How many times have you heard people share that expression, “I slept like a baby”? I’ll bet you glared at them with fire in your eyes, wanting to yell, “Have you actually GOT a baby?” Here you are, walking around like a zombie because you have not had an unbroken night’s sleep since your princess was born, and all you want to know is how to get a baby to sleep without a pacifier.
The pacifier as we know it today was invented and patented at the turn of the 20th century. I can only imagine that the inventor must have been some sleep-deprived, crazy parent who was tearing his hair out in desperation.
The sucking reflex is one of the most primitive reflexes in newborn babies. When your tiny newborn baby is placed on your breast for the first time, as that nipple goes into their mouth they instinctively will start sucking.
Breastfeeding is not always simple and straightforward. Your baby may find it difficult to latch on at first, and it may take a few feeds before she learns how to do this, but in full-term, healthy infants the sucking reflex is usually there.
When your baby is fretful and unsettled, you will find that suckling soothes and calms her. But obviously, if you are breastfeeding, you cannot sit with your nipple in her mouth all day and all night. The same applies to a bottle in bottle-fed babies.
At times like these, giving the baby a pacifier will help her to self-soothe and fall asleep peacefully. The problem is that she will quickly get used to it, and before you know it she will be so reliant on it that she cannot sleep without it. You will eventually need to find out how to get the baby to sleep without a pacifier.
What Are the Pros Of Using Pacifiers?
Giving your little pudding a pacifier has many advantages. The main pros are
- The tongue is a powerful muscle. Sucking strengthens the tongue and palate. Sucking on a pacifier also strengthens the muscles in the throat, as it encourages swallowing.
- The sucking action is very soothing for a baby and will help to calm a stressed and crying baby.
- Once your baby is able to find her pacifier in the crib and put it in her mouth by herself, she may sleep more peacefully and be less likely to cry during the night.
- Certain studies have shown that using a pacifier can possibly reduce the risk of SIDS, or Sudden Infant death Syndrome. However, a word of caution is needed here. You cannot rely on a pacifier as a means of protection against SIDS.
- A pacifier is a helpful tool when you need to distract your baby. For example, during a visit to the doctor, or for vaccinations at the clinic, it might help to keep the baby calm and prevent her from crying uncontrollably.
- During air travel, sucking on a pacifier can help to reduce the pressure in the baby’s ears, thus avoiding distressing pain for her during the journey.
What Are the Cons for Using Pacifiers?
Of course, anything that has so many advantages will also have its disadvantages. The main cons of a pacifier are
- Your baby will soon become reliant on it, and it will be difficult to get the baby to sleep without a pacifier.
- Tiny babies may become confused and it can initially hinder the breastfeeding process. It will take time for the baby to learn the difference between mommy’s nipple that oozes that yummy, warm milk, and her pacifier that is only for soothing, not drinking.
- If your baby is still using a pacifier after cutting her teeth, it may interfere with the shape of her mouth, which can cause dental problems. There are many so-called ‘orthodontic’ pacifiers on the market, which claim not to affect the teeth, but most do still have some effect because of the pressure that is placed on the jaw and gums.
- Pacifiers have been known to have a negative effect on speech development in babies who use them frequently during the day. It is harder for a baby to talk with a pacifier in her mouth, and her speech may be indistinct and difficult to understand. This can establish a pattern for unclear speech.
How Does Baby Become Reliant On A Pacifier?
As a new Mom desperate for some decent sleep, you have encouraged your little pink bundle to use a pacifier, as you know that she will sleep better while sucking peacefully. But it won’t be long before the habit has taken hold, and then she is hooked. She cannot fall asleep without it, and if it falls out while she is asleep she will wake up crying.
You may find yourself in the difficult position of needing to be close by whenever she is sleeping so that you can quickly pop it back in as soon as she whimpers. Of course, this means that your sleep will now be disturbed BECAUSE of the pacifier that was originally introduced to encourage better sleep. A tricky conundrum! So what do you do?
When Should You Wean Baby Off Her Pacifier?
Just as important as how to get a baby to sleep without a pacifier is when to start the weaning process. Many experts say that the younger your baby is, the easier this process is. However, if you wait until your little darling has reached the toddler stage and is already using and understanding language, it is often easier because you can explain it to her. You may even be able to introduce a reward system or a star chart.
If you do not want your baby to become a two-year-old walking around with her ‘paci’ permanently plugged into her mouth, it is better to wean her off it before she reaches one year old. This is not an easy process, but it can be done. I have some useful tips for you.
How To Get Baby To Sleep Without A Pacifier
There are two methods that can be employed. If you have the nerves for it, you can force the baby to go ‘cold turkey’, but I do NOT advocate this method. You would have to take away the pacifier one day, and that’s it. She will no doubt cry frantically when you put her to sleep, and the crying may go on for as long as an hour before she passes out from sheer exhaustion.
This will happen every time you put her to sleep for a few days, but each time the crying will be shorter and shorter until she eventually falls asleep without it. If she wakes up crying, you will also have to leave her to cry until she falls asleep again. By the time she is used to sleeping without her paci, you will very likely be a total wreck.
I think that this method is quite brutal, and I do not like leaving a baby to cry. I recommend gentle weaning off the paci. She will still cry, but it will not be as traumatic. Here are the steps that I recommend.
- If the baby hasn’t already got a favorite soft toy or blanket that she sleeps with, start by introducing one. Make sure that it is within easy reach in her crib. I advise trying to get at least two the same so that if one gets lost, or needs to be washed, you have a duplicate.
- Start by training her to sleep without her paci during daytime naps, when you don’t mind being around to comfort her.
- The first few times, let her fall asleep with it as usual but remove it as soon as she is sound asleep. If she wakes up crying soon afterward then pat her and stroke her gently while talking to her softly and reassuringly. Keep giving her the soft toy or blanket to cuddle. She will eventually settle back to sleep.
- Once you have got her taking a daytime nap without her paci, you can start using the same procedure at night. Try to follow the same routine every night, so that she understands that it is time to sleep.
- We suggest a routine of dinner, bath time, followed by a feed and then a short cuddle with a story. The sound of your voice reading softly to her will have a calming effect. You can then either hold her as she falls asleep or put her down quietly in her crib.
- It will take a few nights, and she will probably cry quite a bit, but if you talk to her gently and make sure that she has her teddy or blanky, she will eventually learn how to self-soothe.
Getting a baby to sleep without a pacifier is not an easy task for parents, but it can most definitely be done. The first few nights will be hard, but once you have got her used to the new routine, you will not look back.