Pacifier, soother, binky, dummy, whatever you call it… they’re often relied upon to soothe your child and are often given out right at the hospital when your child is born. Yet, most infant sleep consultants will steer you away from relying on one, but I admit they can be handy when in a tight spot.
That’s right, I am not strictly anti-pacifier. They can be lifesavers, or I should say, tantrum-savers if popped into the mouth at the right time. Like when you have to swap the dog toy for the soother or they’ve fallen for the twentieth time that day and need a little extra comfort, but at some point, you will have to transition away from the pacifier.
The Pacifier Conundrum
Pacifiers are easy to use and have instant rewards for the child and to be honest for the parent. Pop the binky in and your child is soothed. On top of that, the AAP found that pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS. This is likely because your child has a harder time burying their face into soft bedding if they have a pacifier sticking out of their mouth.
On the flip side, there is the sleep prop factor. What do I mean?
If your child falls asleep easily while sucking away on his pacifier, there will invariably be a time in the middle of the night that your child wakes and realize that they don’t have the pacifier in their mouth anymore. Fussing ensues and in comes mom or dad to the rescue as they put it back into your son’s mouth.
So what should you do given these two reasons to use or not to use a pacifier at night? Make sure you’ve carefully considered the pros and cons of taking away the pacifier before you make a decision.
When to Take Away the Pacifier at Night
Let’s examine why your baby or toddler can’t sleep peacefully through the night when at bedtime they use a pacifier.
When you go to bed at night, I know it feels like you close your eyes and then wake in the morning rejuvenated and that you didn’t stir. You were out for the night, right? Not really. Sleep, for adults and babies alike, moves through cycles during the night.
We go from light sleep to deep sleep several times a night. This cycle is usually between 90-120 minutes for adults, whereas for your child, it is shorter at 50 minutes intervals.
So now, imagine your child can’t go to sleep without their pacifier and they’re at the end of their sleep cycle and in a light sleep. Your child’s cry is communicating, “Hey, I’m tired, I can’t find my binky, so I can’t go back to sleep, help!”
This is why we call this a sleep prop. It is an outside source that your child relies on in order to fall back asleep. Other common sleep props include feeding or rocking.
If you’re thinking, “yes, that’s me. My daughter needs me to pop that pacifier back in her mouth multiple times per night and I just want and need a full night’s sleep!” Then, it is time to start thinking about ditching the sleep prop. This is the secret to sleeping through the whole night! And it’s the most important part of sleep training as it allows your child to learn how to sleep independently.
How to Ditch the Pacifier
The most effective way to get rid of the pacifier is to go cold-turkey. It is the least confusing method for your toddler, who naturally does better with absolutes than figuring out moderation.
Choose a day and toss all the pacifiers into the trash. You’ll be pleasantly surprised how quickly your toddler adjusts as long as you stay clear and consistent, don’t give in once in a while.
Here are a few more tips:
- Don’t save one for emergency, it is just too confusing.
- Be creative and make it a positive experience like a Big Kid celebration.
- Another creative way is using the Pacifier Fairy that collect all the pacifiers and leaves a special surprise.
- Avoid handing down the pacifiers to a younger sibling. This can create resentment as your toddler sees the younger sibling sucking on their beloved pacifier.
Toddlers typically embrace the idea of growing into “big kids,” so marking it as a milestone can be a big help.
Even though I am a huge advocate for going Cold-Turkey, it doesn’t mean that it going to go smoothly right away. There is a 99% chance that your toddler is going to be irritable and pushback.
Don’t give in and pull out a pacifier. Instead, use the number one parenting hack out there – distract, distract, distract. When your child’s fussing, turn their attention to something else like their favorite snack, toy, or cartoon show.
If that doesn’t work, offer them comfort and support by acknowledging their frustration. But stay the course and explain that the pacifier is gone and it’s going to stay that way.
Every toddler is different, but generally within the first few nights up to a week, your child’s reliance on the pacifier will be a thing of the past. And once that sleep prop is removed, you’ll start experiencing wonderful, sleep-filled nights.
Want to know more about how a sleep coach can help your family become sleep-prop free and start sleeping through the night? Schedule your free “Let’s Get Acquainted” call.