Babies have a strong sucking reflex. Studies have shown that babies have been observed sucking on their fingers and toes even in the womb. Pacifiers are known to satisfy the sucking reflex and calm a crying baby. Pacifiers can also teach a baby to self-soothe, and make them feel secure.
Introducing a pacifier to a baby depends on many factors, the most important of them being breastfeeding. A pacifier is shaped differently compared to the shape of a real nipple, and there is a possibility of creating nipple confusion in a baby who is trying to learn how to latch onto the breast for milk. Many studies suggest that the physical action babies perform to suck a pacifier is different from the physical action to extract milk from the breast. The same thing applies to a feeding bottle as well. Thus, if a mother wants to breastfeed, it is best if the pacifier is not introduced while the baby is learning to get milk from the breast.
Pacifiers may be used as a tool to teach a baby to self-soothe. Pacifiers can help babies learn to control their feelings, relax them, and make them feel secure. Because of this, a pacifier will go a long way in helping a baby fall asleep. As parents, dealing with sleep issues as babies have trouble sleeping in the first year, is one of the most difficult things to deal with. A pacifier, by way of soothing the baby, will eventually lead to the baby falling asleep on its own, without the parents’ physical presence.
Is it safe to keep the pacifier on when the baby is asleep?
Yes, it is safe to use a pacifier during bedtime. Bedtime can refer to the time of any naps, during the day or the night. Consistency is key in this regard, as the pacifier will have to be used at all bedtimes. Making sure that some basic guidelines are followed, a pacifier will go a long way in peace of mind for the parents.
When using a pacifier make sure that the following guidelines are followed.
- The pacifier should be kept clean at all times. Pacifiers should be disinfected thoroughly with hot water before every use. Babies are still developing their immune systems and are easily susceptible to infections. Thorough sterilization of the pacifier ensures it is germ-free.
- Be sure to check the pacifier regularly as cracks, splits and holes can easily trap germs. If the pacifier is cracked or damaged in any way, then replace it with a new one.
- Babies should not share pacifiers. Even if the babies are from the same household, sharing pacifiers can lead to the spreadingof infection.
- Choose a brand that is BPA-free. Various studies have shown that low-qualityplastics have adverse effects on infants.
- Choose the right pacifier for your baby. Pacifiers come in all shapes and sizes, with various attachments as well. Pacifiers that have cords attached to them are a strangling hazard. The cord may get wrapped around parts of the body when the baby moves around while sleeping, cutting off blood or more importantly, air.
- The right size pacifier has to be used according to the age of the baby. Pacifiers are a choking hazard and anything smaller or larger than what is required is not recommended.
- One-piece pacifiers are the safest to use. Pacifiers that have two or more components tend to come undone during the nap.
- Pacifiers have a guard, and care has to be taken to check that there are adequate breathing holes in the guard.
- The pacifier has to be given as it is. Coating the pacifier with other substances or trying to sweeten it may damage the pacifier itself or the baby’s delicate teeth.
- If the pacifier falls out of the baby’s mouth during the nap, do not try to put it back in or force the baby to take the pacifier.
How to remove the pacifier from bedtime?
The baby has to be gradually weaned off the pacifier in stages, as taking something away that it is used to will cause the baby to become fussy. There is no easy way to do this, it will take time and patience.
The recommended age to start a baby on a pacifier is 4-6 weeks after it has learned to breastfeed. The recommended age to stop using a pacifier is 6-12 months. After the age of 12 months, a pacifier may lead to problems with the baby’s teeth and speech development.
Start with a day when the baby has had good naps throughout the day. Take the pacifier away at night. After soothing the baby down and making sure that it is not hungry, put the baby in a crib or cot without the pacifier. The parent must stay with the child during this phase as it is used to going to sleep with the pacifier. Gentle reassurance and singing lullabies will help the baby gradually fall asleep. Over a few days, shorten the period spent in the room. The parent has to be prepared for some crying at bedtime and during the night when the baby wakes up to find out the pacifier is missing.
How to get the baby to sleep without a pacifier?
While a pacifier does help, it is not an absolute necessity. Whether teaching the baby to sleep on its own or just off the pacifier, several tried and tested methods are available for making your baby fall asleep faster.
