The Pacifier

Cara Dumaplin, Founder

Pacifier, Binky, Nuk, Soother, Dummy…

Let’s talk about “that thing in the baby’s mouth.”

First, you should know that I love pacifiers…. even for breastfed babies!


1. A pacifier allows for non-nutritive sucking.

Obviously, if a baby is hungry, you need to feed him. However, sometimes babies have a drive to suck even after they’ve finished eating. This is called non-nutritive sucking, which simply means sucking without gaining nutrition or calories.

Non-nutritive sucking has several benefits for your baby:

  • Releases endorphins in the brain
  • Promotes relaxation
  • Provides comfort and security
  • Becomes a helpful tool to encourage sleep

If you’re concerned about breastfeeding success or nipple confusion with pacifier use, I have good news for you! Research demonstrates that nursing moms who are allowed to offer a pacifier are equally successful with breastfeeding. True scientific research dispels the myth of nipple confusion and negates the belief that limiting pacifiers actually increases breastfeeding success. In studies, limiting pacifier use actually resulted in decreased rates of exclusive breastfeeding.

2. SIDS Prevention

The American Academy of Pediatrics reports a significantly reduced risk of SIDS with pacifier use, particularly when given to babies for sleep.  In a study published by the AAP, researchers “recommend that pacifiers be offered to infants as a potential method to reduce the risk of SIDS. The pacifier should be offered to the infant when being placed for all sleep episodes, including daytime naps and nighttime sleeps.” Please know: You do NOT have to take away your baby’s pacifier before he falls asleep.

Ok… now that you know why I LOVE pacifiers, let’s discuss some common questions and concerns about pacifier use.

What if my newborn won’t take a pacifier?

Sometimes, even though parents offer a pacifier, some babies simply WILL NOT accept one. Please know, that’s okay too. Your baby does NOT have to take the pacifier. In my experience, if babies won’t accept it prior to 7-10 weeks of age, they probably will not accept it ever. You can still have a great sleeper without one!

However, many times, parents see a tongue thrust or gag and decide, “nope, he doesn’t want it.”  Remember, both the tongue thrust and gag are normal reflexes. Don’t let either scare you away from trying!

What’s the best way to offer a pacifier to a young baby? Do you have any tips?

Use the pacifier to apply firm pressure on the top of the tongue and go around in circles. Sometimes, applying a bit of breast milk or formula to the tip helps. Babies who become distracted by arms waving around often do better with the pacifier when arms are swaddled. If your baby still doesn’t seem interested in the pacifier, work with him to take it while he’s calm instead of when he’s upset and crying. You may also try different types of pacifiers; some babies have strong preferences for certain nipple types.

If you have a newborn who just won’t take the pacifier, watch the video below to see me introduce one to a baby who had previously refused it.

Can the pacifier become a problem? What then?

When a baby begins to scream the moment a binky falls out of his mouth or awakens 563,451 times a night for it to be replaced, it’s time to do something. (Ok, maybe it just feels that extreme!) In reality, if your newborn needs her pacifier replaced more than 3-4 times during night, you need a plan.

In the video above, I demonstrate how to gently pull the binky from your baby’s mouth right before he falls asleep. Elias has gradually learned how to fall asleep without it. This increases the likelihood of him putting himself BACK to sleep in the night without needing it replaced. Now, this skill won’t develop immediately. It may take weeks for your baby to learn to fall asleep without it. That’s okay. It’s a work in progress. If baby begins crying when you pull it from his mouth, just replace the pacifier and try again later. It will take time and patience.

Again, it’s not required to pull the pacifier before they fall asleep. It is perfectly acceptable for a baby to fall asleep with the pacifier in his mouth. This is simply a technique that can be helpful for babies who are overly dependent upon it.

Check out the video below of baby Gio. Mom has been working on the technique described above. He is now able to put himself to sleep without the pacifier at all. She uses it as part of the nap/bedtime routine, but once she lays him down, he goes to sleep without it. Again, this was only implemented because Gio was crying each time it fell out of his mouth.

