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  • Taylor Scott-Wood

How to Wean Off the Pacifier

Pacifiers can be lifesavers for calming a fussy baby and providing non-nutritive sucking. However, there comes a time when the pacifier might become more of a hindrance than a help.



infant with pacifier
infant with pacifier

Why Newborns Love to Suck

Newborns have a natural sucking reflex—you might even have seen your baby sucking their thumb in an ultrasound! After birth, they need to suck a lot, often feeding 8-12 times a day. Outside of feeding, a pacifier can be very soothing for them.

Nonnutritive sucking—when your baby sucks on a pacifier, thumb, or even the breast or bottle after feeding—is incredibly calming for newborns. It helps them relax and feel secure.


Pacifiers and SIDS

Research indicates that using a pacifier can reduce the risk of SIDS for newborns up to six months old. However, it's important to know that not using a pacifier doesn't increase the risk of SIDS. The best way to reduce the risk is by practicing safe sleep: placing your baby on their back in a crib or bassinet free of other objects.


When the Pacifier Becomes a Problem

Pacifiers typically become a sleep issue between three and six months of age. This is when your baby's sleep patterns mature and change. During this time, your baby starts developing strong sleep associations with how they fall asleep, often involving sucking on a pacifier, breast, or bottle.


If your baby relies on sucking to sleep, they'll likely cry and protest when the pacifier falls out. At this age, they can't yet replace the pacifier on their own, turning bedtime into a game of "paci pong." My Sweet Dreams Package offers customizable methods to help your baby learn to sleep without the pacifier!


Pacifiers and Older Babies

toddler with pacifier
toddler with pacifier

Some parents hope that their baby will sleep better once they can replace the pacifier on their own. However, I've found that the pacifier often continues to be a sleep problem. Even if your baby can replace it, they'll likely wake up if they can't find it right away.





How Long Should You Use the Pacifier?

While pacifiers can be beneficial during the first few months, the cons usually start to outweigh the pros after 3-6 months.

Here's why:

  • The pacifier becomes an emotional attachment, making it harder to remove after six months.

  • The risk of ear infections increases with pacifier use after six months.

  • Pacifiers can limit your baby's exploration of objects with their mouth, which is important for oral sensory development.

  • It can impact speech development by reducing opportunities for communication.

  • Pacifiers can affect the proper growth of the mouth and teeth.

  • Babies may become dependent on the pacifier for sleep, leading to more wake-ups when it falls out.



Tips for Weaning Off the Pacifier

Here are some strategies to help wean your baby off the pacifier:

  • Start by removing the pacifier during the day while your baby is awake, using it only for sleep.

  • After three months, offer different types of teething toys for oral sensory development, which also helps with introducing solids and reducing gagging.

  • Remove the pacifier from bedtime and overnight sleep before tackling naps.

  • Gently remove the pacifier from your baby's mouth as they drift off to sleep.

  • Work towards removing the pacifier while your baby is awake.

  • Use a sleep training method if your baby protests the change. Within 1-3 nights, they should adjust and fall asleep without it.

  • For babies over one year old, introduce a lovey to replace the pacifier. This will take repeated exposure for acceptance.

  • Once overnight sleep improves without the pacifier, you can remove it from naps gradually or all at once.

  • It's easiest to remove the pacifier between 3-6 months of age.



Need Sleep Support?

If the pacifier is causing more problems than benefits, look no further. My Sweet Dreams Package offers 1:1 personalized sleep coaching that is a customized plan for YOUR baby's sleep needs with two weeks of support and guidance while you implement it. In just a few weeks, your baby will be getting 11-12 hours of independent night sleep. Whoch means you can get the 8 hours of sleep you need to be the best version of yourself for your little one. I have sleep packages available for babies from three months up to four years old, don't hesitate to reach out with any questions.

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