Pacifiers and baby/toddler sleep training. It’s really ok!
Babies/Toddlers, Pacifiers, & Sleep Training… That is the Question
This is definitely a controversial topic.
There are two different schools of thought. A lot will say that babies should ditch their pacifier at an early age and certainly while sleep training.
I, however, have a different stance on the topic.
A little background about me… All three of my boys, now ages 10, 7, and 5 took a pacifier to sleep until age 4.
We limited the pacifier use to only the crib, because we certainly didn’t want our toddlers walking around with a pacifier in their mouth all day long. (There is potential for speech delays when used all day long.)
My boys found so much comfort in having a pacifier to sleep with, and it was most definitely a sleep association. I personally do not think that a pacifier being a sleep association is a bad thing.
So I’m sure you’re wondering, how can I use a paci and make sure that it is not a sleep crutch. A sleep crutch is not a good thing, we all know that. There is definitely a way to use a pacifier and avoid it becoming a crutch.
When I have clients that want to allow their child to have a pacifier I coach them in using a pacifier as a tool and not a prop.
So what the heck is the difference???
Well, I will tell you.
A pacifier is used as a sleep tool when your child has been trying to get back to sleep for a period of time, you have given them the opportunity to fall back to sleep independently which should be about 10 or 15 minutes and they are still struggling. It is time to go check on them and offer some comfort. This is a perfect time to offer the pacifier. In this situation the pacifier is being used as a tool, something that will offer comfort and help little one reset. If it does its job your little one will be happy to receive the pacifier and will be in a good place to attempt falling back to sleep independently., Here is the critical part, get ready..
Once you have walked out of your child’s room or away from your child’s crib if the pacifier falls out of their mouth and they are now letting you know that they are unhappy about that, you wait and give them a fair opportunity to fall back to sleep without you offering the pacifier.
When used in this way your baby will learn how to get back to sleep without a pacifier and it will not be a sleep crutch.
The pacifier will turn into a sleep crutch if you play what I like to call “paci ping-pong”. In this scenario, you are replacing the pacifier all night long. As soon as your baby wakes up you run to the room and give them a pacifier. You get back to your room and your baby is crying. Again you get out of bed to go give them the pacifier and the night continues on like this all night long.
The key is always to provide your little one the opportunity to get back to sleep without offering the pacifier immediately.
Something that I did with my little ones was help them practice replacing the pacifier on their own during playtime, we made it a game. I only did this when they were alert and ready to play.
Once a baby has learned how to find a pacifier and put it in their mouth independently, it is a game changer!
I can honestly say that I remember the night that each of my boys mastered this skill.
Something that we did at about two years old was include saying “Bye-bye” to the paci first thing in the morning and leaving it in the crib. Now that is certainly a personal preference.
I know there are a lot of concerns that involve children’s teeth and what a pacifier can do to their bite. It is a valid and very important concern.
I can say with personal experience that all three of my children had what my husband and I called a paci-grill. Meaning that their four front teeth stuck out a bit caused by the paci sitting in their mouth.
What I can also say is that at age 4, when they happily said goodbye to their paci, within two weeks their teeth looked as though they had never used a pacifier once. Up until age 4 children’s mouths are very malleable. Meaning that they are still growing and forming and once that pacifier has been removed for a consistent period of time which is about two weeks the teeth will go back to where they should be.
I am including a picture of my 10 year old son. He had my phone and took some funny selfies. This shows his funny personality but the reason I am sharing it with you is to show off his beautiful teeth. These are his adult teeth, he has never had braces and you would never guess this child used a pacifier for 4 years.
If families want to eliminate the pacifier at an early age I am 100% supportive and incorporate this transition into their sleep plan.
The reason that I am sharing this, is for the parents who are like me and enjoy the benefits of their little one using a pacifier.
If you are surprised that a sleep consultant would have this stance of using a pacifier please leave please drop a ?!?! in the comments.
If you have questions about how this works more specifically for your child please send me an email firstname.lastname@example.org I would love to explain more in depth.
Your Sleep Bestie,
Feel like you could use more help with your baby or toddler’s sleep. Click the link below to schedule a free consultation. I’d love to chat!
AM Smiles is a highly effective baby sleep coaching service designed for busy families.
I help you harness the power of sleep training to improve the spirits and lives of you and your family through proper rest. I’d love to talk to you about your little one and help you get back to living life well rested! ❤️