Infants and Pacifiers

Infants have a strong sucking reflex and therefore many people choose to give their baby a pacifier. Some parents warn against it, encouraging you to have them “attach” to you rather than an inanimate object while other parents warn that if you don’t give him a pacifier, you will become his “pacifier”. Who’s right? No one! It will be up to you and what works for you and your baby and what works for others might not work for YOU.

When to introduce a pacifier

If you are formula feeding, you can use a pacifier from day 1.

If you are breastfeeding, it is a good idea to establish breastfeeding first before introducing another type of nipple. Some babies will have no problem going back and forth, but since you don’t know if yours will or not, it’s a good idea to wait so as not to cause nipple confusion and establish your milk supply, first. This is usually recommended no earlier than 3 weeks and anywhere from 4-8 weeks. If you just need to do it earlier (especially if you will be returning to work), that’s ok! Just do your best and if you start to have trouble, learn how to get baby back to breast.

Pacifier and Teeth

Is a pacifier bad for your baby’s teeth? In short, no. Only when your baby sucks her thumb or uses a pacifier past the age of two is there a risk of altering their bite. It is unrealistic to expect many babies not to want to suck during those first 2 years.

When a pacifier becomes a problem

There is a time when a pacifier can become a problem and that’s when it interrupts their sleep. Some parents are weary having to replace a pacifier 8-10 times per night. In this case, the pacifier has become a poor sleep association that you may want to consider breaking. Some babies will be able to find their own pacifier at night (particularly if you throw 3 or 4 or 8 into the crib), but usually that isn’t until around 6 months. Some may technically be able to, but simply won’t do it. Others will learn sooner. So, if you really want to hang on to the pacifier, you may be able to just wait it out.

When you’re a “pacifier”

Some parents feel they become their baby’s “pacifier” because they are breastfeeding and baby wants to suckle A LOT (what “a lot” means will vary from parent to parent). This can happen. My eldest son did not want a pacifier and not from a lack of trying (mostly by others because I was not 100% on board with a pacifier anyway), so yes, he did suckle a lot and yes, did develop a sleep association (I did not mind until it was ALL night long!) that we later had to break. We continued to successfully breastfeed until 13 months. He did take to sucking on a light receiving blanket as his “lovey” for several months (he stopped using it on his own), but I was fortunate because I never had to break a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit. So, when my second son came along, I actually decided not to give him a pacifier and it was rough for the first couple months, but then got a lot better and so far, no thumb-sucking, yet, either. I am hoping not to have to break either habit, again, but we’ll see.

Pacifiers day and night

If your baby has trouble sleeping with a pacifier at night, but not during the day (or vice versa), you can limit it to one or the other as a baby’s sleep is handled by different parts of the brain for each.

All in all, I’d say a pacifier can be a good solution (if you agree with the use of one), until it becomes a problem. Once it hurts more than it helps, it may just be time to get rid of it. For help breaking sleep associations or help with other child sleep problems, you may be interested in The 3 Step Guide to Help Your Baby Sleep or my one-on-one baby sleep consultations.

Do you use a pacifier? Did you have a problem with it?

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6 thoughts on “Infants and Pacifiers”

  1. Hi Julie!
    Question….my 3 week old loves his paci, but I usually have to put it back in about 10 or 15min into his naps, sometimes 2 or 3 times in a row. I also have to put it back in a few times at night. I want to set myself up for success, as my previous baby wound up waking 15 times per night for the paci by 3 months old! Would you just go to him and pat him, etc, while he fusses instead of replacing the paci and hope he learns to go back to sleep without it? Or should I just wait and only do something if it gets worse? I would love to just let him learn to self soothe but feel like he can’t as he is swaddled right now…everything I’ve read says to do this til he is at least 4months old though, and I’m worried about how bad things will get up until then! I’d like to move him out of our room before then as well, but won’t get any sleep if I’m walking back and forth all night. So basically, is he too little to not replace the paci? Does it matter if he’s swaddled? If not, how would I do it? Thanks!!

    • Hi @Sarah, thanks for writing to us and congratulations on your new baby! Honestly, the answer to that question is going to be up to you. If you know your baby is waking because he wants the paci and he is not fussing because he is hungry, then how you approach it is going to be your decision. As it sounds like you know, there will come a point your baby is old enough to replace the paci on his own, but it is a while from now before he’ll be able to get there. I’ve heard of different approaches and some parents decide to let them fall asleep with it but then remove it, helping them learn to sleep without it, or some parents never use them at all (I did this with my second and regret it as he’s now addicted to sucking his fingers which I can’t take away). Here is a link to a free guide to help with your newborn’s sleep – while we agree we wouldn’t want you to do any formal sleep training until closer to 4 months and generally suggest to help your baby as he needs it at this age, there are still natural ways to help soothe your baby:
      I hope this helps! We also have an ebook all about sleep for newborns that starts from now through the first year if you want a little more in-depth information on that you can read about it here:
      Thanks again!

  2. My 9 month old has never had a pacifier but wakes every 1-2hrs at night and often will only go back to sleep suckling At breast. She has never fed to sleep for naps, should I introduce one at this stage?

  3. Hi Julie,
    Yes, you can wean him from the pacifier at night but continue to use it during the day. Actually I did just that! Different parts of the brain handle naps and nights, so you can be inconsistent about how most babies get to sleep for naps and nights. This age can often be a difficult one with regards to baby sleep too. At this age, their sleep becomes more like an adults as they begin to mature and have deep and light sleep cycles. We don’t usually recommend sleep training until a baby is at least 4 months old and often most babies are not ready until between 4-7 months of age when they have gained a better ability to learn how to self soothe, which is a key skill to them learning how to go to sleep and stay asleep on their own. That doesn’t mean you can’t Try!!! Go ahead and remove the pacifier and begin to teach him how to fall asleep on his own. He is young, and will forget all about the pacifier very quickly!
    Good luck!!!

  4. Our son is waking 10-20 times per night wanting the pacifier. He is only barely 4 months old. Is it possible to still give it to him during the day, but sleep train him for night? Is sleep training even possible at this age? (I feel mean taking it away from him when he is so young, but I am exhausted!!!)

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