Are pacifiers a helpful sleep tool for babies and children? Or are they sleep props that only causes sleep problems?
Pacifiers are a really interesting device because one day they can be your biggest savior as parents of young babies. And then the next day, they are the bane of your existence. At one point, I wanted to burn every single one of these within a 500 mile radius of my home!
Pacifiers are fantastic for newborn babies under the age of 3-4 months because babies in this age range have a very strong sucking reflex. This means that offering a newborn baby a pacifier to suck on can really help calm the baby down! If you’re breastfeeding, introducing a pacifier can help prevent you from becoming a human pacifier, which can be exhausting.
There’s also some research correlating the use of a pacifier in newborn babies to a decrease risk in SIDS. The current theory behind this phenomenon is that pacifiers prevent a newborn baby from going into a deep sleep. Falling into a deep sleep can be hazardous for a newborn baby if something is obstructing their breathing. Because the use of a pacifier keeps the baby in a lighter sleep, the baby can easily wake himself up in the event of a problem!
Pacifiers can become very problematic around the 3-4 month mark. This is when babies become aware that they have fallen asleep with the pacifier in their mouth and that it’s fallen out! This might become a huge problem for you because your 4 month old likely doesn’t have the fine motor skills to put the pacifier back in his mouth on his own. This means that YOU are stuck doing this for him instead!
Once your baby is older and reaches that 8-10 month age range, many babies develop fine motor skills that are strong enough to grab the pacifier on their own, without your assistance. So once your baby reaches this milestone, the pacifier shouldn’t be a problem anymore. The pacifier is usually only problematic for babies in the 3-6 month age range who rely on the pacifier to fall asleep but don’t have the fine motor skills to replace it on their own just yet.
If you have a baby in the 3-6 month age range who heavily relies on the pacifier for sleep purposes, you have two main options moving forward:
- Wait it out. Sometimes the pacifier isn’t too much of a disruption to a baby’s sleep. So if you’re only replacing the pacifier once or twice a night, you can choose to keep things as is. That magical day WILL come that your baby learns to replace the pacifier on his own.
- Teach your baby how to fall asleep without it. This is very doable! You’re going to want to remove the pacifier cold turkey as this is the most effective solution. Pick a sleep training method that you’re comfortable with and stick to it like glue!
Now, you can always reintroduce the pacifier to your baby when she’s older and she can replace it on her own. So keep in mind that teaching your baby how to fall asleep without the pacifier at bedtime doesn’t mean you need to get rid of the pacifier forever!