How and When To Help Your Baby or Toddler Stop the Pacifier

Hey, parents — do you have a pacifier-, dummy-, binky-, or soother-addict living in your home? If so, this article is for you. We’re talking today about when to ditch the pacifier, and how to do it.

Pacifiers Are Not Evil

I think it’s important to begin our article today with this reminder – pacifiers aren’t evil. They’re not dangerous. (In fact, they may even reduce the risk of SIDS.) However, it is important to avoid introducing them until the breastfeeding relationship is established, if you are breastfeeding (or planning to).

They get a bad rap sometimes, but really, pacifiers can be a helpful tool in the effort to help our babies sleep well. Pacifiers can be a tool to help babies self-soothe without parental aid, and can decrease nighttime waking (that is, unless your baby’s constantly calling for you to come and replace the pacifier after it’s fallen out!).

So let’s remember that like many things associated with baby and toddler sleep, pacifiers aren’t a problem until they’re a problem. If the pacifier fits neatly into your baby or toddler’s life (and neatly into yours) then don’t feel pressured to get rid of it.

But what if it doesn’t? What if your baby is waking you 10 times each night to replace the pacifier after it’s fallen out of her mouth? What if you’re sick and tired of toting pacifiers everywhere you go, just so your toddler won’t have to be without one? If that’s the case, it might be time to ditch the pacifier for good.

The Ideal Age to Ditch the Pacifier

Speaking of getting rid of the pacifier — when should it happen? That’s a big question for parents whose little ones are hooked on the binky.

Unfortunately, there’s no magic age. Some parents wean their babies off the pacifier as early as 5 or 6 months; others let their toddlers hang onto their pacifiers until age 3 or 4. Truly, there’s no right or wrong, black or white when it comes to pacifier usage. It’s kind of like baby sleep in that way — babies and toddlers learn to sleep in different ways, and at different ages.

But let’s look at a general truth when it comes to weaning babies and toddlers off the pacifier – the earlier you do it, the easier it’s going to be. The same is true for sleep training, and for potty training, and for so many things associated with raising children.

For this reason, pediatricians usually recommend weaning your little one from the pacifier before age one. The idea is that before 12 months, your child hasn’t had the time (or the cognitive ability) to form a deep attachment to a pacifier, so taking it away may not be as difficult.

Not the case if you try to wean a toddler off his pacifier, however. Starting around 18 months, a toddler has likely formed strong feelings of attachment to his pacifier. Try to take it away then, and it’ll probably be much harder than if you’d done it earlier. Not impossible, of course, but filled with more tears and anger on the part of your toddler (and maybe on your part, too!). Beyond a few years old and you add the risk of causing dental problems, too.

Nicole’s Note:
“The best time to wean your baby from the pacifier (or start sleep training or potty training) would be after a child is developmentally ready, but before they have become strong-willed and emotionally attached to the status quo. Just like we recommend sleep training after 4 to 6 months old, we would not really potty train a 15 month old (though elimination communication is becoming a more popular parenting concept). Once a baby has formed an attachment to their pacifier or soother, it becomes more like a lovey and who would wean a 2 year old away from her favorite teddy bear or blanket? But, if your baby is waking up frequently at night and can’t put it in himself, that is more of a problem than a solution.

Neither of my boys had a pacifier (one not by choice and one I made a conscious effort to avoid it). We probably paid for it in the early days, but it was much easier later.”

How To Ditch the Pacifier

Just like there’s no “right age” to ditch the pacifier; there’s no “right way” to do it, either. There are a few things to keep in mind, though, as you create your plan for pacifier weaning:

  • If you’re weaning a baby who’s under 12 months, you probably don’t need to be creative. You can probably get by with simply throwing the pacifiers out and then preparing for a few rough, sleepless nights and some short, restless naps.
  • If you’re weaning a toddler, you might want to be creative. You can just get rid of the pacifiers when your toddler’s not looking, of course, and end things cold-turkey. But you could also be creative, and get your toddler to help with the weaning process. I knew a mom who told her 3 year old son that they needed to send his pacifiers to children who didn’t have any — he helped her pack them into a box and everything! It turned out to be a great solution for that family.

Nicole’s Note:
“Just like most of our Sleep Plans, we often break things up into smaller steps. I have some families stop the pacifier at night, but not during the day. Or, they use the pacifier for sleep and not throughout the day. Sometimes it doesn’t have to be all or nothing, depending on the child. Sometimes we just start slow and then build up to getting rid of it completely. Just like sleep training, what works for you may not be what worked for your friend or neighbor. Some do best with ripping off the band-aid and some do better with slow and methodical.”

