When you’re considering sleep training, it’s always good to think about all the potential pitfalls. Like that binky. Will it help – or will it make sleep training harder? Can you sleep train with a pacifier?
Sleep training with a pacifier is possible and doable as long as it’s used safely and appropriately. Ideally, pacifiers should not be attached to the baby with a tether or by any other means. This may mean having multiple pacifiers in the crib or finding a safe alternative.
Keep reading to find out more about how to sleep train successfully – with or without a pacifier!
Sleep Training with a Pacifier is Possible and Okay
Speaking as someone who managed to successfully sleep train four children with a pacifier, it’s totally possible (and okay!) to do it. I know that not everyone agrees that pacifiers are okay – and that’s just fine. But if your baby does better with a pacifier, then it is okay to use it during sleep training.
There are just a few issues, like safety, that need to be addressed before you add or subtract pacifiers from your sleep training plan. Some of the factors to consider that make sleep training with a pacifier possible and all right include the following.
- Is your baby able to suck on a pacifier safely?
- Is the pacifier the appropriate size for your baby?
- What kind of pacifier is being used?
- How will the pacifier be used?
- What safety precautions are being taken in regards to the pacifier?
- Will you be putting the pacifier back in yourself? Or will your baby be in charge of putting it back in themselves?
- How long will the baby rely on the pacifier?
- When will the pacifier be taken away?
In any case, we’ll go through each of these so that you’ve got a good idea of how to use a binky safely (and appropriately) during sleep training.
Do You Give a Pacifier During Cry it Out?
When you’re first planning cry it out, it’s important to decide if you’re going to use a pacifier. That way, you can build it into your plan.
Now, I know that many of the cry-it-out plans fall somewhere on the spectrum of not mentioning pacifiers to not being specific enough about how to use them properly. In any case, it’s something that’s so personal that most cookie-cutter style sleep training plans really can’t address it properly.
If you’re going to give a pacifier during cry it out, though, decide when you’ll give the binky and stick to that rule.
For us, we gave our child the pacifier when we put them down to bed – and that was it. Once they were down for the night, there weren’t extra binky retrievals or playing fetch for a binky.
Okay, so with our first boy we did make that mistake – for a few days. We quickly realized it was a problem, though, so we created and stuck to our binky rule. It took a few days – but then things settled down into a much better routine.
If you’ve already started cry it out, you can add (or subtract) a pacifier. Just know that doing so may reset your 5-days-to-success clock.
If you’re using the Ferber method (where you do have regular checks on your child), retrieving the binky during a check might be a great way to offer extra comfort to your child without breaking the “don’t physically comfort your child” guideline.
Can You Give a Pacifier (or binky) During Naps?
Giving a pacifier during naps will also be your decision. If done safely, it’s both appropriate and fine.
We gave our kids their pacifiers during naptimes – it made naptimes a lot better. In fact, the worst naptimes were the ones where we couldn’t find a pacifier. In those instances, naps became huge problems – with no actual sleeping!
Again, though, it’s going to be up to you to create and stick to whatever your binky-at-naptime rule is.
How to Safely Keep a Pacifier in a Baby’s Mouth
When you’re wanting a pacifier to stay safely in your baby’s mouth, there are a few tricks that are important to know.
- Train your baby to use a pacifier.
- Use the correct size and type of pacifier for your baby.
- Teach your baby to put the pacifier in – or teach the baby’s older sibling to do it for you!
- Consider using an appropriate and safe tether.
First, know that it is possible to train your baby to suck on a pacifier. Babies use sucking as a soothing mechanism – so they do love to suck. However, at birth, their sucking isn’t very strong. It takes time and practice for them to learn to suck well. And now I can’t help but giggle, sorry!
In any case, an easy way to train your baby to use a pacifier is this: when they’re still little, put a pacifier in. Then, ever so slightly, try to pull it out. They’ll start sucking harder – trying to keep it in! Let go and let them have the win.
But periodically, try to very softly pull out their binky. It’ll help them learn to hold onto it better – and strengthen their sucking reflex. This will help prevent a lot of binky issues in the future.
Next, find the right size and style of a pacifier for your child. There are several sizes of pacifiers.
- 0-3 months
- 0-6 months
- 6-18 months
The 0-3/6 month pacifiers are smaller and shorter than the 6-18 month pacifiers. So get the right size for your child’s mouth.
If your baby has trouble with the right size of a pacifier, then you may also want to try the different brands. The different brands have slightly different shapes that may affect your child’s ability to retain them.
The hospital-style pacifiers (the green Avent ones) didn’t work well for my kids – but the Philips Avent orthodontic pacifiers did (click here to see pricing and availability on Amazon). Plus, they offer a glow in the dark version, which makes binky retrieval during the night far easier!
Next, consider giving an older child the task of being on binky duty. It’s not possible for a first child, sure. Because then there isn’t an older kid to be in charge of that!
However, it’s a great task for a kid to have – each of our boys loved being in charge of helping the next-younger child. Plus, it’ll most likely accidentally reinforce the first step here!
