How do I wean my baby from a pacifier?
Weaning your baby from using a pacifier can be a tough choice. After all, it probably helps her calm down at sleep times or even just generally throughout the day. Using a pacifier can also protect against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in young babies. But sometimes it makes sense to wean a pacifier. Perhaps she is over-reliant on it to soothe herself throughout the day, her pediatrician has expressed concern that she is using it too much, or you simply would prefer that she did not use it anymore. In any case, here are a few steps to wean a pacifier.
First, if your little one is using it throughout the day and at sleep times, limit her pacifier use to just sleep times. Give it to her only for the bedtime and naptime routines. Second, once she is used to only having it around sleep times, work on weaning her pacifier only at bedtime – having her fall asleep without it. For the first week or so, continue to give it to her during the night if she wakes. Once she has the hang of falling asleep without it at bedtime, she’ll start to need it less and less in the middle of the night. Finally, stop giving it to her at naptimes. By the time she is used to not having it at bedtime, it will probably be easier for her to give it up for naps, too.
If, however, she really only relies on it at bedtime and then overnight or naptimes, you don’t necessarily have to wean her pacifier if you don’t want to. Instead, you can allow her to fall asleep with her pacifier and place several pacifiers in one corner of her crib. Once she is about 5 or 6 months old she will be able to learn to reach for one and put it back into her mouth by herself, helping her return to sleep after natural night wakings. To help her learn, have her practice reaching for and placing her pacifier in her mouth right before bed. If she wakes during the night, guide her hand to do the same. Eventually she will learn where the pacifiers are and will be able to do it on her own.
About Dr. Erin Leichman