First thing to know is I LOVE pacifiers! If you had asked me my thoughts on this when my daughter was a month old, I would have told you something completely different! I was doing the “soother dance.” Up 10 times per night reinserting that thing! At first, it wasn’t so bad. It seemed easy enough to get up, put the soother back in, and go back to sleep. I would think, well at least she’s not up feeding 10 times per night. When in all honesty…a sleep crutch, is a sleep crutch and this wasn’t much different in the end.
Months of this, just wasn’t sustainable and it became exhausting. I was ready to break this habit, take it away cold turkey, but then I didn’t have the heart and kept talking myself out of it….and by about 5.5 months she was inserting it herself anyway, so we stuck it out and I sleep trained at 6 months. And I’m glad we did! The soother was a lifesaver in many situations – like an overnight flight home from Hawaii. That soother went in, and my little baby slept the entire way in my arms. Yay!
With all this said, there comes a time when you do need to take that soother away. Either it is disrupting sleep and you are tired of that soother dance, causing dental issues, and your little one is simply getting too old for a soother. Different people have different ideas of what is “too old.” Some will say 6 months, 12 months, or between 2-3 years old. Personally, we are keeping our soother until roughly 2.5 years old. My thoughts on it are if it’s not causing issues, don’t stress about it! So how can we take a soother away?
If your baby is 6 months or under, not yet inserting it themselves, and it has become a major sleep disruption for you and your baby, it may be a good idea to take it away. First take it away for bedtime before naps. This is because sleep drive is higher at bedtime than it is naps. Expect a few rough nights, but don’t cave and go in and offer it at 2:00am just to get some sleep. This will just confuse your little one. If you decide to take it away, stick to it. Once you have done a couple of nights without the soother, begin taking it away for naps as well. Don’t worry, naps use a different part of the brain so having it only for naps temporarily shouldn’t impact nights. If your little one is ALMOST there as far as inserting it, during awake time PRACTICE PRACTICE PRACTICE. When they do get it in themselves, get really excited, and clap your hands! Keep doing this until they master it.
You may still offer your baby their soother at bedtime and naptime. As they begin to fall asleep, gently remove it. If this startles your baby awake, reinsert the soother, let them get drowsy, and try again. Do this until baby falls asleep. Each night take the soother out when baby is a bit less drowsy until you are no longer offering it at all. This method works best for younger babies.
Offer it Less
You may have one of those baby’s or toddlers that is constantly seen with their soother in. That’s totally fine! But you may be getting ready to start having your little one be less dependent on it. Begin by offering it only for naps and bedtime. No longer bring it out with you, clip it to the car seat or stroller strap, and don’t let your little one take their soothers out of their crib anymore. You may combine this with any of the above or below methods if you choose when it comes to sleeping and soothers. If you have more than one soother in their crib (like I do!) take one soother out per week until they have only 1 soother as you gradually get them used to not having as many at their disposal.
Cut the Tip
Some caregivers choose to gradually cut the tip of the soother until there is barely anything left to suck anymore. The goal here is that babies and toddlers naturally wean themselves as they realize slowly it just does not feel the same anymore. This method does not work for everyone, but is a common one used.
This is my favorite method for toddlers! You simply tell your toddler that the soother fairy is coming to take away their soother, but they will bring you something in exchange. (Kind of like the tooth fairy). You can choose what this item is, either a fun toy, new stuffed animal, or a nice cuddle buddy in replace of the soother for sleeping. I prefer the item that replaces the soother to be another comfort item so they still feel they having that soothing item for sleeping. Don’t hide the soother, or try and trick your toddler that it has gone missing. They are smart! Have them put it in a basket or some place special for the “Soother Fairy” to get it.
Tip to remember: For some babies, breaking the soother too young results in thumb suckers (not always). It is easier to take away the soother down the road than a thumb, so before breaking this habit weigh out the pros and cons and make sure it is the right time and right choice for you and your family.
My Fourth Trimester eBook will discuss the introduction of a soother and how to introduce it, keep it, and prevent it from becoming a negative sleep association.
If you are in Calgary looking for a Sleep Consultant or anywhere in the world really, I can help you through my web based sleep plans! If you are struggling with sleep, you don’t have to! My eBooks and Sleep Packages can address your areas of concern to help you getting the rest you need and deserve.