Many parents who use pacifiers feel a twinge of guilt the first time they stick a pacifier in baby’s mouth. Pacifiers can be a huge help to manage tantrums or meltdowns. You may have used it as a soother to help your baby sleep or to deal with a screaming infant at the store. Most parents try just about anything they can think of to calm the child down! Today we’re going to talk about when it may be time to say goodbye to the pacifier and how to get rid of pacifier at night.
The truth is, the pacifier often works. Babies are born with the instinct to suck. They have limited means of expressing what they want. They can’t let you know if they’re hungry, thirsty or in pain. Sucking soothes them and brings them comfort. Therefore newborn babies will suck on almost anything you put in its mouth, whether it’s a bottle, breast, finger or toy. If you have a newborn, check out our 5 newborn sleep tips.
Table of Contents
WHEN TO WEAN PACIFIER
issues with prolong pacifier use
Crying when pacifier falls out
HOW TO GET RID OF PACIFIER AT NIGHT
Help with getting rid of the pacifier
GENTLE SLEEP TRAINING
WHEN TO WEAN PACIFIER
And pacifiers have benefits beyond managing meltdowns and tantrums. In fact, it may reduce your baby’s risk of SIDS, possibly due to the fact that baby has a harder time burying their face into soft bedding if they have a pacifier sticking out of their mouth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics Safe Sleep Guidelines does recommend that parents consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. However, the pacifier should be offered once breastfeeding has been firmly established.
So given that very substantial and important consideration, I’m making the following recommendations for baby’s over a year old. That doesn’t mean this is irrelevant if your little one’s younger than that. But just make sure you’ve carefully considered the pros and cons of taking away the pacifier before you make a decision.
Because at a certain age, children are more than capable of learning to self-soothe. And pacifier dependence can cause long-term problems. Many experts agree that pacifier use up until about age one is okay. But pacifier use past the age two may be cause for concern.
As a toddler and baby sleep consultant, I have found that the pacifier habit can interfere with the consolidation of nighttime sleep. If your toddler uses a pacifier as a baby sleep soother to fall asleep, she will most likely wake in the night and then not be able to get back to sleep until she can find it. Even if baby isn’t bothering you to help, there are still times when it’s causing a full wake-up for retrieval.
While brief wake-ups are common in the night, when a child is dependent on a pacifier as a baby sleep soother, it often leads to fragmented sleep. And this can make for a tired and cranky toddler the next day. Prolong pacifier use can not only affect sleep, but can cause a whole host of other problems. Here’s a few reasons why you may want to consider getting rid of the pacifier at night and ditching the pacifier habit.
PROLONGED USE CAN CAUSE DENTAL PROBLEMS
Pediatric dentists recommend eliminating pacifier use completely by age four, and limiting it by age two. Once your child loses his baby teeth, his adult teeth can be permanently affected by sucking on a pacifier. Overbites and crossbites can occur, which lead to problems with chewing, speech and appearance.
MAY INCREASE MIDDLE EAR INFECTIONS
Studies are now linking pacifier use with recurring ear infections. In fact, children who use pacifiers regularly are up to three times more likely to develop ear infections. One reason cited in these studies is that pacifiers act as fomites, which are objects covered in germs. These germs can increase the risk of infections, such as ear infections. Children in daycare are presumably at a higher risk of this. The other reason pacifiers may increase the risk of ear infections is the sucking motion associated with the pacifier. It can hinder proper eustacian tube function, which usually keeps the middle ear open and clean.
DELAYED SPEECH DEVELOPMENT
Around the age of one, kids enter into their speech development phase. This means they will start trying out sounds and word. They will often babble to themselves and others while they learn this new skill. If they constantly have a pacifier in their mouths, they might be less likely to practice talking.
Also, the pacifier habit can make it harder for a child’s tongue and lip muscles to develop normally, according to Patricia Hamaguchi, a speech-language pathologist and author of Childhood, Speech, Language, and Listening Problems: What Every Parent Should Know.
YOUR CHILD OR BABY CRIES WHEN PACIFIER FALLS OUT
If your little one relies on the pacifier to get to sleep at bedtime or nap time, then the pacifier has become a “sleep prop”. A sleep prop is something that your child needs from someone or something in order to get to sleep. The problem with relying on the pacifier to get to sleep is that it’s going to fall out of their mouth after they’ve fallen asleep.
When your child comes out of a sleep cycle and is trying to transition into the next sleep cycle, they’re going to realize that the pacifier is no longer in their mouth. So they’re going to more fully wake up. And now they have a job to do. That job is either to:
1. Cry out for you to come and put it back in their mouth, or
2. To more fully wake up and find that pacifier themselves
Either way, now you’ve got a child awake in the middle of the night. And this doesn’t usually just happen one time. It happens several times throughout the night. If you and your child are waking up constantly throughout the night to play the pacifier game, you’re probably ready to get rid of the pacifier at night.
