Pacifier use is a hot topic when it comes to babies and toddlers.
Especially when it comes to sleeping.
If you have a baby or a toddler you might be wondering, “How and when do I stop using the pacifier?”
Or maybe you know in your heart of hearts that it’s time to stop using the pacifier and you’re looking for an extra boost of encouragement.
In this blog, podcast episode and video, I’m going to share with you all about pacifier use and how it affects your little one’s sleep. I’ll explain when it’s time to stop using the pacifier and how to do it so that your little one can finally sleep 11-12 hours through the night, making sleep a thing for everyone in your family.
Here at Little Z’s, it’s no secret that I’m anti-pacifier once your child is 4 months old.
I believe pacifiers do have a time and place and that is during the newborn season only.
Right now though, I want to have a real, down to earth conversation with you when it comes to using the pacifier.
I want to have this conversation because I know for a fact that we have some families who use a pacifier with our program even though I clearly say don’t use the pacifier with our program.
I personally believe, as a sleep professional, that you no longer need to use the pacifier after 4 months old.
When your child turns 16 weeks from due date, the pacifier should be removed so that your child can begin using self-soothing strategies to fall asleep and stay asleep.
However, I know that there are babies, toddlers, and sometimes preschoolers walking around with a pacifier.
If you came to me and asked me what you should do, I would first want you to know that I’m not going to be judging you.
First, and most importantly I would ask you, “What’s caused you to consider dropping the pacifier?”
Maybe it was a public comment about your older child having a pacifier still.
Maybe your child went ballistic after losing their pacifier and you’ve realized they have some unhealthy attachment issues.
Maybe you feel like it’s affecting your child’s speech.
Maybe it’s starting to disturb your child’s sleep for naps and/or nights.
With honesty and full transparency, I would say that if you’re starting to doubt the pacifier, then it’s time to stop using it.
That’s my one, very important filter.
The reality is, I’m on a screen talking to you.
I’m not in your home, living along side of you, making the everyday situations happen and calling the shots.
You are the one doing that and it’s up to you and your family!
That’s the beautiful part of being a parent!
You get to decide the path you want your family to go down.
My hope, however, is that my influence here on this screen will help you to truthfully and accurately identify any changes you need to make in order to help your family truly flourish and make sleep a thing.
Is your child’s pacifier affecting their sleep?
Is your child’s pacifier affecting their behavior?
If your child is erupting like a volcano when they don’t have their pacifier, then this is something that needs to be addressed.
In fact, this is something that I talk about and cover in both my toddler and preschool sleep training programs.
I’ve had the privilege and joy of working with hundreds of families both in their homes and online, and because of that I can tell very quickly if the parent or the child(ren) are calling the shots in the household.
If your child is currently the one calling the shots, sleep is going to be a disaster.
If your child is calling the shots during the day, you can’t expect your child to listen to you during the night.
If your child gets their pacifier during the day, you can’t expect them not to have it during the night.
That’s because your parenting habits and philosophies directly affect your child’s ability to accept and adapt to consistent or new expectations and boundaries you have set for them on a daily basis.
Your consistency and steadfastness with parenting and expectations matters, and your child depends on it.
At the end of the day, your toddler or child shouldn’t have to depend on a prop like a pacifier.
That’s because the pacifier is not a reliable means for restorative sleep.
When your child is sleeping during the night, they are going through different sleep cycles. Each cycle lasts around 90 minutes.
During these sleep cycles, your child engages in different stages of sleep, namely REM (rapid eye movement, “dreaming”) and non-REM sleep (also known as “deep sleep”).
Every time your child transitions from one sleep cycle to the next, they may experience a partial awakening.
Children who rely on a pacifier to sleep and stay asleep will inevitably look for their pacifier every time they experience a partial awakening between sleep cycles or sleep stages.
Drowsiness is the very first stage of sleep, and a pacifiers help babies and children become drowsy so that they can enter into the next stage of sleep.
During deep sleep, it’s very common that the pacifier falls out of the child’s mouth.
So your child uses the pacifier to get drowsy, they fall back into the next stage of sleep, and then when the cycle ends, they wake up, looking for the pacifier to get them back to sleep again.
It’s a vicious rinse-wash-repeat cycle all. night. long.
If your child is unable to find their pacifier in their crib between each sleep cycle, it can be upsetting, difficult, and even impossible for them to get back to sleep again.
If your child has been waking repeatedly throughout the night, or even a couple times a night, I just need you to know that’s not normal.
It doesn’t have to be that way.
Your child doesn’t need a pacifier or prop to help them get to sleep or stay asleep!
Your baby or child can sleep 11 to 12 hours all throughout the night.
Your child can learn to use my favorite “attached pacifiers,” a.k.a their fingers!
When they get to be 12 months or older, they can use a stuffed animal or a blanket to help soothe themselves to sleep.
If they are under 12 months old, they can roll around the crib, find a cozy position, or babble themselves to sleep! Once they learn to self soothe they can easily put themselves back to sleep all throughout the night!
So when do we stop using the pacifier, Becca?
I believe you should stop using the pacifier at 4 months old.
But if your little one is older than that, then I want you to reflect on why you found this video or researched this topic.
Has the pacifier been creating issues?
If you’re finding that it’s causing issues, then it’s time to stop using it.
Now that we’ve identified when you should stop using the pacifier, how exactly do you do it?
The simple answer is that you throw the pacifier in the trash can and that’s the end of that.
If you have a baby (4-12 months old), you can’t communicate with your child using words or sentences so there is no use in trying to reason with them.
Instead, you simply need to commit to no more pacifier.
If you’re hesitant to throw the pacifier away because you’re confused on what to do, then I suggest you check out our Baby Sleep Program HERE.
In my Baby Program I walk you through how to confidently handle the sleep training process when there’s no more pacifier involved from Night 1 throughout the entire 2-week program.
If you have a toddler (12-36 months), then you can introduce a stuffed animal to them along with removing their pacifier.
Introduce a new, cozy stuffed animal or a “lovey” blanket along with your child’s pacifier and allow them to start to latch onto the stuffed animal.
If you’re hesitant to throw away your toddler’s pacifier because you don’t know where to begin, I want to point you to my Toddler Sleep Program HERE.
After a few nights of letting your child use both their pacifier and their new “lovey” or stuffed animal, remove the pacifier all together.
If you have an older child, like a preschooler, who’s been addicted to the pacifier, it’s important to have a very clear conversation with them about how they’re such a big kid now and they don’t need a pacifier anymore.
My Preschool Sleep Program is the perfect fit for you if you’re trying to drop your preschooler’s pacifier as well as help them to sleep all night in their own big kid bed.
If your child has a Wubbanub, simply cut the pacifier off of it.
If you want to try a pacifier weaning system, go for it.
Find an approach and strategy that works best for you and your family.
Here at Littles Z’s, we want you to ditch the pacifier cold Turkey.
If that’s startling to you, then make a plan that works for you.
Maybe you decide that over a one week span of time you’re going to work towards no more pacifier.
Once you have chosen a strategy for dropping your child’s pacifier, it’s extremely important that you commit to using the strategy whole-heartedly and consistently.
Be consistent with your plan and don’t back out of it when it feels hard.
When it comes to dropping the pacifier, your child will benefit greatly from your commitment and consistency.
In fact, I highly recommend telling a close friend or a family member about your plan so that they can help keep you accountable.
“When should I stop using the pacifier?” and “How should I stop using the pacifier?” are questions only your family can truly answer.
Consider the points below when considering pacifier use.
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