Hi! I’m Kim West, The Sleep Lady, and in this video, I’m going to answer Barbara’s question. She is about to wean the baby’s pacifier while trying to get her older child to sleep. It’s a little bit long, but it’s a very common sleep situation.
Here’s what she wrote in:
“My daughter is 2-1/2 years old and my son is 7 months. I read your book early in my daughter’s life and have tried to use principles from it to shape both of their sleep. All was going well and the younger one was sleeping through the night, so I put them both in the same room. This worked for a month or so, but things have been deteriorating in the past few weeks.
First of all, the little one has been rising earlier and earlier. Sometimes the pacifier puts him back to sleep and sometimes not. Either way, it involves us doing a lot of frantic tiptoeing in the early, early morning to try to sooth him without waking her up, which sometimes works and sometimes doesn’t. Then, he recently started waking up in the middle of the night too. When my daughter is woken she screams and cries, which in turn makes him scream and cry and the whole thing is just not fun.
As a stop-gap, I put them in separate rooms. Ideally, I’d like them to learn to sleep in the same room. But in light of this, I wonder if the goal of having them share a room is desirable or even attainable. Should I separate them until the sleep kinks have worked out?
I’m also wondering if I should get rid of the pacifier of the younger one if he would ultimately sleep better without it. Or will it be that we’ll have to run and pat, soothe, and sing for multiple times starting at 4:30 in the morning rather than just re-plug binkie?
Thanks for your help or advice that you can give.
Separate Rooms While Training
Barbara, let’s just focus on the 7-month-old since it sounds like your older child is sleeping well other than when she’s awakened by her brother.
I agree with you. Separate the baby until you can get him back to sleeping through the night consistently. I would recommend you wait until he is sleeping through the night consistently for about 3 to 4 weeks before you have them start sharing a room again.
Should You Wean The Baby’s Pacifier?
First figure out if he has the pincer grasp. This is the ability to pinch the pacifier, pick it up, and put it back into his mouth by himself. If you’ve seen him do it, then great. On average it’s a skill learned at around 8 months, but I’ve seen some 6 and 7-month-olds figure out how to do it.
If You Decide to Keep the Pacifier
If he can pick up the pacifier and put it in his mouth on his own, then you could start to give him the pacifier in his hands. Maybe even put one in each hand so that he can try putting the pacifier in his mouth from either hand. Then, eventually, you will can scoot the pacifiers closer to him in the crib, point to them and redirect him to the pacifier.
If you try this and you feel like, “Oh, he just doesn’t get this. He doesn’t have the skill yet and I can’t wait any longer,” then the only choice you have — besides going in and re-plugging the binkie until he learns the skill of putting it in his mouth himself — is to wean it “cold turkey.”
You could still keep it for naps and wean it for just the night. You can experiment with that.
This is why you really want him in a separate room because there will likely be a decent amount of crying. It’s unfortunate that there’s no gradual way to wean the pacifier: it’s either in his mouth or it’s not.
It does help if you stay with him the first few nights while he is being weaned off it to offer physical and verbal assurance like I outlined in my book, Good Night, Sleep Tight. And no, you don’t want to replace the pacifier with patting or singing him to sleep or back to sleep. You want to offer intermittent physical and verbal reassurance without creating a new sleep crutch.
Be Sure He is Napping Well
If he’s not napping well, then you will need to work on improving his naps. Start on a night that’s an early enough bedtime (usually around 7-7:30pm at his age) and after a great day of naps. Once he’s sleeping through consistently, then return him to their shared room.