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.
Sleep training while your baby still uses the pacifier at night isn’t really sleep training.
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.
If both of these options make you uneasy, you can try one last thing before eliminating the pacifier. Scatter 7 or 8 pacifiers all around your baby’s crib and see if he can manage to find one at night when he wakes up. If this helps, you’ve solved your problem. If it doesn’t, it’s time to say goodbye to the pacifier.
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.