Let’s talk pacifiers! As expectant parents, we often wonder whether we should introduce pacifiers for sleep when we know sometimes it can take years to finally wean from them.
I was adamant that my kids would not have a pacifier, and then my son was born and had severe silent reflux and was often in a lot of pain. A community health nurse back in Australia suggested the pacifier to help soothe him and as a natural form of pain relief. I couldn’t deny my little man having something to comfort him. So the pacifier became a regular fixture in his mouth for the first 8 months, not only for sleep.
I’m sure a lot of other parents have either been in my situation or needed it to be able to soothe to sleep so out came the pacifier. OR you may have decided from the outset that you wanted to introduce the pacifier. No judgments here! Pacifiers are a personal choice and we also have to do what we need to in order to help our babies keep calm and sleep.
Today though I’m going to talk about the pros and cons of having and how to get rid of it when you’re ready, including my own personal story with my older son.
Pros of pacifiers for sleep:
- With newborns, pacifiers trigger the calming reflex and therefore helps babies relax and drift into dreamland.
- Pacifiers lower the heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels and it can even lessen crying after painful procedures. This ties in with why my son used his pacifier.
- Pacifier use at bedtime can lower the risk of SIDS even if it is spit out overnight.
- Pacifiers are easier to wean off of than thumb sucking. You can take the pacifier out of sight (therefore out of mind) but the thumb is always there…
Cons of the pacifier for sleep:
- Using a pacifier can cause nipple confusion if used before breast or bottle-feeding is well established. It requires a very different sucking movement than a real nipple.
- It can limit self-soothing skills because a baby or child relies on the pacifier to help them fall asleep.
- It can make it harder to transition between sleep cycles (and therefore sleep all through the night) especially when the pacifier falls out of their mouth and they have to find it again to get back to sleep.
What not to do:
- If the pacifier falls out of your child or baby’s mouth during naps or night time, do not go in to replace it. You may find this starts a habit and you need to do it constantly. If your baby has the skills to put the pacifier back in his mouth you can always have multiple pacifiers in the crib to help with finding it.
- If your toddler starts throwing it out of the crib, do not go in and give it back. It could become a regular game to get you back in the room.
How to wean off it:
I know how hard it can be to get rid of the pacifier once a child has gotten used to it and attached to it. It can really be quite hard and this is why a lot of toddlers end up still using it during the day or just for sleep times.
If you want the easiest transition possible then my suggestion would be to look at weaning off the pacifier sometime between 6 and 9 months. If you do it at this age the transition will likely take about a week and then it’ll be like your baby never had one in the first place. After 9 months your baby is more likely to have developed an emotional attachment to it and weaning off of it becomes harder.
For babies, less than 1, weaning off of the pacifier cold turkey can potentially work well. For them it being out of sight means it is more likely to be out of mind. In saying that, I weaned my 8-month-old son off his pacifier when his reflux was better and he no longer required his reflux medication. I started with getting rid of the pacifier during the day time for 2 days, then at nap times for 2 days and then finally bedtimes. Within a week it was done!
If you have a toddler, you can look at replacing it with another soothing item like a lovie, blanket or teddy bear. You can even get him to choose what he’d like to replace it with. For a toddler who is over two years old, it is best to talk to them about the impending disappearance of their pacifier and choose a day together that he will no longer use it. Getting your toddler involved in the process is really important.
Now that you have heard my take on pacifiers, what is yours? Do you have any suggestions on how you successfully got rid of the pacifier with your little one?
If you need support with the process of getting rid of the pacifier and keeping your little one’s sleep on track, please feel free to contact me and we can have a sleep strategy session about it!