The Pacifier + Sleep

pacifier Mar 31, 2022

The pacifier can be a fantastic tool for newborns and babies to help them to relax and fall asleep. I actually highly encourage introducing a pacifier to newborns and have found that it helps many newborns extend their sleep. The reason for this is because newborns have an instinct to suck. It’s what helps them latch on and get the milk they need. But sometimes, they don’t always need milk, just comfort. This is called non-nutritive sucking. Non-nutritive sucking includes sucking of fingers, pacifiers, and other objects. It is considered to be a totally normal part of fetal and neonatal development. In fact, the fetus starts the suck and swallow movement as early as 12-16 weeks in uterus! Read a study on non-nutritive sucking here.

Studies have also shown that the pacifier has been found to significantly reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). See references at the end of the blog.

However, after 4-5 months old, it can start to become a bit of a challenge for some babies. If you've noticed you're playing the paci dance all night long, it may be time to drop it, but here are a couple of options for you!

IF YOU WANT TO KEEP THE PACIFIER:

  1. At bedtime, you can place them down with the paci. When replacing the pacifier put it in their little hands and guide it towards their mouth so they slowly learn to do it themselves. This can take a long time and often requires patience, but eventually this will teach them that they can do it themselves!

  2. Help baby practice picking up and replacing the paci during the day. This is typically not something that is too helpful on very young babies. Spread a handful of pacifier’s on the floor during tummy time. Guide their hands to the pacifier and then pop it in their mouth using their hands. Continue doing this until it becomes a fun little game. The more you play, the more practice they will get, and the more confident they’ll become in replacing their pacifier during the night.

  3. At night, make sure to have a bunch of paci's in the bed at night so they can easily find it!

 

IF YOU THINK IT MIGHT BE TIME TO DROP THE PACIFIER

We introduced a pacifier to my first daughter at about 7 weeks old when I began researching the science and understanding of newborn sleep. It was an amazing tool and aided in getting her longer stretches of sleep.

However, by 4-5 months she was out of the swaddle and wiggling all over the place, the paci was falling out and we were up every hour again playing the pacifier dance. It felt like whenever I replaced it, she would spit it out in frustration.

If this sounds like you, then it may be a good time to drop it!

We decided to drop it and it literally took a day and she had forgotten all about it. Ever since then she has had much more consistent long stretches of sleep, and I do not regret the decision at all.

The best time to drop a pacifier is between 4-6 months old OR when you can talk to them about it (usually 2.5-3 years old). Otherwise it can be really hard on them.


OK, BUT HOW DO I DO THIS??

Well, it isn't complicated. You just drop it cold turkey. You can do this a few days before you begin sleep teaching so they have some time to get used to it or just do it on night one.

My biggest piece of advice is: Don't go back and forth! This is so confusing to them. Having the pacifier in the day and then it being taken away at bedtime or nap time is confusing. 

Consistency equals safety to our babies, so it’s really important for you to be consistent with this. It will be MUCH easier on you, and much kinder to them.

When dropping the pacifier, start at BEDTIME, and continue with naps the next day. The need for sleep is much higher at bedtime, so the sleep pressure will help them to adjust a little more compared to naptime.

They may need more help with rocking or cuddling for a few days, but I PROMISE you they will forget all about it quickly, and after sleep teaching they will get much longer stretches! It also may take them much longer to fall asleep initially too. But be consistent with it!


SO HERE’S A QUICK RECAP:

  1. Pacifiers are great!! Until they’re not.

  2. If you want to keep the pacifier, follow the above steps to help them become more independent with it!

  3. If you’re wanting to drop it, DON’T GO BACK AND FORTH! In all honesty, it’s mean and confusing. Make a decision and be with it 100%!

  4. The best time to drop the pacifier is BEFORE 6 months or after about 2-3 years when you can talk to them about it.

  5. As always, consistency is key!


IF YOU JUST FEEL LIKE YOU’RE CONSTANTLY STRUGGLING WITH SLEEP IN GENERAL…THAT’S WHAT I’M HERE FOR!

I work with families JUST LIKE YOU every single day. Families who are up every 2 hours, every 4 hours, replacing the pacifier, nursing, whatever it is, I can help you go from surviving to thriving! I can help you get your baby/toddler sleeping 11-13 hours straight (with age appropriate feedings).

I can help you feel confident in your child's sleep!

CITATIONS:

Feştilă, D., Ghergie, M., Muntean, A., Matiz, D., & Şerb Nescu, A. (2014). Suckling and non-nutritive sucking habit: what should we know?. Clujul medical (1957), 87(1), 11–14.

Franco P, Scaillet S, Wermenbol V, Valente F, Groswasser J, Kahn A. The influence of a pacifier on infants’ arousals from sleep. J Pediatr. 2000;136(6):775–779[PubMed]

Li, D.-K., Willinger, M., Petitti, D. B., Odouli, R., Liu, L., & Hoffman, H. J. (2006, January 5). Use of a dummy (pacifier) during sleep and risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): Population based case-control study. The BMJ.

Moon, R. Y., Darnall, R. A., Feldman-Winter, L., Goodstein, M. H., & Hauck, F. R. (2016, November 1). SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. American Academy of Pediatrics.

Moon, R. Y., Tanabe, K. O., Yang, D. C., Young, H. A., & Hauck, F. R. (2012). Pacifier use and SIDS: evidence for a consistently reduced risk. Maternal and child health journal, 16(3), 609–614.

Weiss PP, Kerbl R. The relatively short duration that a child retains a pacifier in the mouth during sleep: implications for sudden infant death syndrome. Eur J Pediatr. 2001;160(1):60–70[PubMed]

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