Sleep Coaching and Pacifiers: Keep it or Not?

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  • September 09, 2015
sleep coaching and pacifiers

sleep coaching and pacifiers


Hi. I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady, and today I’m going to answer Kate’s question about sleep coaching and pacifiers:

“My seven-month-old goes down fine at about 7 o’clock and has been sleeping through until about 11 p.m. or 1 a.m. Then I give him a bottle and put him back down. If I’m lucky he goes down for an hour before waking up. From that time on, he doesn’t really settle and I’m up and down putting his dummy in and trying to settle him. I get so tired by this point that I end up putting him in our bed. I know your advice will probably be don’t put him in our bed, but is there anything else you can suggest, please? Thanks, Kate.”

Before Sleep Coaching

RELATED: How to Wean the Pacifier

Pincer Grasp

The potential problem with sleep coaching and pacifiers at seven months is that often that a seven-month-old baby does not have the pincer grasp fully developed. The “pincer grasp” is the ability to press the forefinger and thumb together to pinch something like a Cheerio or a pacifier, and put it in one’s mouth.

At seven months a baby is usually only doing a sweeping motion. Often it’s luck if they get the pacifier in their mouth, since most babies this age lack the fine motor skills needed to pinch the object and place it in the mouth.

If your child does have the skill and you want to keep the pacifier, I would start putting several pacifiers in the crib. At bedtime you can put one in each hand and see if he can put a pacifier in his mouth himself. Try this each time he wakes up during the night also.

Eventually you will place the pacifier(s) near him. If he’s really good at rolling, then you can point to the pacifier and direct him to it so that he can grasp it on his own. If he whines for you to get it, you can put it in his hand and let him put it in his own mouth. Eventually, you will direct him to get it all by himself.

No Pincer Grasp?

If he doesn’t have the pincer grasp, you may have to consider getting rid of the pacifier. Unfortunately there is no way to gently wean the pacifier as it’s either in your mouth or it’s not. If you do choose to lose the dummy, be prepared for a few nights of crying.

I usually tell parents that if you’re going to get rid of the pacifier, start with nights and keep it for naps. It’s surprising that this works , but it does. If you notice that you’re constantly going in and re-plugging it for naps, then that will be your cue to get rid of it for naps, too.

If you decide to keep the pacifier and he doesn’t have the pincer grasp, then you will be in charge of re-plugging it until he either has the pincer grasp or you decide to wean it.

RELATED: Baby Sleep Help: To Wean or Not to Wean the Pacifier

Create a Feeding Plan

At this point I would encourage you to create a feeding plan. You want to make sure that he’s eating well enough during the day and that you feel comfortable with him having just one feeding during the night or no feedings. The number of night feedings will be determined by what you and your doctor feel is right in terms of his weight, his growth, and his age.

Well-Napped is Key

I want you to start sleep coaching on a night when he is well-napped. When I say well-napped, I mean to do whatever works to get the amount of napping time needed in during the day. If it is necessary to rock him to sleep, to feed him to sleep, or to use a stroller, do it so that you can get to that seven o’clock bedtime awake without him going to sleep or getting too drowsy with his bottle.

In order for a baby to learn how to sleep through the night, it is essential for him to be put in the crib at bedtime while drowsy but awake. He should not be so tired that he immediately nods off to sleep. I define drowsy but awake as “I’m dry, I’m fed, I’m warm, I’m clean, I’m loved and now it’s time for me to go to into my bed.”

RELATED: Drowsy But Awake — The Cornerstone of Successful Sleep Training

Consistency is Critical

Regardless of whether you’re keeping the feeding during the night or not, you’re still going to want to create a consistent sleep coaching plan for all of the other awakenings. Following these steps should help you get your baby and you sleeping through the night.

Video filmed by In Focus Studios

If you have experienced a similar situation, or have a question for me, please share! Supporting each other makes parenting so much easier!

Kim West
Kim is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 24 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. She is the author of The Sleep Lady's Good Night Sleep Tight, its companion Workbook and 52 Sleep Secrets for Babies. Click here to read more about her.

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