If you’re wondering how these babies fell asleep without being nursed, rocked, or bounced to sleep, check out the resources at Taking Cara Babies. Your baby can do this too!!

We’re needing to “pop the pacifier” all night long, what do I do now?

Our 3-4 month digital download, Navigating Months 3 + 4,” gives specific guidance to help you reduce pacifier dependence if you need to take that step. For babies 5-24 months, The ABC’s of Sleep” allows your baby to have a pacifier at bedtime, but helps eliminate the need for you to replace it all night long!

A Few Helpful Tips: If your baby is over 5 months, our goal is to teach him how to replace the pacifier on his own, allowing him to become a more independent sleeper.

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  1. “The Binky Game” (video above) is a fun activity to help reinforce this skill. Start practicing today. Older siblings are great at “playing” too. Soon this “game” will help your baby replace the pacifier on his own.
  2. Place 4-6 pacifiers all around the crib. This can make it easier for your little one to find a pacifier in the dark.

When is the right time to toss the binky?

If the binky is causing your baby frustration, increased crying, more wakings in the night, and you’ve just had enough… it’s time to get rid of it no matter what age.

The official recommendation of the AAP is weaning off of the pacifier at 6-9 months to eliminate a higher risk of ear infections. However, some pediatricians feel it’s better to wait until 12 months when the need for sucking fades. Others feel age two is best, as babies can find other ways to lower stress. Dentists want it eliminated by the time adult teeth are emerging.

Bottom line: As a parent, you get to decide when is best for your baby.

Ok. We’re ready to eliminate the binky. What do we do?

So much of this decision depends on the personality of your baby and your family. Here are some options:

  1. Go cold turkey, and throw them all away. Consider giving some warning, especially if your little one is older than 18 months.
  2. Make a rule that the binky can only be used for sleeping. It never leaves the crib.
  3. Eliminate the pacifier at nighttime. Only allow it during nap time. The drive to fall asleep is higher at night than during naps so you will find more success eliminating it for night sleep prior to day sleep. Consider giving your baby a lovey to hold instead.

Whichever method you pick, recognize that it will take about 2-5 nights for your baby to adjust. For those who are following The ABC’s of Sleep, refer back to your plan, and your good little sleeper will re-emerge in just a few nights. This online class gives you a plan to follow for all the sleep bumps during those first couple years of a baby’s life!

How did I wean my babies off of the pacifier?

Well, my husband INSISTED my daughter be done at 11 months because the pacifier had become a permanent part of her little smile. I must admit, it was a bit obsessive for her. Two days after we took her pacifier away, she began to suck her thumb (until she was 7 years old!). I really wished we would’ve have waited until she was a bit older to eliminate the pacifier with her.

With my boys, the pacifier never left the crib after they reached 6 months. The pacifier was a tool to help them but never a burden.  Around their second birthdays, I cut the very tip off and said “broken.” Each day, I cut off a bit more and more. It became harder and harder to suck on comfortably. They held them in their hands at night and said “broken” for about 2 weeks. Then it was done. The binky was a thing of the past. (Be sure to check with your doctor before deciding this is a safe option.)

My sister decided the “cut the tip” route wasn’t best for their family. Instead, at 2.5 years, they had the “Binky Fairy” who took the pacifiers and brought my niece a new scooter. Who wouldn’t love a new scooter and a shiny pink helmet? She was elated and didn’t miss the pacifier at all during awake times. Bedtime was rough for a few nights, but they had success with this route too.

Some find great success with THIS little bear and bedtime story. 

Overall, I find the pacifier to be a very helpful tool in the first few months and years of life. Sure, it can present some challenges, but in my opinion, the benefits far outweigh any burden it brings. Again, some babies just won’t take a pacifier and that’s okay too. Remember, with or without the pacifier you can have a great sleeper.

hey there!

I'm Cara.

I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.

I'm Cara.

I’m a mom of four, neonatal nurse, and wife of a pediatrician. My passion is teaching parents how to help their babies sleep with the science of a nurse and the heart of a mama so they can reclaim the joy of parenthood.