Why Sleep Training with a Pacifier isn’t Sleep Training

 

 

Pacifiers can be a godsend.

 

Especially in those early newborn weeks, when a baby can cry incessantly for no apparent reason. When a baby is still crying after being fed, burped and changed, pacifiers can work soothing magic.

The reason pacifiers are so helpful is because babies love to suck. Many babies are seen sucking their thumbs in utero, through ultrasounds. Sucking has a calming effect on babies and can help them cope with the overwhelming world that surrounds them.

Pacifiers can also be an amazing distraction during stressful times, such as during vaccines or a painful diaper change in the middle of a bad rash.

Pacifiers really are a wonderful tool and can come in handy many times.

However…

Sleep training while your baby still uses the pacifier at night isn’t really sleep training.

Here’s why.

Sleep training means teaching your baby to go from being awake to asleep without your help.

Most babies need help replacing the pacifier when it falls out. If your baby is crying for you to come to replace that pacifier 5 times each night (or even once) they are not sleeping independently! No matter what, they still need you to come and help them. That means they can’t sleep on their own.

If your baby is old enough to replace the pacifier on their own, that’s definitely better than him calling for you. However, he will still spend a considerable amount of time hunting in the dark crib for the missing pacifier and may end becoming fully awake in that time, causing it to take even longer for him to fall back asleep. A pacifier interrupts sleep in both scenarios.

In light of this, I highly, highly highly recommend ditching the pacifier when you’re ready to sleep train. (Keep in mind that this applies to babies over 4 months of age.)

Did that thought send shivers down your spine?

I get it. It’s the only thing that calms your baby – how can you even think of getting rid of it?!

Every baby can sleep without a pacifier, once they’re taught how.

There is more than one way to do it. Here are two options:

Go Cold Turkey. Simply stop offering the pacifier at bedtime. This is the quickest, easiest way to eliminate your baby’s dependency on the pacifier. It takes a bit of courage, and you may hear some crying for the first night or two. When your baby cries, give them time to learn how to soothe themselves with something that you won’t have to come and replace 5 times each night. Many babies learn to suck their thumbs or other fingers, and some babies find comfort in other interesting ways, like rubbing their bedsheets or stroking their hair.

 

 Try the Pantley Pull Off. If you prefer a more gentle method, you can try the Pantley Pull Off, developed by Elizabeth Pantley. This method gradually eliminates the pacifier over the course of a few nights. The first night, remove the pacifier when your baby is just on the brink of sleep. The second night, remove it gently right before she falls asleep. The next night, remove it when she is a bit more awake but still drowsy. Repeat this until baby falls asleep on her own without the pacifier. This is an extremely gradual approach which can take up to a week to complete.  

It’s fine to offer the pacifier to your baby during the daytime as a soothing tool. Just make sure not to give it to him during naps!

Pacifiers can be great in the beginning, and can really help soothe a fussy newborn.

When it comes to sleep training, however, if your baby needs to have the pacifier replaced, it can slow down or even prevent the process of learning how to sleep. Do yourself and your baby a favor and don’t give her a pacifier when it’s time to sleep.

Some important safety notes about pacifiers:

  • Using a pacifier at night is seemingly correlated with a reduced risk of SIDS. This article is geared towards babies 4 months and up, when the risk of SIDS drops sharply.
  • Never attach the pacifier to your baby when she is in her crib. This can be extremely dangerous as the ribbon connecting the pacifier to the clip can get tangled around a baby’s neck, posing a risk of strangulation.
By | 2019-08-08T18:20:09-04:00 June 27th, 2018|Categories: Sleep Training|8 Comments

8 Comments

  1. Mia August 8, 2019 at 9:45 am - Reply

    We have a different problem…our baby girl, 10 weeks old, falls asleep without pacifier for every single nap. However, watching her on baby monitor, when she wakes up for app. half an hour, she simply will not go to sleep again without it…despite the fact she fell asleep with no paci and therefore should not associate paci with sleep. Any suggestions? To try Pantley pull out when she can not fall asleep again, or to leave it as it is, maybe she will come around with time? I mean, it seems logical to me if she can fall asleep with no paci, then she should be able to put herself to sleep again without it…

    This seems not to be the issue by night, as she goes to sleep without paci and sleeps for 5 hour stretch, so I assume she falls asleep on her own….