HOW TO GET RID OF PACIFIER AT NIGHT
How to get rid of the pacifier at night? Some kids will start to phase it out themselves as they develop other coping skills around the age of two. But some won’t give it up without a fight! Here are 3 ways that you can get rid of the pacifier at night:
Communicate the Changes
If you have a child at least 2 years of age, then you’re going to want to give you child a heads up that you’re making this change. That way they’re not completely thrown off guard by what’s going to happen at bedtime.
I find it’s best to start telling your child the morning that you’re going to get rid of the pacifier at night. Tell them that things are going to be a little different at bedtime starting tonight.
Then remind them several times throughout the day. This way they’re going to know that the change is coming and feel more prepared for what’s to come.
Replace the Pacifier with Another Object
Now is the time to flex those creative muscles and come up with a plan for exactly how to get rid of the pacifier at night. How are you going break the pacifier habit and spin this change in a positive way? Toddlers typically embrace the idea of growing into “big kids.” So marking it as a milestone can be a big help. Present the change as a very exciting and positive occasion.
Here’s a bit of a dirty parenting trick. You could round this off with the introduction of a “Pacifier Fairy.” Tell your toddler that the Pacifier Fairy is coming to collect all of their pacifiers. And, in exchange, they are going to leave them a special surprise. Whether that’s something that your little one will embrace, I leave up to your discretion.
A lot of children respond really well to adding a stuffed animal or lovey to their sleep environment as that new object to help them self soothe at bedtime and naptime. If you’re introducing a new stuffed animal or lovey, I recommend introducing it during the bedtime routine. Have it with you as you read stories together so that your child can get used to holding onto it and begin to grow their bond to it.
Keep in mind you should only introduce a lovey or stuffed animal once your child is over 12 months of age per the AAP’s safe sleep guidelines.
Go Cold Turkey
I find that the best way of getting rid of a pacifier at night with babies under 2 years of age is to go cold turkey. Toddlers do better with absolutes than they do with moderation. So pick a day to make the change. Explain it to your little one that starting today, their pacifier is going away.
Then take all the pacifiers out of the bedroom and throw them away. This way you’re not tempted to give it to your toddler at bedtime. Don’t save one for emergencies or just-in-case scenarios. It will be too easy for you to fall back on the pacifier to get a quick solution if your baby is having trouble sleeping. And then you’re just causing confusion.
Be prepared for a few tantrums, but don’t give in. Parents are often far more worried about the idea of taking it away, than the actual reality of it. Believe it or not, most children are over it within a day or two. Toddlers can often adjust to new situations remarkably easily so long as things are clear and consistent.
The number one reason I hear from parents why they’re scared to break the pacifier habit and getting rid of the pacifier at night is because they don’t want to make their baby cry it out at night.
GETTING RID OF THE PACIFIER AT NIGHT HELP
But here’s the good news. You don’t have to let your little one cry it out! If you follow our plan at Live Love Sleep, we will be providing you with a step by step plan to teach your baby how to sleep without the pacifier. You can even stay right there in the room with them as they learn how to break the pacifier habit and fall asleep without it. Check out our alternatives to the cry it out method.
But at some point, your child will need to learn how to fall asleep without the pacifier. The pacifier habit can persist for several years. And that’s a long time to go without a good night’s sleep.
You can go in to your child’s room and be present and comforting as they learn how to fall asleep without the pacifier. Once your baby breaks the pacifier habits and can fall asleep without it, they will be getting a good, restful sleep each and every night. And so will you mama!
It might take up to a week or two to consistently see your baby connecting sleep cycles and sleeping through the night, but it is so worth it!
GENTLE SLEEP TRAINING
I have personally worked with hundreds of families who have tried breaking the pacifier habit on their own without any success. As a Baby &Toddler Sleep Consultant, I create a customized sleep plan that is going to meet your BABY’S SPECIFIC NEEDS so that it WORKS FOR YOUR FAMILY. Read more about my sleep philosophy here.
Every family is different. Every child is different. And they all respond a little differently. That’s why we work together for several weeks. If I’m not seeing your child progress like I’m expecting them to, that’s when it’s my job to make recommendations of change to ensure that we’re meeting your sleep goals.
If you need help getting rid of the pacifier at night and for naps, let’s chat! I’m here to help you navigate through this challenging time by creating a customized sleep plan that will work for your family. If you’re ready to get rid of the pacifier at night once and for all, get started by checking out our Baby Sleep Services!
To healthy sleep,
Founder of Live Love Sleep
Certified Toddler & Baby Sleep Consultant