How to Get Rid of the Pacifier (when you're ready)

So you're ready to get rid of the pacifier? If you recently listen to my Sleep, Play, Soothe discussion or read my Best Practices of Infant Sleep post, you heard (maybe for the first time) the hard reality of negative sleep associations. I also have this great post about WORKING THROUGH SLEEP PROBLEMS.

You catch a quick tips version of that powerful sleep discussion here with my 25 Infant Sleep Tips >> that thing is NO JOKE, amaaaaahzing. 

Sleep associations are a serious bummer that can last for years and cause all sorts of sleep problems. Plus, it can cause serious dental problems, major speech delays, and impair social development. These cases are kind of peripheral, but still...enough to make the average mama shudder.

Still, the pacifier is a very common sleep association because it is useful in the early weeks/months, sucking triggers a powerful soothing reflex in infants, and the pacifier has been shown to reduce SIDS (big deal).

We all love the paci...........until we don't.

Are you heading to your kid's bed every 45 minutes (or at the top of every sleep cycle) to replace the pacifier because SURPRISE! you're kiddo can't put themselves to sleep or connect their sleep cycles without a paci-assist. Bum.mer. 

Recently, I have been having a lot of incredible mamas hashing it out on this (TEAR-JERKING) Instagram post. If you want to get in on loving another mama that is suffering through sleep problems or ask questions and gain mama-to-mama wisdom (my favorite kind)....CLICK HERE AND PARTY DOWN.

You ladies are doing a bang-up job, and don't really need my help... 

...But here are my two cents about paci use and paci detox:

My baby is 14 years old and still using a pacifier - should I get rid of it? 

Juuuust Kidding - but if you're baby is 13 months and you've been waking up every hour or three to replace a paci for over a year.....he might as well be 14 because Mama - YOU'RE TIRED. But here is the short answer:

If you're baby is older than 8 weeks and you are going to the crib multiple times a night to replace a pacifier - GET RID OF IT.

Do it before they start pulling up, do it before they crawl - do it now. Will it be bad for a few nights? YUP. Will it totally improve and change your life after that? YUP. Get rid of it before it becomes an attachment object, i.e before they are in relationship with it. Then the detox is even harder. 

If your baby is otherwise sleeping well and goes right back to sleep when you replace the paci, I know that you're baby is capable of learning to connect cycles, capable of sleeping, capable of learning - she just needs another (MORE INTERNAL) method of settling herself. Give her this gift. Internalizing a soothing mechanism is know.....a LIFE LONG MEGA SKILL THAT WILL SERVE HER WELL.

My baby is less than 6 months, we are getting rid of the paci at night. Can I use it to sooth her during the day?

Girlfriend, go for it. Sucking is a really powerful and important soothing mechanism for babies and I feel like it is unnatural to interrupt their sucking, especially early, and especially when at the breast.

 Harvey Karps 5 S's of Soothing are based in magical infant neurology and decades of pediatric research and guess what....the final "S," the cream on top, is SUCKING. Sucking is powerful for a baby, especially when they can not be soothed any other way. 

Learn to notice the difference between using sucking exclusively as a sleep crutch and as a soothing mechanism. Don't ALWAYS default to sucking, allow your kids to explore other ways of self soothing and encourage your own capacity to find other tools for supporting their soothing or soothing them. 

Should I feel bad for using a paci? can I put this delicately. HELL NO. You should never feel bad or feel shame - not when you're hanging with me. I LOVE YOU, I THINK YOU'RE AWESOME, AND AFA HAS ALL THIS GRACE FOR THE FACT THAT YOU'RE LEARNING. Just do the next right thing. 

Stop using the Paci all the time, especially when you could reasonably take the time to listen to what he needs, determine a better way to meet said need, and keep his communication mechanism open. 

If you're in public, need to get the h*ck through this miles long grocery list, and sh*t is hitting the fan - give the baby the pacifier. I don't care. But just don't use it all the time to simply avoid hearing your baby cry. It can never be said enough by infant psychologists and mother-lovers (AHEM) - crying sucks, and I know it hurts you in your guts, but crying is one of the primary, most important ways that your baby communicates.

If you have the bandwidth (and be honest here) listen to their verbalizations long enough to have a conversation with the baby, let the baby catch your attention. You feel me there? Ask questions in the comments if you're lost. 

Don't torture yourself, if you're feeling like you might throw the baby out the window because you're at your wits all means, USE THE PACI. But after honest inventory, you realize that you have the capacity to get in the moment with your baby's demands, then do it. She is depending on you to try and interpret (rather than silence) her cues more times than not....

Ok - I am ready to drop the night time paci use, where do I start?

Letting sleep associations go is no joke. Have you downloaded my 25 Sleep Tips? Have you read my post about >>Working Through Your Child's Sleep Problems<< Ok. Here is what I can say about your problem (for the sake of honesty). I think that consulting with experts 1:1 where you can relay the brevity and details of the situation is always helpful. But if you feel like what is going on is pretty clearly a negative sleep association

....lets get started.

>> 1. Work to reduce paci use during the day. If your kid has a paci in his mouth most of the day, then its going to be harder to get rid of it at night. How to reduce? Simply choose a moment in the morning and  moment in the evening when you will not allow the baby to have the paci. Work to divert the baby's attention so the transition isn't so bad. Then, gradually expand the length of those periods. You got this

>> 2. So now your baby is used to not having the paci and only has to learn to fall asleep without it. MUCH SMALLER TASK. Now...getting rid of the paci is a lot easier than most folks think (especially between ages 4-12 months. Unfortunately, there isn't a "gradual" way to do it. You just kind of have to pull the plug.

>> 3. Step three is simply, don't hate me! You've already done the work to get the paci use just to bed time and sleepy time. All the baby has to do is learn to fall asleep without it....and she CAN. so your ready >> GO COLD TURKEY.

4. Move into your closet for one or two nights, sleep with your headphones in. I mean...not really - you need to hear if your baby is in distress (serious distress) - but just getting through one or two instances of falling asleep without the paci is likely going to do the trick. So be brave. 

Have Questions? Ask them below! Still haven't downloaded my SLEEP TIPS? Do it now! Interested in deep diving into your infants needs while they are still young because you want to change their life and set them up for life-long well being??! Take my INTRO TO PARENTING COURSE.