    • Riki Taubenblat August 8, 2019 at 6:33 pm - Reply

      Great question, Mia!

      This post is geared towards babies that are developmentally ready for sleep training- 4 months and older. Before that age, pacifiers are generally recommended if they help your baby sleep better, because they are correlated with a reduced risk of SIDS.

      Another good thing to keep in mind is that short naps are normal for newborns – babies don’t learn how to link sleep cycles together during the day until about 4 or 5 months old, which is when naps start to lengthen. If the pacifier helps your baby lengthen her nap now without
      much effort, I would say it’s fine to pop in back in. If it gets to the point where it’s happening excessively, you can definitely experiment with the Pantley Pull Off.

      Best of luck with that!

  2. Sonia Kapadia August 9, 2019 at 6:46 pm - Reply

    Hi there,
    We have a 9 week old baby who we have just started to give a paci to to sleep’ in the evening as she just won’t stop nursing to sleep. She’s made herself sick from eating too much. She’s slept really well after having the pacifier put in and I take it out once she’s fully asleep and don’t replace it in the night.
    And it means she’s gone to sleep awake but drowsy in her bassinet. Is this a good thing? Is this sleep training at all as she knows she’s going to sleep not in my arms?
    Also why do you recommend not using them for naps?
    Thanks!!!

    • Riki August 12, 2019 at 3:22 pm - Reply

      Hi Sonia,

      Sounds like you’re doing great work with your baby’s sleep!

      For babies that are 4 months and up, I don’t advise pacifiers for naps, for the same reason that I don’t advise them for nights- they can disrupt independent sleep. However, pacifiers are great for newborns, who are not developmentally ready for sleep training. What you’re currently doing is building a great sleep habit with your newborn, falling asleep in her bassinet. This will serve your baby very well as she gets older. Keep that up!

  3. Samantha August 10, 2019 at 9:15 am - Reply

    Sorry question! So she usually goes to sleep with it.. but when she loses it we don’t replace it. If she cried.. we let her cry it out usually in 5 min (surprisingly) she is okay… For her naps at least. When she rolls over she always loses it… Then cried calms herself and falls asleep.. should I just remove all together even though she is learning in a way to sleep without it?

    • Riki August 12, 2019 at 3:28 pm - Reply

      Hi Samantha,

      It’s up to you and how you feel. If you see that your baby is learning to fall asleep shortly after the pacifier falls out and you don’t mind that crying process, you can hold onto it.
      To me, it sounds like she’s frustrated when it falls out so you may want to offer it to your baby only during awake time, when you can be there to replace it.
      It also depends on how old your baby is. If she’s under 16 weeks, there’s no rush to get rid of it. If she’s older than that, it’s really your call and how you feel about the crying. Good luck Samantha!

  4. Mia August 13, 2019 at 12:45 pm - Reply

    Thank you for the fast reply 🙂

    We are still having good night sleeps, with no paci at all, I just put my baby in the crib, so I am happy about this at least.

    I have been trying the Pantley Pull Off for past few day for naps, but I am not sure if I am doing it right. I am eager to wean her of paci for naps because it is sometimes a problem when the paci falls out.

    It does not take much for my baby to close her eyes- I close the curtains, swaddle her, put white noise on, and if she roots for paci, I give it to her (if she starts crying.) But she then closes her eyes immediately, so I put her in the crib…and take the paci out, once her eyes are already closed. Do closed eyes mean she is already asleep? And that I am taking paci out too late?

    I mean, I know she is not in her deep sleep, but is it worth an effort if her eyes are shut?

    Thanks a lot.

    • Riki August 13, 2019 at 7:30 pm - Reply

      Each day you want to remove the pacifier a bit earlier in the process. If you’ve been taking it out once her eyes are closed, then move onto the next step, taking it out as her eyes are starting to close. Then move onto the next step, taking it out before her eye close, and then stop offering it altogether.

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