copy and post to your child’s bedroom wall.

Reach out to us if you need support.  You’re not alone.