Pacifiers – Suck on This!

Parents frequently look at their shoes when we ask them if their baby uses a pacifier, as if it’s something to be ashamed of. Many moms think of it as their “dirty little secret.” Well, guess what? Our kids used pacifiers and we would do it again!

There is some controversy about the use of pacifiers stemming mostly from lactation consultants who can scare new moms into thinking that their baby will develop nipple confusion if he is given anything other than a breast to suck. I understand…I was told the same thing and was concerned. I was having enough trouble nursing without creating any confusion for my daughter! So, I waited for about a week before I tried the paci. My mom was actually the one who “trained” Margo to self-soothe with it and it was a dream. Suddenly, Margo was sleeping more and seemed calmer.

“Sucking” is one of Karp’s “5 S’s” and it’s an important one! If we don’t want our babies to use the breast to soothe 24/7, then we need to give them an alternative. Pacifiers are very helpful in this regard. Melissa’s children used pacifiers and were champion nursers. My daughter was not a great nurser but that had nothing to do with the pacifier (but that’s another story). Teaching our babies to self-soothe is the first (and maybe most important) lesson we teach our children and we believe that it’s our job to give them the tools they need to do so.

Aside from the obvious soothing benefits, there are some additional benefits to pacifier use. Pacifier use while falling asleep helps reduce the risk of SIDS according to research published in the medical journal Pediatrics. Pacifiers also create more saliva, which can help soothe acid reflux. And recent research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies shows that pacifier use does not interfere with breastfeeding and may even help.

Of course, as with all tools, pacifiers should be used correctly. After your baby is around 12-months-old, we believe it’s important to set limits. For us, the pacifier was used for sleeping (naps and at night) and in the car. We did not want the pacifier to impede her speech development (my mom is a speech therapist). I have to admit that Margo used her pacifier for far longer than I ever imagined she would and it was a bit of a sore spot for my husband, who wanted to take it away long before I felt it was a good idea. But we were always consistent about limiting its use. Our dentist also shared with us that she prefers that children use a pacifier rather than a thumb since a pacifier can be taken away! She told us that it would take three months to “undo” the movement of the teeth caused by the pacifier and, in fact, Margo’s teeth have pushed back since she stopped using it.

Many parents ask us what to do when the pacifier falls out and a baby cries because she can’t put it back in her mouth or how to manage taking away the paci.  As always, one answer does not fit all situations but generally, it’s ok to quietly sneak into your baby’s room to replace the paci as long as you do not otherwise engage with him. As soon as your baby has arm and hand control and is unswaddled, you can place a number of pacifiers in the crib in the hopes that he will be able to “find” one and replace it himself.

As far as when to end pacifier use, only you and your family will know when the time is right.  When you are ready, many families have had success with the “Paci Fairy” coming and leaving a gift in place of all of the collected pacifiers. We had success with cutting a hole in the paci at which point our daughter immediately rejected it.

Helping you and your family get enough sleep is our priority and we believe that using tools to do that is nothing to be ashamed of! As with most aspects of child-rearing, setting limits is important, and pacifiers are no different.

7 Responses to “Pacifiers – Suck on This!”

  1. I got rid of the “ninja” by cutting off the part that goes in your mouth and let her carry around the outside plastic part which lasted a few days. She was down to the last favorite one at bedtime only and had already started a hole in it from biting it so I took a pair of scissors and cut it off altogether and handed back to her. She never asked me for it or another one.

  2. michelle

    I struggled with the whole pacifier thing with all 3 of my kids, I hated to see toddlers wandering around “plugged in”. The last was born when my eldest two were 5 and 7 and I had an hours round trip commute to get them to school (and back) every day. Unlike most babies she would not drop off in the car, rather scream for the full hour there and back. When I told my mum that I was struggling to keep the car on the road for the return leg of the trip she went right out and bought me “Dr. Dodie”!
    At first she wouldn’t take it, I think that was because she was breast fed and would prefer the real thing, but perseverance (and having other people offer it) payed off and she would be asleep within minutes of popping it in.
    It was only ever available for car trips, nap time and bedtime and always given with another comfort object (in her case a muslin cloth), if she ever asked for either I would pop her in her cot with both and if she ever wanted to bring them out of her cot she was popped back in! It was truly miraculous for our family. She gave it up when she was approaching her 3rd birthday with the “Paci Fairy” story.
    My eldest daughter was a shocking sleeper who didn’t manage more than an hour of unaccompanied sleep for the first year and didn’t really sleep through until her baby sister came along when she was 2.5 years old. The second would put herself to sleep when nobody was looking – literally! I would put her down to get her big sister dressed and when I turned around she would be asleep. She slept in the car – every journey – until she was 5! They’re all so very different, but habits made early are the hardest to break!

    Good luck Mummies!

  3. Mariana Patin

    What if your little one spits the paci out everytime. How do you trainher so she can suck on it and use it for comfort instead og always using your nipple

    • Melissa Zdrodowski

      Great question! If your little one is really resisting, wait a while and try again later. Offer the paci when you are sure baby isn’t hungry or she may get frustrated. If she’s already fussy, try to calm her in other ways first, then offer the paci. You can try putting a little breast milk or formula on the pacifier’s nipple. Try different types of paci – different shapes and different materials – to see if she prefers one type over another. Often babies like pacis shaped like their mother’s own nipple.

  4. I have also a son(will be 2 years old this coming april) and want to get rid on his pacifier and luckily I read Melissa’s comment will try this one and hope it will help and I know it will.. Thanks Melissa for the tip and to Debbie for great post.

  5. Melissa Zdrodowski

    Our fabulous pediatrician gave us a great strategy for getting rid of pacifiers. Worked with both our kids. We collected all the pacis (no cheating!), took them and our daughter to the toy store, and used the pacis as “money” to buy the toy she selected. Our daughter actually handed over the bag of pacis in exchange for the toy. Then that night, when she asked for a paci at bedtime, we just reminded her about the new toy and said she could sleep with that if she wanted. After two nights, she didn’t ask again! We did the same with our son, who has a very different personality, and it worked equally well. But be sure to get rid of all the pacis so you aren’t tempted to reach for one to quiet your kid.

7 Responses to “Pacifiers – Suck on This!”

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