The collection… soon to be disposed of.

When Oliver was born, all he wanted to do was suck. My breastfeeding troubles meant that using my nipples as a human pacifier just wasn’t an option, so we took to using our pinky fingers to help soothe him whenever he cried. This quickly became problematic, as it didn’t allow us to put him down; not even for a moment. So we set out to find a pacifier.

This wasn’t as easy a task as one might expect. In the beginning, he disliked every round nipple pacifier we introduced, including the popular Gumdrop (the lactation consultant had advised against using “orthodontic” or flat nipples). We eventually found one that he would tolerate for five to 10 minutes at a time, but it wasn’t until after two months of age that we finally decided to try the Natursutten natural rubber pacifier, with great success.

I had previously noticed them at a high-end baby store, but wrote them off as yet another overpriced, gimmicky baby gadget designed to appeal to the parent who buys only the best for their child at any cost. It turns out that they are in many ways a superior product (you can check the above link for details), and babies particularly like them because of the natural rubber smell and the way the base rubs against the bottom of their nose.

Lo and behold, Oliver loved this pacifier, and we were so happy to have found the panacea that would stop his crying and help him go to sleep.

Fast-forward about a month…

One evening we had the sudden realization that we had not had an uninterrupted night’s sleep since Oliver was about 10 weeks old. Our baby, who was previously sleeping in six to eight hour stretches overnight, had been waking multiple times each night for weeks on end. Fortunately though, he was easy to settle: all we had to do was shove the pacifier back in his mouth and he’d quickly go back to sleep.

After a little bit of research online, I discovered the concept of “sleep associations,” which is a fancy term for the various crutches (e.g. a pacifier, a full tummy, being held by a parent) that babies use to fall asleep. Babies naturally wake several times throughout the night, and the trick to a good night’s sleep is their ability to fall back asleep unaided. The theory is that if babies who have “sleep associations” wake to different conditions than those under which they fell asleep (i.e. their pacifier has fallen out, they are hungry, or they are in their bed rather than mom or dad’s arms), they are unable to settle themselves without their crutch.

It was with this newfound knowledge that we decided the pacifier had to go. We had originally decided to pacifier wean before six months of age, so the timing was right. We felt that a gradual weaning would probably not be the most effective route to success, so we took them away “cold turkey.”

Last Wednesday night, for the first time in months, we put Oliver to bed without a pacifier. And we haven’t used it since — not even once!

I’m not going to sugar-coat it: the first night was hell. But the second night, he slept straight through from 9:00 P.M. to 8:00 A.M. Coincidence? Perhaps. He certainly hasn’t slept perfectly in the ensuing days, but on the whole, we have seen a dramatic and obvious improvement in both his daytime and nighttime sleep.

Since saying goodbye to the pacifier, Oliver is finally learning to fall asleep on his own. We put him to bed awake, and most of the time he will go to sleep without intervention after a few minutes of babbling and/or fussing. On a few occasions, he has even managed to settle himself back to sleep when he’s awoken crying in the middle of the night!

I will admit, there are still times when I’ve thought it would be really nice to give him his pacifier — like when we’re out for a walk and he won’t stop crying — but I’m afraid that if we give it to him on occasion, it will become a slippery slope. It’s an easy way to placate him, and we probably used it more often than we should have.

On the bright side, at least we no longer have the worry that he will be a walking, talking pacifier sucker. 🙂

Do (did) you use a pacifier for your baby? Why or why not? If so, at what age will (did) you wean them? 

16 responses to “BYE-BYE PACIFIERS

  1. Hurrah!
    You SO did the right thing. Just as I did not, and moved from having 3 babies who slept at 7 – 16 weeks to one baby who slept at ummmmm 19 months. I was too tired to make the connection between them not having pacifiers and her having approximately 25 of the things spread about her cot, our house, and our car…
    Well done for having the guts to do it!

    • I have to give full credit to J. I was prepared to wait it out until the sleep consultant appointment, but he was the one who suggested we just suck it up (no pun intended) and do it right away.

  2. Interesting … this is the first I’ve heard of sleep associations, but it makes total sense. My little one is kind of off and on with the pacifier. Sometimes she likes it, sometimes she hates it and spits it out and it doesn’t seem to affect her sleep. Yet, that is!

    • I found the information on a sleep consultant’s website. I’m not sure why it was such an obscure little tidbit, because once I gave it some thought, it seemed like total common sense advice that should be in any one of those sleep articles.

      We spent what seemed like ages trying to get Oliver to really like the pacifier, and to be honest, I have no regrets about using it. I would do the exact same thing with any subsequent children. I think it had its time and purpose in the first few months, when the need to suck is most urgent. I think it was a comfort for Oliver and a sanity saver for us. The key was knowing when it was time to cut it loose.