Tips for Ditching the Pacifier

Whatever strategies you use to wean your baby or toddler off the pacifier, keep the following tips in mind:

  • Plan ahead. Weaning a baby off the pacifier is a fairly small event, but weaning a toddler is big. Very, very big for some toddlers. So plan ahead, and make sure the pacifier weaning doesn’t coincide with another big event, like a move, or the birth of a new sibling, or potty-training. It’s best to tackle big events one at a time, to help minimize your child’s stress.
  • Be patient. There’s bound to be some fussing and sleeplessness when you finally banish the pacifiers. That’s just how it goes. So prepare yourself to be patient, and to ride out the storm.
  • Be firm. If pacifier weaning just isn’t working, you may feel like stopping and trying again later. And that may work — we’re not saying it won’t! But that might not be the best approach, especially if you’re weaning a toddler. Why? Because parents, your toddlers are smart. And if they get even the slightest inkling that their actions (crying, screaming, tantrum-throwing, etc.) can make you change course, guess what’s going to happen? The crying, screaming, and tantrum-throwing will only get worse. Better to be firm and consistent now — not only will the pacifier weaning happen faster, but you’ll teach your toddler the valuable lesson that mom and dad mean what they say.
  • Keep perspective. For some parents, pacifier weaning belongs in the “Things That Feel Like They Might Literally Kill Me” category. It’s that painful and brutal. But take heart, parents! It’ll pass. We promise. And just think — once you’ve cleared this hurdle, there’ll only be 15 or 16 more years worth of hurdles ahead! 😉

Let’s help each other out — offer your pacifier-weaning tips and insights below!

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74 thoughts on “How and When To Help Your Baby or Toddler Stop the Pacifier”

    • Hello Alice,
      Thank you for your comment! I’m not familiar with this pacifier guide, so I hope your info will help other parents checking out these comments for ideas. We appreciate you visiting The Baby Sleep Site!

  1. My 26 month old granddaughter was addicted to her pacifier. She would fall to sleep with her binky and it would fall out of her mouth shortly afterward, if she woke during the night she would find it herself and pop it back in to suck and doze back off to dreamland. She would sleep 10-12 hours at night with her pacifier, but then she developed a bad staph infection on her chin where the bottom of the pacifier touched. It was persistent and started to spread. The dermatologist said the pacifier had to immediately and so was forced to go cold turkey with out her beloved pacifier. We tried to introduce stuffed animals, lovey blankets , but nothing worked to sooth her at night. It has been three months and bedtime is still a nightmare!! She will scream and yell and kick for hours. Last night she woke up at 1:30 and was up till her parents had to go to work in the morning. She fell asleep out of exhaustion around 7:30 in the morning. This is happening almost every night.
    She gets an evening bath, pajamas on, bedtime story soft lullabies but nothing is working. Giving the pacifier back is not an option since the original staph break out will come back. She went from being a good sleeper to being up all night. What can we do?

    • Hi @Kathy – Thanks for writing to us about your granddaughter! I’m so sorry that sleep has been such a struggle for these last 3 months, and that she had a staph infection! How scary! We know how tough these bedtime struggles and night wakings can be, so to you and your whole family, hang in there! It sounds like you have a good bedtime routine, and hopefully, you have a good sleep schedule too?
      If you want to make sure that bedtime and naps are offered at good times for her, please check out our free sample schedules here:
      https://www.babysleepsite.com/schedules/toddler-schedule/
      Since you’ve been struggling with this for so long now, I’d really recommend working closely with one of our experts, so that we can help with a Plan that will work for you and that you can all commit to and feel good about!
      We also offer free 15 minute telephone evaluations with an expert sleep consultant, which might be a great fit! This can really give you good insight. If interested, please schedule your free 15 minute evaluation here:
      https://www.babysleepsite.com/personalized-baby-sleep-evaluation/
      And, if/when you are ready, you can read more about our sleep consultation services, and purchase here:
      https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
      Thank you again for writing to us Kathy. If you have any additional questions, or if you need any assistance at all, please let us know, and we can get you started ASAP!

  2. I’ve heard toddlers will often drop their nap when weaned from the paci, even if they’re too young to go all day without sleeping (our toddler is 2.5). Is this true? Any ways to help prevent that?

