The Pacifier Trick Every Parent Should Know

Our Top Pacifier Trick

Love ’em or hate ’em, for many of us, pacifiers are a necessity. It’s estimated that anywhere from 75% – 85% of babies and toddlers have used a pacifier for soothing at some point. And it’s understandable – pacifiers can be a great way to provide instant soothing and to calm fussy, inconsolable babies or toddlers. (That’s the love ’em part!)

But the problem is that pacifier use can quickly become habitual – before you know it, offering a pacifier occasionally for comfort turns into offering a pacifier constantly, so that you can get your baby or toddler to sleep. And that can turn into being woken multiple times each night by a little one who is screaming for you to come and replace the pacifier that fell out of her mouth. (That’s the hate ’em part!)

We’ve written before about pacifiers and sleep: check out this article on pacifier basics, and this one on how and when to wean from the pacifier. But today, we’re taking a look at something new. Today, we’re talking about a super clever pacifier trick that every parent with a pacifier-loving little one at home should know.

What’s the trick? How does it work? Read on, readers – this one’s too good to miss!

‘The Dream Paci’ Tip, Care of The Hint Mama

Today’s pacifier tip actually comes from a friend of The Baby Sleep Site – it’s from Jennifer Saranow Schultz, also known as Hint Mama. Jennifer’s blog is known for its practical tips, designed to make parenting cheaper, easier, and (as she puts it) a bit more humorous!

All of Jennifer’s tips are great, but we were particularly excited about her ‘Dream Paci’ tip. We knew this was one that our own readers would appreciate. So, with Jennifer’s permission, we’re bringing The Dream Paci Tip to you today!

‘The Dream Paci’ Tip – How It Works

The Dream Paci Tip is basically a variation on the idea of a Dream Feed. Many of you are no doubt familiar with that idea – basically, you sneak into your baby’s room at night, after he’s fallen asleep, and wake him slightly. You wake him just enough to eat, but not so much that he’s entirely awake. The idea is that by ‘topping off’ with breastmilk or formula, you can actually increase the time between night feeds, and get a bit more sleep yourself.

The Dream Paci is similar – only it involves pacifiers, obviously ;). Here’s Hint Mama’s explanation (the post actually came from her husband — apparently, he handles their toddler’s night wakings. What a guy!) 🙂

…after several nights of waking up multiple times throughout the night to replace a missing pacifier, I followed a trick mentioned in many sleep training books and “sprinkled” multiple pacifiers (usually about six) in the crib when we said goodnight to our daughter. This “sprinkle,” which made it easy for our daughter to pick up a replacement pacifier in the middle of the night and go back to sleep without screaming, worked like a charm for about a month or so.

Then, our little pumpkin caught on to our trick and thought it would be a fun game to throw all the pacifiers out of the crib while she settled in for the night. Each evening, we could hear the sound of pacifiers bouncing on the ground one after the other, and she was back to waking up in the middle of the night screaming for us to come in and give her a pacifier.

And there was no question that she was doing this intentionally. One night, we watched on the video baby monitor as she pushed pacifiers through the holes in her crib onto the floor and even stood up to chuck one pacifier against the wall in her bedroom.

That’s when I came up with the “Dream Paci.” It works like this: Instead of putting all the pacifiers into our daughter’s crib when we tuck her in and she’s awake and aware that they are there, I now place two in the crib when she’s awake (and she throws these out of the crib as expected). Then, I tiptoe into her room later in the evening when she’s dreaming and fast asleep, and scatter the six pacifiers all around her crib.

If you decide to try The Dream Paci, however, just be sure that you don’t accidentally wake your baby or toddler up when you sneak into the room to do the pacifier sprinkle! That happened to Jennifer’s husband once:

So far, this trick has generally worked like a charm. The one exception: One night I woke our daughter up by accident when trying to sneak into her room. In retrospect, I probably went in before our daughter was fully asleep. So my advice to others trying to employ this trick would be to wait to do the dream paci until it’s been at least an hour from when your little one is asleep.

One final note, before we wrap up – remember that pacifier associations can be strong for lots of babies and toddlers. And while tips like this can be great solutions for some families, other families may find themselves in a position where they need to buckle down and solve the pacifier association once and for all. This is especially true for those families whose sleep is being seriously disrupted by the constant pacifier-related night wakings.

What do you think of The Dream Paci, readers? Have you tried something similar at home? Is this a tip you think would be helpful for your situation? Scroll down to weigh in, to ask questions, and to hear from other parents just like you!

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27 thoughts on “The Pacifier Trick Every Parent Should Know”

  1. My 3 month old daughter has slept up to 8 or 9 hour stretches with the odd fuss for soother in between. In the last few weeks it’s becoming a major issue. She wakes constantly for it. She doesn’t need it to fall asleep every night but will soon wake wondering where it is?! Do I get rid of it and how??? My other daughter never did this

    • Hi @Kendra, thanks for writing to us. I’m sorry your daughter has been waking for her paci at night! This age is when babies often go through a bit of a regression and so they start waking frequently looking for help to get through to the next sleep cycle. Here is a link to download a free guide which will help provide some ideas to help with the wake ups:
      Do keep in mind that 1-3 wake ups for a feeding may be necessary at this age, you’ll just have to figure out when she’s waking out of hunger versus needing the paci replaced. I hope the guide gives you a good starting point, but if you need more support let us know!

  2. My 2yr old has a bunny rabbit (lovey) that he uses as a paci. He chews on its arm, rubs its ear between his finger and thumb, and taps its ear in his nose. Cute at first but laundering multiple rabbits is taking its toll. What age and methods would you recommend using to wean him offor his lovey?

