Last updated on April 4th, 2024

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Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

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

“My 10 month old still sleeps with a pacifier and sometimes he’ll wake up in the middle of the night and cry because it fell out. If I get in there quick enough and put it back in his mouth he’ll sometimes go right back to sleep but often times he won’t and it takes giving him a bottle and then his pacifier to get him back down. Please – how do we break this cycle?”  -Jen

Could Your Child Have a Sleep Crutch?

It sounds like your son’s sleep crutch is to suck to sleep- whether it is a bottle or a pacifier. I would start with putting him down awake at bedtime (after a good day of naps) and not letting him fall asleep with the bottle. If you need to wean him from nighttime bottles then pick one of the methods outlined in “Good Night, Sleep Tight” in the 9-12month old chapter. Follow the rules of the Shuffle.

Now on to the pacifier– it’s your choice, and what you choose may depend on how often he’s waking up and demanding that you find his pacifier and plug it in again for him. Here are some options:

  • Let him keep the pacifier
  • Let him have it only at naptime and bedtime
  • Let him keep the pacifier only at naptime (which can be harder than bedtime for a baby to calm himself).
  • Wean the pacifier completely.

Keeping the Pacifier

If you are keeping the pacifier for at least some portion of his sleep time, you may try to help your baby find it himself. At 10 months old your baby is probably able to grip and maneuver the pacifier on his own (most babies develop the pincer grip between six to eight months)  so you can  leave several strewn around the crib so he can find one himself, instead of demanding that you come in over and over again to retrieve and re-plug it. You may have to put it in his hands a few times until he catches on.

Weaning the Pacifier

If you are weaning the pacifier—well, weaning isn’t really the right word. It’s not gradual. It’s either in the baby’s mouth or not. You’ll have to do some extra soothing if you take away the pacifier. See if he’ll start bonding to a lovey. Pick a night when you are ready to cope with a little unpleasantness and put him to bed without his binkie. Make sure he has good naps that day and an especially nice and calming bedtime routine. Get him to bed drowsy but awake. Stroke or soothe him instead of giving him the pacifier, using techniques similar to those I advise for parents who are breaking the nighttime nursing or walking habits. Do the same thing each time he wakes at night. If you cave in once after he’s cried for an hour, you aren’t teaching him to sleep without the pacifier. You are teaching him to cry for an hour in order to get a pacifier. Be prepared for a few rough nights.

Not sure what the best choice is for you? Many parents will start with trying to teach their baby to find the pacifier themselves. If they have success, they keep the pacifier for sleep only. If they don’t have success and their baby is up frequently during the night that is usually the incentive to get rid of the pacifier completely! It is better to do this at 10 months old than in another year!

Sweet dreams!

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Author: Kim West, MSW, Mom of 2, creator of The Sleep Lady Shuffle

My name is Kim West, and I’m the mother of two beautiful girls, a Licensed Clinical Social Worker who has been a practicing child and family therapist for more than 21 years, and the creator of the original gentle, proven method to get a good night’s sleep for you and your child. My sleep journey began when I started experimenting with gently shaping my daughter’s sleep by not following the conventional wisdom at the time. After having success (and then more success with my second daughter!), I began helping family and friends and my step-by-step method spread like wildfire, exactly like an excellent night of sleep for a tired parent should!