  3. I think you absolutely did the right thing especially since he was fine without it so quickly. I have been a professional nanny for 10 years and am about to have my first baby in April. I hope to never use a pacifier. I have heard and witnessed so many horrible pacifier removal situations. Usually the nights from hell last at least 3 or 4 days. When everyone sleeps better then everyone is much happier! Enjoy!

    P.S. Love your blog and the inspiration it provides. 27 weeks and still Crossfitting 3 times a week!

    • From what I have read (Happiest Baby on the Block, The Baby Sleep Solution, etc.), it’s not too difficult to get rid of the pacifier as long as you do it by four to six months of age. Some newborns have a very intense need to suck, and it can be overwhelming/exhausting at times, especially if you have a frequent breastfeeder. It feels like they are *always* on the breast for one reason or another, and that you (mom) are the *only* thing in the world that can settle them. All that is to say, don’t beat yourself up if you end up using the pacifier after all 😉 We weren’t planning to use one originally, but I think that on the whole, it turned out to be a good thing for Oliver (and me!) for a few months.

      Congratulations on your pregnancy, and on sticking with the CrossFit! 🙂 It feels great, doesn’t it?

  4. I have to say, I don’t know what the big deal is. Human beings in general need comforts of all sorts to sleep. I need to get settled, read for 15 minutes, etc. Why should babies be any different? Good for you for getting him off if it if that’s what you wanted, but why were you so worried? Even if he uses the thing until he’s two, what’s the problem? It’s not like he’ll be using the thing when you send him off to college. In any case, I may be biased. My mother let me use a bottle whenever I wanted I used it all the way until I was 4 years old. Then one day, I just stopped. Everything turned out OK. I wasn’t developmentally behind or weird or anything (in fact, I was one of the only kids who could read when I started kindergarten). It just seems a bit “much ado about nothing.”

    • Well for starters, the pacifier was causing major sleep disruptions. Some parents have no problem with the idea of their child waking multiple times per night. We are not those people — not because we are cold and uncaring — but because both J and I cannot be the best parents we can be if we are in a constant state of exhaustion. Oliver is an obviously calmer, more alert and happier child when he is well-rested. So the pacifier had to go pronto.

      There are compelling dental/orthodontic reasons why children should not be allowed to use pacifiers and bottles indeterminately, but that aside, I personally (and absolutely without passing judgement on parents who don’t feel this way) do not like the idea of my child as a toddler walking around with a soother in his mouth. I also don’t like the idea of him drinking from bottles as a four-year-old or sitting in a stroller when he is big enough for his feet to drag on the ground. Not because I think it will put him behind developmentally or make him “weird,” but because I would simply rather see him grow and develop new skills, and gain self-sufficiency and self-confidence.

  5. We had a very similar experience with our son. He would wake up every 1-3 hours needing his pacifier put back in his mouth. It took us until he was around 8 months old to realize we should just wean him from the pacifier to get him to sleep better. We finally got rid of the pacifier for good by 12 months, and he slept better. The next thing we had to work on was not rocking him to sleep every night. He started waking up and needing to be rocked back to sleep once or twice in the night. It took us a while for us to get him to go to sleep on his own. We would break the rocking habit, but then he would get sick and we’d end up rocking him a lot to comfort him and then have to break the habit again when he was well. It took us until he was almost 2 to get his sleep straightened out. It was a work in progress for a long time.

    • It’s sort of like a moving target. As soon as you think you’ve got things figured out, something else changes!

      I think the next thing we will have to work on is not nursing Oliver to sleep — letting him fall asleep 30-60 min after his last feeding. Right now, if he wakes up less than full, he wants to be fed and nothing else will settle him.

  6. Thankfully Caeley never took to a soother at all BUT at around 15 – 18 months she wanted to use one as her friend at daycare was using one still. Again, thankfully that passed very quickly. This next baby could be completely different but I’d rather travel the route of no pacifier if I can.

  7. Thanks for this thought provoking article, I’m currently pregnant so this is the kind of thing I need to be considering. Incidently my parents gave me a dummy as a kid which I kept for many years (at least till 6 or something I think). I didn’t really notice not being able to sleep after stopping it, maybe I just grew out of it, then again I’ve never been a great sleeper (takes me a long time to fall asleep and always has) so who knows!

  8. Yep, we use the pacifier at night, and continue to do so. She still occasionally wakes up in the middle of the night and cries, but if we go in to check on her, the soother is still in her mouth and her eyes are still closed, so it’s not the soother that’s the problem (likely just a bad dream). Sometimes, during the day, if she has just gotten upset about something, she looks at me and says, “szooszoo??” and I tell her it’s in her bed and she can go and get it if she wants, so she goes and gets her pacifier…she doesn’t seem too reliant on it, but seems to have decided it’s her preferred method to self-sooth. It’s fun to observe all of this learning and development 🙂

    • Seems that little J managed to figure out how to strike the fine balance between occasional self-soothing and becoming completely dependent on it. Lucky you!

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