How to Sleep Train Your Baby: Is the Pacifier Bad?

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As a pediatric sleep consultant in Philadelphia’s Main Line, the most common question I get — whether in-person or via email — is an obvious one: how to sleep train your baby. What many people don’t realize is that the answer varies depending on the variables, which include everything from the baby to the nursery setup. Today I’m tackling a common sleep training question: is the pacifier bad?

Like many new moms, you likely had a pacifier thrust at you as you were getting ready to leave the hospital, if not sooner. And there is definitely nothing wrong with pacifiers — they may serve a useful purpose when it comes to sleep. In fact, the Mayo Clinic reports that pacifiers may help reduce the risk of SIDS in newborns. But when you move beyond the newborn stage and the nights are still rough, it may be time to contemplate infant sleep training.

This is where pacifiers move out of the grey area for me. I’m all for using pacifiers with your newborn, for multiple reasons, but if the pacifier becomes a sleep interrupter it might be time to ditch the pacifier. Don’t get me wrong, many families have babies who have no issues with losing their pacifiers when they sleep. They just continue on as if nothing happened, or have found a different way to self-soothe, in place of the pacifier. If that’s the case, I wouldn’t suggest changing a thing. However, let share an example of a client who came to me after the pacifier became a hindrance to establishing healthy sleep skills.

I had a couple reach out to me with a scenario I’ll call, “waiting for the other pacifier to fall.” Each night the parents would put their little one down in the crib with 17 pacifiers. (Yes, you read that correctly — 17) Throughout the night, neither parent was able to reach a deep, restful sleep because they were too busy counting pacifier drops. “Thunk, thunk, thunk….”

Once the 16th pacifier hit the hardwood floor, they knew they had to go in and retrieve the pacifiers from the floor and put them back in the crib with their infant. Why, you ask? Because each time their little one ran out of pacifiers, she would fuss until one of her parents “plugged” a new pacifier into her mouth. Can you imagine?

When it comes to pacifiers, sleep training toddler is a little trickier. By this time, your toddler has developed a habit that will likely be hard to break. Disrupted sleep is serious enough, but prolonged pacifier use can cause dental and speech issues. All of this is to say that no, pacifiers are not necessarily bad, but there are situations that necessitate ditching the pacifier. So, if your little one’s pacifier is standing between her and a good night’s sleep, call me. I can help you ditch the pacifier and get everyone back on track with healthy, restful sleep.

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