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My Child Can't Sleep Without Her Pacifier

What if your child won't give up the dummy? Learn how to tackle this typical toddler problem.


Michael explains, "When Rachel was three months old, we gave her the pacifier for hygiene purposes because she had the tendency to 'suck' her pillow before sleeping. Gradually, we realised the pacifier helped her doze off easily and she slept undisturbed for longer periods. She'd ony wake when the pacifier fell out.

"Now that she's one year old, we're trying to wean her off the pacifier, but she can't sleep at night without it. When she does finally doze off without the pacifier, she'll wake up soon after. It is the same situation during her daytime naps. We have to carry her to coax her back to sleep. 'Most times, we end up giving her the pacifier. Now we are at a loss how can we get her to sleep and wean her off the pacifier? We are also concerned about the dummy's impact on Rachel's teeth if she uses it for too Iona."

Expert Views

The term, pacifier, denotes a peace-maker. Many parents with babies use it to maintain some peace in the house. All babies have a tendency to suck in the first few months of life, even when they are not hungry. It is natural for them to feel comforted when a nipple, teat, pacifier or even their own thumb goes into their mouth. But as children grow and develop - usually by the age of three or four-their need to suck usually goes away.

In addition, they'll be able to control their behavior better with increased peer pressure especially in nursery or preschool. "It may be a while before an improvement is seen in Rachel's situation, as her tendency to suck may still be very strong at her age. She derives great comfort and security with the pacifier in her mouth. It's advisable to wean her off the pacifier slowly.

If she only needs it during sleep, let her suck on it until she's sleepy and dozes off. "The problem with the pacifier is the development of an `overbite' or dental malalignment with prolonged use, where the upper teeth protrude or crooked teeth form. However this only happens with use beyond three years.

Easy-To-Remember: Dos And Don'ts

Expert Pointers To Make Weaning Your Child Off The Dummy A Smoother Process

Do Leave Your Child Alone

Do leave your child alone if you see that there are no jaw or dental problems. She will eventually stop using the pacifier on her own. This is true even with those die-hard pacifier-dependent children.

Do Remember That Most Children Stop Daytime Sucking Habits

Do remember that most children stop daytime sucking habits when they start preschool because of peer pressure. They don't want to be seen as the class "baby" who's still sucking on a pacifier when everyone else has given it up. But these same kids may still use sucking as a way of relaxing and going to sleep or calming themselves when they are upset. This is usually done in private and causes no real harm.

Do Not Punish, Use Harsh Words Or Redicule Your Child

Do not punish, use harsh words or redicule your child because these actions may upset her and get her to cling to the pacifier for even longer. Punishment may work in the short term but is not an effective long-term solution to get rid of undesirable habits.

Do Not Put Too Much Pressure On Your Child To Stop

Do not put too much pressure on your child to stop this behavior as it may cause more harm than good. Rachel is still young and needs self-comforting methods to relax and sleep. There's a good chance she'll give up the habit when she's older. Don't worry too much at this stage.

Here Are A Simple Ways To Gradually Wean A Young Child Off The Pacifier

Ignore The Habit

If you want to break a child's sucking habit, the first step is to ignore it, says expert. He says, most often, the habit disappears with time. Older children, especially those more than three years of age, may use sucking simply to relieve boredom, so this habit won't last.

Try Distracting Your Child With An Interesting Activity

Add rewards for times when she doesn't use the pacifier. Rewarding good behavior is an effective way to encourage a change. Praise and reward your child when she does not use the pacifier. Star charts and gentle reminders, especially during the day, also help.

Substitute The Pacifier With A Non-Sucking Toy

Try to substitute her pacifier with a plush toy like a teddy bear. But if she goes on to suck on teddy's ear, it may be better to leave her with the pacifier.

Ensure There Are No Severe Emotional Upsets Or Stress-Related Problems

Emotional upsets (change of caregiver for instance) or stress-related problems (eg she's forced to sleep somewhere she doesn't like) might make your child use a pacifier. Rachel, like mast children, may simply be using it as a transitional comfort object and will grow out of it.


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