Let’s talk about pacifiers! As expectant parents, we often wonder whether we should introduce pacifiers for sleep, when we know it can become a big sleep association and that long term use can impact breastfeeding, teeth misalignment, ear infections and slow speech. Like anything, there are risks and benefits.

You may have decided from word go that your baby would have a pacifier, or introduced it later on to help with pain or falling asleep. Whatever your reason, there is no judgement here!

Today we are going to talk about the pros and cons of having a pacifier and how to get rid of it when you’re ready.


Pros of pacifiers for sleep:

  • With newborns, pacifiers trigger the calming reflex and therefore helps babies relax and drift into dreamland.
  • They can be used for pain relief.
  • Pacifiers lower the heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels and it can even lessen crying after painful procedures. This ties in with why my son used his pacifier.
  • According to the American Academy of Pediatrics pacifiers can reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.
  • Pacifiers are easier to wean off of than thumb sucking. You can take the pacifier out of sight (therefore out of mind) but the thumb is always there.

Cons of pacifiers for sleep:

  • Using a pacifier can cause nipple confusion if used before breast or bottle-feeding is well established. It requires a very different sucking movement than a real nipple.
  • Pacifiers prevent deep sleep.
  • Pediatric dentists suggest they can cause dental problems if used after 2 years of age.
  • Increased risk of ear infections (otitis media). The American Academy of Family Physicians recommends weaning babies from pacifiers after 6 months of age to prevent ear infections.
  • It interferes with independent sleep and can make it harder to transition between sleep cycles (and the chances of night wakings and short naps) especially when the pacifier falls out of their mouth and they have to find it again to get back to sleep.
  • A toddler’s pacifier use can cause speech problems and delays.

What not do to:

If your toddler starts throwing thier pacifier out of the crib, do not go in and give it back. It could become a regular game to get you back in the room.

pacifier weaning

How to wean off it:

I know how hard it can be to get rid of the pacifier once a child has gotten used to it and attached to it and this is why a lot of toddlers end up still using it during the day or just for sleep. The reason it can be hard for toddlers is because they have developed quite an emotional connection to their pacifier. They can really struggle when they don’t have that connection anymore, which can then truly disrupt sleep.

If your toddler is heavily dependent on their pacifier, not just as a sleep prop, but for soothing during awake times too, then you can start with letting your toddler know that their pacifier is only for sleep and not for awake times. After you have done this, every time they wake from a nap and in the morning you can make a game of tossing their pacifiers back into their crib. As they do they can say something like “See you when I sleep”. The pacifiers then remain there until their next sleep period.  You may find that they take a bit of time standing in their crib or in your arms with the pacifier clutched tightly in their hands, but that is okay. Let them throw it back in when they are ready so they are completely in control of the decision.

Final weaning…. We often see people suggest giving the pacifier away to Santa, a paci fairy, another baby that needs it or things like this. We don’t believe this is the right way to go as it is not being open and honest with them. It also often includes being given a new toy as a prize in return for the pacifier, which really doesn’t make the transition any easier or make sense to a toddler. Toddler’s don’t always understand that the pacifier will be gone forever when they do this. And once they realize it, boy can they struggle.

Instead, sit down with your toddler and let them know that they’ll be learning how to not need the pacifier. If this started with a recommendation from the dentist to protect your child’s teeth you can explain the reason why. Then let them know that while they practice the pacifier will live in a special box in their room and they can go and have a quick suck when they are missing it. This makes getting used to not having the pacifier more palatable for your toddler, as well as a gradual break in that emotional connection.

You can look at replacing it with a transition object like a lovie, blanket or teddy bear. You can even get them to choose what they’d like to replace it with.

We always suggest to parents not modifying the pacifier to make it less appealing. This could be dangerous, posing a potential chocking risk, so it is best not to take that route.

Pacifier weaning isn’t easy, but with these tips you can do it in a way that supports your child through the process. Good luck!

Postive Parenting Coaches

how to get toddler to sleep without pacifier