The binky. The bubba. The paci. The wubba. The ninny. Regardless of what you call your baby’s pacifier, most parents have the same questions and concerns around them:
Are pacifiers safe to use?
If I let my baby use a pacifier now, will I ever be able to get rid of it?
Is it bad to let my baby sleep with their pacifier?
Before we get into how pacifiers impact bedtime, let’s bust a few binky myths.
MYTH #1: Breastfed babies should never use pacifiers.
Speaking as a mom who is going on 17 months of breastfeeding her youngest, I can say this is 100% false. Just because you are or are planning to breastfeed doesn’t mean you have to throw out all those pacifiers you got as baby shower gifts.
The truth: pacifiers have been shown to lower the risk of SIDS by more than 50%, so it’s actually encouraged to use one with your newborn (especially during sleep)—breastfed or not. However, you should wait to introduce the pacifier until you and baby have gotten the hang of breastfeeding to avoid any milk supply mishaps or nipple-confusion.
MYTH #2: Pacifiers lead to dental issues
I can’t promise that your kid won’t need braces down the line. But I can promise you it won’t be because you let them suck on a pacifier as an infant.
The truth: For most babies, as long as you’re eliminating the pacifier within the first 2 years, you won’t have any issues. We’ll get into when to wean them off the pacifier later.
MYTH #3: Once you start, you’ll never be able to stop.
Other than that weird period of time in the ‘90s when pacifiers became a fashion trend, you don’t typically see adults walking around with a pacifier in their mouth. So I think we can all agree that this myth has been busted.
The truth: You might not be able to quit cold-turkey, but it is possible to wean your baby off the pacifier. It’s all about the timing (see Paci tip #3 below!).
Now that your worst binky fears have been busted, let’s get to the good stuff: sleep.
My house is pro-pacifier. My first two girls used one (and I tried so hard to get my baby to take one, but she wouldn’t) and it was often a real lifesaver! A pacifier is called a pacifier because it does just that: helps to pacify your fussy baby, which can come in extra handy during sleep.
That being said, a pacifier is technically a sleep crutch. Which means if your baby can’t learn to fall asleep without it, it could start causing extra mid-night wakeups.
Here’s my tips for making sure your baby’s pacifier doesn’t become a nightmare.
Paci tip #1: Stay safe
First and foremost, make sure your pacifier usage complies with safe sleep practices. Don’t use those cute pacifier cords or clips in the crib—they might be helpful when baby’s awake, but at bedtime they’re a hazard. Also make sure it’s the right size for your baby’s mouth and that you’re washing it often to keep it germ-free.
Paci tip #2: Practice
The reason pacifiers become a problem for sleep is because they tend to fall out of babies’ mouths while snoozing. Paci falls out, baby wakes up, baby cries, and suddenly you’ve made 500 hundred trips to their crib to put the pacifier back in. Here you will quickly learn the paci dance 😉
Avoid this drama by making sure you let your baby practice replacing their own pacifier during the day. The sooner they learn to put it back in their own mouth, the sooner you’ll be able to get a full sleep session in between feeds. You can also put a handful of pacis in your baby’s crib to make it easier for them to find and replace it on their own!
Once your baby learns how to replace the pacifier on their own, chances are it won’t disrupt sleep at all! And there’s no reason why you can’t let them use it as a tool to help them self-soothe to sleep.
Paci tip #3: Know when to wean
The best time to think about weaning off the pacifier is between 6 and 9 months old. After 6 months the risk of SIDS drastically drops, so the extra protection that the paci gives isn’t as necessary.
Plus, you’ll have already conquered other sleep challenges, like the 4 month sleep regression and learning to roll, where the pacifier might have been helpful to have around. You might have even already kicked off sleep training!
Babies don’t yet understand object permanence before 9 months old, but once they do, they’ll start getting attached to the object (the pacifier) itself and it’ll be a lot harder to kick the habit.
With the perfect sleep environment, a consistent bedtime routine, and a little bit of patience, you can gradually wean your baby off their pacifier and help them learn to self-soothe in other ways.
If you’re ready to get your baby to sleep on their own—with or without a pacifier—let me help you get there! Get a custom sleep plan for your child based on your family’s needs or check out my sleep guides.