    • Hi @Sarah – Thank you for writing to us! We received your other comment too, but thought I’d reply here as well!!! We find that toddlers can and will sleep again after weaning the pacifier, though it can be a bumpy road sometimes (depending on how attached she was to the paci)! Keep offering those naps and be patient as she adjusts to learning how to nap without it!
      Good luck Sarah – and if you find that you need more help, please contact us any time!

  3. We actually just took the paci away from our almost 15 month old, who used it for naps and nighttime. We liked it as much as she did, but it was moving her teeth and we were worried about palette development, etc. So far, it’s been surprisingly smooth.

    Snipped a small piece off of the end and showed her in the late afternoon – telling her it was broken/ doesn’t work anymore/ she’ll be able to sleep without it now… She was very interested – would suck on it and it’d pop out, she’d grab it off the floor, pop it back in, then take it out and hand it to us, then wanted it back, etc.

    So, bedtime routine as usual until we got to book time, when she’d ask for paci and suck while we read a couple books. She asked and I showed it to her reminding her it was broken and she could sleep without it. She threw it on the floor and i left it there and we read books, i sang to her as usual as i turned off the light and put her down – she wanted rocked , so I rocked her, had to remind her a couple times it was broken, and it was time to sleep….

    Then she wanted in her crib and went to sleep without a peep… and slept all night.
    We were shocked.

    I recommend this approach!!! Should add that her paci was only for sleeping – she never had it outside of sleep times.

    • Hi @Katie – Thanks for writing and for sharing your success story in stopping the pacifier! It is great that your daughter did so well with this, and we hope that it continues! Thanks again for sharing, and we hope that you’ll keep reading!

  4. Our son only used his paci in his crib but our pediatrician told us it was time to get rid of it. We decided to use the cold turkey approach to take the paci from our 16 month old son. However it has been 2 months now and he still screams and cries for 5-15 minutes at nap time and bed time in his crib and it isn’t getting better. What should we do? Should we give them back to him and try a different approach? Help! It breaks my heart to hear him cry so much every time he goes to sleep. Going in and soothing him doesn’t help either because he starts up crying again when we leave the room. Looking for some advice!

    • Hi @Steph – Thanks for writing! I’m sorry to hear that your toddler had such a tough time giving up the pacifier! It’s been quite a while now, so it may not be the pacifier that he is missing when he cries. While it is common for some babies or toddlers to cry for a few minutes before sleeping, you may want to take a peek at his before sleep routine, and fine tune to help him get relaxed and ready for sleep, and take a look at your toddler’s schedule to make sure that he is being offered sleep at good times for him. Feel free to use our free schedules as a guide. Here is a link:
      https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-feeding-schedules/
      You can talk to your pediatrician about offering the pacifier again, since he thought it was time to wean him from it.
      Good luck Steph! I hope things smooth out soon!

  5. Giving up a pacifier can be traumatizing for both the baby and the mother. It was for us, she just didn’t want to stop using it. Had to ask for some help from outside, so reached out to the books. found one of the best by Susan Urban. She gives clear instructions to follow, keeping the process short and accurate. What to do when hysteria attacks happen? Well there is the answer. Really recommend. Made early parenting a bit less stressful 🙂

  6. My 19 month old was doing fine self-weaning from the pacifier right at 12 months old. He would just suck on it for maybe 10 seconds, fall asleep and not use it for the rest the night. I never took it with us if we left the house from birth on so it was purely a sleep associated thing and he was not allowed to use it walking around the house either. However, I went back to working overnight shifts once he turned a-year-old. I work 2 to 3 nights a week and if he woke up my husband would offer him the pacifier. He still breast-feeds, but just once or twice in 24 hour period for about five minutes. I didn’t want him screaming for me if I wasn’t home and keeping my husband up all night so I thought the pacifier was an OK option. So fast forward six months and he got super attached to the pacifier. He asked for it constantly, and we insist that it’s only for naptime and bedtime and they stay in his crib. Sometimes he asks to sit in his crib just so he can suck on it now! I would like him off of it as he’s approaching two years and is getting super attached. Should I go cold turkey or is there a gentler approach you would recommend? I feel bad because obviously he used it as a replacement soother since I went back to work.

