Wondering when to take away the pacifier from your baby or toddler? Keep reading to learn the best time to take away the pacifier and how to wean it!
Did you know that newborns have a non-nutritive sucking reflex? This means that your baby feels a need to suck, even if they aren’t getting any milk.
A great way to satisfy this sucking reflex is to offer your baby a pacifier.
Pacifiers have been studied extensively and are known to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). They’re also a great way to help your baby soothe themselves to sleep at night.
I am a big fan of introducing young babies to pacifiers. They’re especially helpful for getting more sleep in those early months!
But as your baby grows, their sucking reflex fades.
As you find yourself digging around underneath the crib to retrieve a pacifier for what feels like the thousandth time, you might find yourself wondering: is this even necessary anymore?
Let’s talk about the pacifier transition. I’m here to help you figure out when it’s time to take away the pacifier for good and how to do it!
When Should I Stop the Pacifier at Night?
Sometimes it’s hard to know for sure when to take the pacifier away. There are benefits associated with pacifier use, but prolonged pacifier use can cause problems for your little one.
Most kids will be able to use a pacifier without problems until they’re around two years old.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that pacifier use can cause adverse dental effects “after two years of age, but mainly after four years old.”
Similarly, the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends stopping pacifier usage around the age of three.
You definitely don’t need to wait until toddlerhood to cut the pacifier out of your little one’s sleep routine. In fact, it’s usually easiest to wean from the pacifier when your baby is between 5 and 8 months old.
Taking Away the Pacifier from a Baby vs. Toddler
Once your baby reaches 5 months old, they don’t have as strong of a need for non-nutritive sucking. They’ve also gained some practice in independent sleep skills and self-soothing methods like sucking on their hands or fingers.
The 5- to 8-month window is a good time to start the pacifier weaning process if you feel ready.
Taking the pacifier away from a toddler can be a little trickier. They’re older and can voice their displeasure much stronger!
The side effects of taking the pacifier away are more pronounced with a toddler versus a younger baby.
The main side effect of pacifier weaning will be disrupted sleep. You can expect the sleep schedule shake-up to last anywhere from a couple days to a week.
The length of pacifier withdrawal depends on how reliant your baby was on their binky for soothing at bedtime.
If your toddler is still using the pacifier, don’t fret! You didn’t miss the pacifier weaning window. I promise you won’t be shipping your kid off to college with paci in hand!
When to Take Away the Pacifier
You’ll know its time to wean off of the pacifier when it begins to interfere with your little one’s sleep.
Is your baby waking at night and unable to get back to sleep because they’ve spit out their pacifier? Or maybe your toddler has started to throw their pacifier out of the crib because they know it’ll get you to come into the room.
These are both signs that the pacifier is no longer a helpful sleep aid, and has become more of a distraction.
If you’re having other sleep problems and want to use a sleep training method, that is also a great time to get rid of the pacifier. I usually encourage my families to eliminate the pacifier when I work with them 1:1, so they don’t have to make the transition at a later time.
Try not to introduce pacifier weaning at the same time as any other big changes, such as weaning from breastfeeding, starting preschool, or transitioning to a toddler bed. One big change at a time is plenty for your young toddler!
How to Get Rid of Your Toddler’s Pacifier
Weaning your toddler from their pacifier can be a tricky prospect, particularly if they’ve really bonded with it.
It can be very hard to take something beloved away from your toddler, especially when it’s comfort-related. That’s why it can be easier if you help your toddler quit the pacifier cold turkey.
If you try to take the pacifier away in increments or keep it around for certain times but not others, be prepared for a longer weaning process.
I’m a big fan of giving your toddler a visit from the Pacifier Fairy as an easy way to wean a toddler from their pacifier.
Not only is this method quick and efficient, it’s also gentle and helps give your toddler a role in bidding their beloved binky bye-bye!
The Pacifier Fairy method helps you pick a specific date when the pacifier goes away. Replacing the pacifier with a new comfort item (like a new lovey, or stuffed animal) also gives your toddler something to look forward to!
It’s also helpful to identify a toddler sleep training method to start at the same time as pacifier weaning. Starting a sleep training routine at the same time can offset some of the pacifier withdrawals.
How to Wean a Baby Off of the Pacifier
Just like with toddlers, the pacifier weaning will go more smoothly if you don’t stretch out the process over the period of weeks or months.
You’ll get the quickest results if you take the pacifier away cold turkey and pair it with a sleep training technique if your baby has a hard time going to sleep without it those first few nights.
It’s not really possible to communicate with a younger baby and explain the weaning process, which is why I like the cold turkey method.
You can also achieve a similar effect by decreasing the pacifier nipple size over the course of a handful of nights.
FridaBaby makes a Paci Weaning System that has five different pacifiers with decreasing nipple sizes. This system is meant to gradually decrease your baby’s reliance on pacifier soothing. I haven’t worked with any families who have used this, but I see how it could work for a more gradual wean.
No matter when you choose to wean off of the pacifier, it’s most important to stay consistent and hold firm. There will probably be some tears, but I promise the transition will be over soon!
Once your baby is completely pacifier-free, their sleep will be less disrupted and more restorative, which means better sleep for everyone!