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How To Drop The Pacifier For Good

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help baby stop using pacifier

Love them or hate them, there is one thing that is true about pacifiers: eventually it will be time to drop it the pacifier. What is one parent's saving grace at night time is another parent's source of frustration and fatigue.

Regardless of how you feel about your child's pacifier, there two prevailing questions that most parents have:

1. When to stop using the pacifier

2. How to stop using the pacifier

When To Stop Using The Pacifier

Really, it is up to you. I know, I know; that is super vague but it is the truth! 

The good news is that there are a few guidelines that may help you decide the right time for your family to drop the pacifier. 

When the SIDS risk decreases

The vast majority of SIDS cases occur between 1-4 months of age, with 90% occuring before 6 months of age.  The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends offering a young babies a paci for sleep as it can reduce the risk of SIDS.

It is important for me to pause here and note that not offering a paci does not increase the risk of SIDS. Some babies never like them and that is fine! The AAP specifically says not to worry if your little one does not take a pacifier.  The AAP also states the paci is protective when initially falling asleep but that it does not need to be replaced if it falls out.

Before object permanence kicks in

 Another benefit to dropping the pacifier around 6 months is that object permanence, when a baby knows an object continues to exist even when they cannot see it or here it, starts to develop between 4-7 months of age. This means it is often much easier to drop the pacifier around 6 months that it is when your baby is older.

Early enough to avoid dental problems

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends ditching the pacifier by 36 months of age to help avoid future dental problems.  This is when, no matter how attached your little one is to the paci, it is time for goodbye.

Some pediatricians and pediatric dentists recommend ditching the pacifier by 18 months of age to avoid dental problems.

When there are no major changes or transitions

The paci is a comfort object for many children, so is usually best to drop the pacifier when there are no transitions occurring such as moving or a new sibling being born. 

When your toddler is emotionally ready

The most challenging time to say goodbye to the pacifier is typically between 12-24 months. At that age, children are often very attached to it and dropping the pacifier can be challenging.

When you are ready

If getting up multiple times a night to replace the paci is no longer sustainable for you, then it is time to drop the paci! 

Pacifiers are great because babies love them and find sucking to be soothing. But, until 7-8 months of age, babies are typically unable to replace the pacifier on their own. This leaves you on the hook if your baby wakes up in the middle of the night missing his or her pacifier.

No matter how you feel about the pacifier, it is a sleep association. A baby who is used to falling asleep with a pacifier will likely have a hard time falling back asleep during the night without it. If your baby is a miracle baby under 7-8 months who uses a paci at bedtime and sleeps all night? Give yourself a hug and go celebrate! Trust me, that is not the norm. 

Sleep associations are not inherently bad or good. They are fine if they are sustainable and working for your family. It is time to change if a sleep association is no longer working for you. 

If you are sleep training and your baby is yet able to replace the paci on his or her own, I strongly recommend saying goodbye to the paci as part of your sleep training plan. 

How To Drop The Pacifier

Once again, you have options! This time, the options change with age.

For babies under 8 months, cold turkey typically works best. Expect a few challenging bedtimes and soon enough your baby will forget the paci ever existed, sucking their finger if they still have the urge to suck. 

For children 8-24 months, who use the paci both awake and for sleep, a more gradual approach often works well. To do this, you first ditch the paci for awake times, keeping it for sleep only. If your child is super attached to the paci, start with one awake period a day, such as the first hour after waking in the morning, and gradually increase the amount of paci-free time.  Once your little one is a pro at being paci-free during the day, it is time to drop the pacifier at night when you are ready. 

For dropping the paci at night time, some parents find it helpful to snip the tip, essentially making sucking less soothing. This can work well but it is important to make sure no little pieces can break off and be swallowed by your child.

For children 2-3 years old, you can follow the same gradual process as above. But, with this older age group it is important to help them buy into your plan. When your child does a great job being paci-free, praise your child to his or her favorite stuffed animals. Pick a date on the calendar to be your "bye bye paci" date and talk it up, perhaps exchanging the paci for a new lovey to sleep with at night. 

There is one thing I want you to try not to do: equate paci with being a baby and being paci-free with being a big kid. Being a "big kid" sometimes feels a bit scary to a young child. Also, it can create a sense of jealousy towards baby siblings who get to keep their paci simply by virtue of being a baby. 

Patience Is Key

As with many things parenting, patience is important when it comes to dropping the pacifier. Some children will easily relinquish it while others need a bit more time.

There is rarely a need for the pacifier to be stopped immediately, and it is okay if you decide to stop and start again in a few weeks or months. 

I can promise you one thing: I have yet to meet a parent whose child took their pacifier to college with them. Eventually, the paci will be a thing of the past.

Connect with me on Instagram (@growingsleepers) and tell me about your little paci lover! 

Happy sleeping, 

Lauren

Your pediatric sleep consultant

Are you ready to make sleep a thing at your house, but feel stuck or unsure how? Working with parents 1-1 to take the stress out of baby and toddler sleep is my joy.

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