A week ago we got rid of the pacifier for my 2 year old son. We’ve been guilty of giving it to him at night as he’s been going through a phase of waking up at 5am, and the pacifier was the only thing which would help him get back to sleep. However, he’s almost 2 and a half now and it feels the right time to get rid of it. So we put all of them in a bowl before he went to bed and the ‘pacifier fairy’ came in the night, removed them and gave him a stuffed toy instead 🙂 Phew, he seemed to buy it.
However, he hasn’t always liked the pacifier. We persisted with it when he was a newborn as he was quite a fussy baby, but some babies dislike the pacifier because it might be the wrong shape for their mouths, or you might be offering it at the wrong times. In this article, let’s look at why some babies hate the pacifier in more detail.
Why do some babies hate the pacifier?
There are all sorts of reasons why babies dislike the pacifier. Here are some of the most common ones:
- They don’t like the shape as it may feel awkward in their mouths. The good news is that there a variety of different shaped pacifiers you can try until you get it right.
- They don’t like the material. Silicone is the most common, but it is thicker and it can take babies longer to get used to it. You can also try latex or natural rubber pacifiers instead.
- Your baby may have developed a negative association with the pacifier. If you only give it to them when they’re crying right from the get go, they may see it as a form of punishment. It won’t take them long to start resenting the pacifier completely!
See below for some tips on how you can encourage your baby to take a pacifier.
Should you persist with the pacifier (even if your baby doesn’t like it)?
It may take a day or two for them to get used to it, maybe longer, but you shouldn’t force your baby to use a pacifier if it’s clear they just don’t like it. Just use your judgement to gently ease them into using one. Sometimes babies spit out the pacifier not because they don’t like it, but because they want to let you know they are hungry, tired or need a diaper change. It took my wife and I about two days for our son to totally accept using the pacifier, but my daughter took to it almost straight away. All kids are different.
The only downside is if you have a particularly fussy baby who won’t take a pacifier, you will have to find some other ways to calm them down.
What can you do to encourage them to take one?
The most important thing is to show patience. Remember it can be a strange sensation to have some plastic object shoved in your mouth. How would you like it? So give your baby time to get used to taking one. If it looks like a lost cause after a few days, maybe they just don’t like it? Here are some other tips:
- It’s generally best to offer it after a feed. If your baby is hungry and crying and you give them a pacifier, they may develop a negative association with it and think it’s a way for them not to eat.
- You can add a drop of breastmilk or formula on the pacifier to make it taste better.
- Try different types of pacifier until you find the right one for your baby. Also consider the material of the pacifier. You can get silicone, latex or natural rubber.
- Give it to them as a fun activity. You want your baby to have a positive association with the pacifier, so you could try giving one when you’re playing a game or when your little one is in a good mood. We know pacifiers help calm babies down, but when you’re introducing one, try to avoid using them when your baby is having a meltdown!
When can babies start using a pacifier?
You can start introducing the pacifier when your baby is around 1 month old. However, try and avoid giving it any earlier, as they need to be confident nursing or drinking from the bottle first. It’s possible they can develop nipple confusion if you start using a pacifier when they’re only a couple of weeks old.
How do you stop it from falling out of their mouth?
If you persist with the pacifier and your baby takes to it, that’s great. It will likely calm them down and give you a bit more peace and quiet…for a few minutes at least!
However, it also creates some other issues and that normally revolves around the pacifier falling out of their mouth at night. Your baby won’t be able to put it back in by themselves and that means they’ll cry out for mum or dad to give it to them. An over-reliance on the pacifier at night means your baby will not learn how to self-soothe which unfortunately means more sleepless nights for you.
So what can you do about it? Unfortunately there’s no clever hack to help your baby in this situation. One mum placed 10 pacifiers in her baby’s crib at night and claims that she didn’t have to go into her baby’s room for 8 months! You could try this if you’re desperate but it isn’t a long-term solution and your little one just won’t learn how to self-soothe properly.
Speaking as a parent who has had both children use a pacifier at night, by all means use it for newborn babies as it may reduce the risk of Sudden Death Infant Syndrome (SIDS). However get rid of it as soon as you can. The risk of SIDS is highest in the first 6 months of a baby’s life so anytime after that should be ok.
During the day
During the day, it’s obviously easier to keep the pacifier in the mouth as you can attach it to a strap which clips onto your baby’s clothing. Younger babies will still need your help putting it back in, but at least you won’t have to search for the pacifier all the time when it pops out of their mouth. Older babies and toddlers can usually just pick up the pacifier and put it back in their mouths by themselves.
How long should a baby use a pacifier?
It’s best to limit the use of the pacifier as much as you can, and start to wean your baby off it once they are around 12 months or a bit older.
My wife and I didn’t stop using one with our children until they were around two years old. With my daughter, we had real issues with her reliance on the pacifier at night, so we had to sleep train her not to need it any more (boy, that was a struggle!)
Related Post: 11 Things Your Baby Might Hate
Graham is a father of two who founded Dadometer to share his parenting journey with other moms and dads.