If the baby is already used to a pacifier, it may associate it with sleep time. A substitute may be introduced in its place, like a bedtime-only teddy or a blanket. This will help the child cue bedtime and know that it is time to sleep.
Skin contact in the early days will encourage healthy brain development. All babies love warm cuddles and make sure you give them lots of cuddles and love by holding them close. While there is skin contact with the baby, you both release a hormone called oxytocin, which promotes a sense of calm.
Rocking, singing, massaging, and talking to your baby while he or she is falling asleep provides reassurance and makes the baby feel secure as it is in your presence. The baby’s room has to be as dark as possible. Like adults, the darker the room, the better babies sleep.
Contrary to popular belief, babies tend to sleep better with white noise, or constant noise from their environment, as opposed to complete silence. Doctors believe that babies thrive with white noise as it reminds them of their time in the womb.
The baby has to be kept adequately warm. This varies with changing environments, so it is important to research the best layers to put on your baby when trying to get it to sleep. Babies thrive on routine, so it is important to establish a pattern based on the sleeping times of the household. It helps to schedule nap times during the day and a time to go to sleep at night. All these methods ensure that weaning a baby is an easy task and does not result in sleepless nights for the parents.
How to teach a baby to self-soothe without a pacifier?
When a baby can self-soothe, it means that it can fall asleep or return to sleep after waking, on its own with little or no crying. This ability differs from baby to baby, and while one technique may work for a baby, others require time and multiple methods before they can teach themselves to self-soothe.
Babies usually start to demonstrate self-soothing behavior by 3-4 months of age. By the age of six, most babies can go eight or more hours without needing a feed in the night, so this makes it an ideal time to encourage them to self-soothe. It is best to encourage self-soothing behaviors before separation anxiety kicks in full force, around 8 to 9 months.
Create a routine around going to sleep. Reading a book, singing a song, or giving a bath in a bathtub can provide the body with the signal that it’s time to relax and go to sleep. Although babies do not know what is being spoken, consistent cues can tell them when they are expected to go to sleep. Like sleep routines, consistent sleep times can teach the baby that it is time to go to sleep. Body rhythms can be trained to align with going to sleep at specific times.
If the baby is falling asleep while drinking from the bottle or breast, they are not self-soothing or learning to self-soothe. To encourage the baby to learn how to self-soothe, the bedtime feeding session should be moved to a slightly earlier part of the bedtime routine.
For many reasons a baby’s ability to control their emotions and self-soothe will be greatly reduced if they are too exhausted. By anticipating your baby’s needs instead of reacting to them, your child will be prepped for success. They’ll be more likely to end the evening in a happy mood, which will make it easier to fall and stay asleep on their own without assistance.
A baby falls asleep in its crib and remains in its crib when they wake up in the middle of the night. If your child falls asleep in your arms and is then put in the crib, they will rouse to an environment different than the one they fell asleep in. This can be jarring and lead to distress that makes it harder to self-soothe back to sleep. If the habit they learn is falling asleep in the crib, this will aid with self-soothing. Also, it helps to put them into their crib in a drowsy, but not-yet-asleep state. This will give them time to adjust to the environment of the crib as they finish falling asleep.
What can I give my baby instead of a pacifier?
When weaning a baby off a pacifier, it is important to provide alternatives, as a lack of these will lead to a fussy baby. Various objects could be used- blankets, toys, parents’ physical presence, and even a straw can replace the pacifier.
A blanket may be introduced to the baby, specifically at bedtime. To get the baby used to this, try to spend time cuddling and reading books with the blanket. The blanket may also be used while comforting the baby when they are crying, and soon the baby will start associating the blanket with a feeling of security. A teddy or soft toy may also be used in the same way. The toy has to be introduced in exchange for the pacifier.
A night light may help soothe a baby that is scared or upset from the pacifier being taken away. Various night lights are available, from simple ones that glow in a set dim color or ones that display patterns on the walls or ceiling.
A straw may mimic the sucking action that the baby is used to with the pacifier. A spill-proof water bottle with a straw can be taken to bed, ensuring enough hydration as well as replacing the pacifier.