    • @ jess – good question! There’s no real recommended age – he could probably be weaned off it now, if you felt so moved. Just be careful to watch for any signs that it’s disrupting his sleep.

      Hope that helps! 🙂

  3. I also semi-successfully managed to wean Alex off the dummy at around 9 months by cutting off the tip. This means they are unable to generate suction and he lost interest quicker than a click of the fingers. HOWEVER, I ended up giving the dummy back to him because he quickly replaced it with my boob as I was breastfeeding at the time. I decided I would rather he have the dummy than have him forever attached to my chest!

  4. My 2.5 yr-old boy is a total dummy (paci) addict. He would sleep grasping several in each hand as well as the one he was sucking. If he didn’t have enough (at least 4) he wouldn’t sleep. He also liked to carry his dummies around the house with him. We tried everything to get them off him and had no luck (perhaps due to desperation or a lack of willpower on our part to get through the tantrums!!). Then the other day, he had all his dummies (about 6) on the floor where he was playing, and I went and jumped in the shower. When I was done, ALL the dummies were gone. Alex cannot remember where he put them and I really cannot find them. I was dreading bedtime, but I explained to him that HE lost them and if HE cannot remember where they are then he cannot have them back because Mummy doesn’t know where they are because she didn’t see where he put them. To my surprise, he was really accepting and completely understood. It took him a bit longer than normal to fall asleep but he did so without tantrums. Naps are a little more difficult without the dummy but we are now working on that.
    If you have trouble with the dummy/paci, try making your LO think that they did something with them/lost them. For us it worked like a charm and I never would have thought of this if Alex hadn’t genuinely hidden them somewhere I can’t find them! I just have to make sure he doesn’t suddenly remember/find them before I do!

  5. @ Kim – I take it your 3 month old wakes if the pacifier falls out of her mouth? Yes, that’s so frustrating, especially if you’re up multiple times per night to replace the pacifier. We usually suggest that parents try weaning from the pacifier in these cases, since it’s creating more sleep problems than it’s solving.

    Hope this helps, Kim – best of luck to you! And thanks for commenting!

  6. My question is what do you do if your child is to young to put it back In themselves? My daughter is 3 months and can’t pick up things yet let alone put her soother in her mouth by herself? Do I just have to wait till she can and for now keep going in there for now to put it in?

  7. I’m pretty sure we did this exact same thing with my daughter at one point. I also found that throwing the paci’s out of the crib was a “stage” that she eventually stopped. Now she is 21 months and as she’s falling asleep she “organizes” all her paci’s along with her stuffies just so before she falls asleep every night. Now, our dilemma is figuring out how to get rid of the paci once and for all!

  8. That’s so wonderful & great tip. My 11 months old son, who started with the pacifier at 6 weeks, made me get him 5 pacifiers after realizing that he intentionally pushes it away and start crying so that I must come and give it to him.

    Now I make sure that I throw all 5 around him, and enjoy my sleep because he has no choice but to end up picking up one and get back to sleep.

    What I love about him is that after every bottle feeding he needs his paci whether sleeping or not the on his own time he takes it out and make sure he throws is very far.

    Thanks to all Moms for sharing their experiences.

    Thanks *Dream Feed* Team & many thanks to Nicole & Team!

    • @ Mamsy — so glad you found the tips helpful! I thought it was really clever 🙂 Thanks as well for being a fan of the site!

      @ Amanda — ha! My daughter has a big circle of ‘stuffies’ around her every night, too. Sometimes I’m amazed at how little room there is for her in the twin-sized bed; her stuffed animals take up so much space! But she just loves to have her ‘friends’ around when she falls asleep 😉

      As for getting rid of the pacifier altogether – this article has some tips: Those may help. Weaning a toddler off the pacifier isn’t easy, but it’s worth doing!

      Best of luck to you, Amanda!

  9. I have a love/hate relationship with the pacifier. In the end, we decided it was best to let it go when our son was 6 months (for all the reasons already mentioned). We weren’t able to get rid of it cold turkey, but over the course of about a month, he gradually didn’t need it to fall asleep. (This site actually helped encourage us that it was worth it to wean, and I am grateful!) However, I do think the pacifier really helped my son get to sleep faster for naps when his sleep drive isn’t as strong (that is, when he wasn’t dropping it out of his crib or losing it while trying to practice his crawling). Now it can take forever for him to fall asleep! So I do sometimes wish the pacifier still worked during the day — it seems like it is hard for some babies to soothe during the daytime without it & we still haven’t found a great solution — any ideas out there?

    • @ jenna – has he managed to find his fingers/thumb yet? That can be a great paci replacement. Another question – what is he doing when he’s not falling asleep? Is he fussing, or does he seem happy? Final question – do you think he is taking awhile to fall asleep during some naps because he’s not really tired enough to sleep? If so, it could be a small schedule problem…

  10. We went through the multiple dummy’s (as we call them in NZ) in the cot each night – usually about 4 a night. It was great at the time. We had this strategy from about 9 months onwards. My son is now 20 months and a about 3 weeks ago we took the dummy’s away completely as he was throwing the one he went to sleep with at night on the floor or across the room. My husband went cold turkey with it. We had only a couple of bad nights. We told him that they all went in the rubbish and the man in the truck came and took them away. He occasionally asks for them (like yesterday), but when I remind him abour the rubbish truck he just says “yip”.

    • @ Sarah – this sounds like a great solution!! So glad this worked well for you and for your son. I’ll bet the few rough nights were worth it, now that he’s broken the dummy habit 🙂

      Thanks for sharing, Sarah!

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