Finally, consider using an appropriate tether. When you’re shopping for a binky tether, it needs to be short enough that it can’t wrap around your baby’s neck. That way, it won’t be a strangulation hazard.
Other factors I prefer in a binky tether included the following.
- A metal clasp to attach to baby’s clothes – it held better than plastic ones.
- A loop to go around a binky handle or hole (I preferred putting it on the handle so that it didn’t mess with the suction seal of a pacifier).
- Cloth so that it’s easier to clean – on purpose or by accident in the washing machine or dishwasher.
Just remember to keep the tether short enough that it’s not a strangulation hazard – but long enough to reach baby’s mouth. Adjusting where it attaches onto your baby’s clothes can help with that – as long as it doesn’t come loose. That’s why it’s always safest to make sure it can’t go around their neck when loose.
Here’s a great-looking binky tether on Amazon, though there are lots of other options and styles there, too. It’s the same style tether that we used for our kids.
Should I Remove a Pacifier when Baby is Sleeping?
Once a baby is sleeping, it’s best to let them sleep. If they’ve managed to fall asleep and the binky is still in? You could take it out, sure. But will that wake them up?
If it risks waking the baby up, my personal thought is don’t do it. After all, you’ve just worked amazingly hard to get them to sleep. Go ahead and let them sleep.
However, if pacifiers have become a problematic sleep association, then you may want to remove it. Removing it while they’re asleep, though? That’s your call. Even so, our kids did better when we “graduated” them off of pacifiers during the daytime – and while they were fully aware of what was going on.
In that case, we also spent several days building up to the binky removal by telling them things like:
- You’re getting to be a big kid. Big kids don’t use a binky.
- In X days, the binky goes away.
- When you’re a big kid, you’ll get to trade away your binky for a Y (prize they want).
- Today’s the day you’re a big kid – it’ll be time for your pacifier to go away in a little bit.
- You’re a big kid – big kids don’t use a binky. When the baby comes, you’ll get to help them learn to use a binky!
You can word it however you want, but that should get a few ideas going anyway.
In any case, weaning off of a pacifier seems to be much harder – at least it was for us. Going cold turkey and removing the binky (with some regular warnings) during the daytime worked best for all four of our kiddos.
Just know that it will cause a few rough nights while your child adjusts their falling asleep habits to now be pacifier-free.
When Can a Baby Put a Pacifier Back into their Own Mouth?
Babies won’t be able to put a pacifier back into their own mouth until they master a couple of gross and fine motor skills, like grasping, moving an object to the right position between their hands, and then pulling things towards their mouth. This may happen anytime between 4-10 months of age, depending on your child’s skill.
Just for reference, though, expect it to happen at about 6-7 months of age. That’s when each of our kids mastered putting the binky back in by themselves. It was a glorious day!
We totally celebrated that day – so go ahead and look forward to it. And yes, it’s fine to celebrate your baby’s big achievement, too.
Can a Baby Sleep with a Pacifier All Night?
Some babies can sleep with a pacifier all night, definitely!
- Some babies will use a pacifier to fall asleep – and then it will fall out once they’re asleep.
- Others will suck away on their binky, happily, all night long.
- And sometimes the same kid will be able to both – it’ll just depend on the night.
In any case, using a pacifier can be totally fine.
What Age to Take the Binky Away
I asked my kids’ dentist and doctor what the appropriate age for taking away the pacifier was.
- Our pediatrician said that anywhere between 2-3 years of age was getting to be too old for a kid to have a pacifier. However, he doesn’t start worrying until closer to 3-4.
- Our pediatric dentist said that he doesn’t have a problem with pacifiers until a child is 3 years old. Then, he starts seeing pacifier-related tooth problems. So he recommends taking a pacifier away before 3 years of age.
Personally, we chose 2 years old to make the transition. Each of our kids graduated from pacifiers before or on their second birthdays. Our oldest was done by about 18 months – and it was his choice! Our other kids had to graduate from pacifiers – and we threw them away to remove the temptation.
How long does cry it out take to work? On average, cry it out takes 1-2 hours the first night and requires between 3-5 days to see success. In most cases, day 1 is the worst as far as crying. Other families report that day 3 is the worst, but by day 5 things had settled into a much better pattern.
How do I teach my baby to self-soothe? Teaching a baby to self-soothe is a process that requires practice, patience, and a good bit of time. It may also require dedicated sleep training if the baby needs to learn to self-soothe at nap or bedtimes.
Is it okay to let the baby use a breast as a pacifier? Many babies would prefer nursing and suckling to use of a pacifier. Suckling is totally acceptable. However, if sleep training a baby to sleep alone is the goal, suckling may need to gradually be replaced with a pacifier.
Got a pacifier-related question that wasn’t answered? Contact us with your question so we can answer it – and get it added here!
Knowing and tracking baby's milestones is part of how we make sure that they're progressing and growing up. At 4 months of age, the milestones are becoming even more fun to keep track of, even while...
While we had to sleep train our baby, I get asked (a lot!) if it's necessary. Spoiler alert - it's not. But then the harder follow-up question inevitably gets asked: what happens if I don't sleep...