Pacifiers (also called 'dummies'), like everything else baby-related it seems, are a great cause for controversy. The decision to use a pacifier is entirely up to you as parents and each baby is different in terms of their settling skills and their preference to use a pacifier or not.
There is no "best" age to introduce a pacifier; some babies have one from newborn, some when they're much older. Some babies have pacifiers for sleep only, some babies have a pacifier to help soothe them during the day.
Pacifiers can definitely be great in your baby sleep toolbox; equally they can start to wreak havoc with your little one's sleep a bit later on. Here, we'll explore these situations and also provide you with a couple of solutions if you want to ditch the pacifier.
In this article:
- When pacifiers work best
- When pacifiers become a nuisance
- Should I get rid of the pacifier?
- How do you get rid of the pacifier?
Stuck with a sleep association? Head towards better sleep!
Found yourself struggling with a sleep association and don't know how to move your baby away from it? Whatever your sleep challenge is, we have a range of gentle settling methods to choose from, along with sleep experts who are available to guide you at every step.
When pacifiers work best
The fact is, pacifiers are great settling tools for younger babies because sucking is extremely comforting. Babies younger than 3 months will resettle and move between sleep cycles a lot easier than older babies and won’t necessarily need the pacifier replaced every time they come out of a sleep cycle. This means a pacifier can be a great way to settle your baby to sleep at the start of each nap or overnight, without having a negative impact on their ability to stay asleep.
For an overtired or overstimulated baby, a pacifier can really help calm them and assist them to sleep - this is especially effective if combined with other settling tools such as a swaddle, white noise and a dark room.
Closer to 7 or 8 months your baby will be able to learn to put the pacifier back in themselves, a skill crucial to them being able to sleep through the night with a pacifier. We REALLY recommend a product called a Snuggin, which is a little comforter that has velcro paws you can attach pacifiers too, making it a lot easier for your baby to find and replace their own pacifier in the night.
When pacifiers become a nuisance
Once your baby is closer to 4 months (and beyond) if they are using a pacifier to go to sleep they might start needing it every time they wake between sleep cycles (45 minutes in the day and every 2 hours at night). This is a lot of pacifier runs! (See this blog for more information about how your baby's sleep changes at 4 months).
Until your baby is able to replace their own pacifier at around 7-8 months old, they will need YOU to replace it for them because they are relying on the pacifier to fall asleep, so much so, that they aren’t able to go back to sleep without it.
If it becomes a problem, 3-4 months is a good age to ditch the pacifier, unless you're happy to ride it out for a few more months until your baby can put it back in themselves.
What can also happen with using the pacifier at night is that it can actually mask genuine hunger - the sucking can trick babies' brain into thinking they are being fed. This can, in itself, lead to more night waking because your baby is genuinely hungry, rather than just waking for the pacifier.
Use of a pacifier can sometimes mean your baby is going to sleep during the day before they're actually properly ready for a nap - especially for younger babies. The sucking is such a strong sleep association it can mean your baby settles to sleep earlier than they should be, which can cause them to catnap due to not being tired enough for a decent sleep.
Should I get rid of the pacifier?
This is a question that doesn't have a very clear cut answer - everyone's situation will be different. Generally speaking, the younger your baby is, the easier it will be to get rid of the pacifier. If your little one is older, the better option is usually to keep the dummy and work on helping them to find and replace it themselves.
How do you get rid of the pacifier?
Check out our tried and tested methods for removing the pacifier in THIS article. We talk you through, step by step, how to remove the pacifier for your baby, or toddler.
If you need help with removing the pacifier or weaning your baby off other unwanted sleep associations (like rocking or feeding to sleep), you'll find more detailed advice in our Little Ones App and our certified sleep consultants can support you every step of the way.