    • Hi @Christine – Thanks for writing! how you choose to wean the pacifier is up to you! Many go “cold turkey” while other like to go more slowly, for example, taking it away for naps, but nighttime is okay, and then removing all together. As a toddler now, your son may not like the idea of saying goodbye to the paci, but involving him by letting him know ahead of time and sticking with what you decide will be helpful! Use the tips in this article too! I hope things go very smoothly!

  7. My daughter is five months old. She has always taken the pacifier but only for naps bedtime and car rides. She has always slept pretty well through the night only waking to nurse wants and sometimes waking for the pacifier one or two times. Couple of days she has been waking every 1 to 2 hours for her pacifier. Should I wean her off of it now? She is also still in arms up swaddle. Thank you!

  8. Hi there!

    My little man is 4 months old and was horribly colicky since 2 weeks old. As a result, he was held/rocked/bounced/nursed constantly to help simmer the crying. Now that the colic has subsided, he can not (I mean this very literally) CAN NOT fall asleep on his own. He has never done it not even in the car or stroller. He will scream for hours if allowed to and will not tire into sleep (CIO would never be effective for him) He often takes upwards of 45 minutes to settle to sleep with rocking/bouncing and the pacifier for a nap that lasts no longer than 30 minutes. At night, he is awake 5-7 times when I usually cave and nurse him to sleep out of sheer survival. I know he needs to learn to fall asleep, and more importantly, back to sleep on his own because he is living in a perpetual state of fatigue and overtiredness…not to mention my husband and I are severely sleep deprived. Just popping the pacifier back in does not settle him back to sleep. My question is, would a cold turkey approach work in this situation? If so, should I introduce a other soothing technique like a lovey as a more “independent” sleep association? Lastly, I know you can’t predict the future, but how long can I expect this training to take? I should also mention he is exclusively breastfed and I fully understand babies wake to nurse 1-3 times a night…of which I am more than happy to do. 5-7 times with a early wake up at 5am is not ALL hunger related. His sleep environment is ideal: Black out shades, white noise, 70-72 degrees. Thank you to anyone reading this and thank you in advance for your time. My tired little body appreciates it 🙂

    • Hi @Michelle, thank you for visiting the Baby Sleep Site. I am so sorry to hear your son experienced colic and while you are still struggling with his sleep, I am happy for you that that part of the sleep trouble has been resolved. We would love to help. Without knowing the full history, sleep routine, etc, it is difficult for me to offer specific advise, but we do offer this in our one-on-one sleep consultations. What may help is reading through our free guide to help your child sleep through the night (and you are correct, a few night wakings are ok at this age, but it sounds like he’s got some sleep associations waking him up so the guide can still provide advise to get him back on track): https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-sleep-through-night-free-ebook/
      He is at a great age to begin teaching him this skill, but hang in there as it can be challenging. If it doesn’t stick yet, some babies respond better more around 6 months (my first was ready at 4, my second at 6, so they are all different). If you’re interested in walking through this with someone that will offer help each step of the way, be sure to read about our Personalized Consultation Packages here: https://www.babysleepsite.com/baby-toddler-sleep-consulting-services/
      Hang in there! Let us know if you need anything else.

  9. I am doing the cold turkey method with my 2yr old. He was deeply attached to his pacifier. It started out that we were only giving it to him at nap times and bedtime. It eventually turned into all day long. Which I feel isn’t great. On top of that, my toddler started chewing on them. His pacifier were starting to tear and become a hazard to him. Thats when I decided it was time to get rid of the pacifier.

    Yesterday was the first day. He did pretty well throughout the day, but at bedtime is when he was really missing it. He was having trouble sleeping, so I decided to rock him to sleep. Is that bad? I feel like I’m starting a new bad habit.

    Today is Day 2 and the moment he woke up, he was looking for his pacifier. He continues to whine for it. I know I need to stand firm.

    Any suggestions? Thank you.

    • Hi Emerald,
      Thanks for your comment! It sounds like you are doing great work. Weaning the pacifier can be hard, but setting an empathetic, but firm, limit will be your best bet. Good luck with everything!

    • I read in some book, I think it was something like ‘how to help your child give up the pacifier?’, that your strongest weapon is an absolute consistency, no matter what method you will choose. I also wanted to go ‘cold turkey’ or what is also called the three step method. It took me three weeks with my one year old, first few days were even ok, but then he noticed that something is wrong and here came a first crisis. But I stayed strong and somehow we did it 🙂 Today sometimes I need more time to put him to sleep because he needs some comfort, but it is better than weaning the pacifier later.

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