One of the big questions I get from parents is how to wean off the pacifier at night.
And it’s a very valid question.
The pacifier can be an amazing tool for soothing babies and to help them sleep. I am a big fan of the pacifier, as I think the benefits outweigh the cons. That being said, there is a time and place for weaning off the pacifier. Sometimes (although rarely) young babies do better with dropping the pacifier at night. And at some point, it will be time for your toddler to wean off the pacifier at night.
So whether your little one is:
I’ve got you covered for all the tips and tricks on how to wean off the pacifier at night!
How to wean off the pacifier at night: Newborns
First of all, I recommend trying to hold on to the pacifier when your little one is a newborn. The time when I recommend dropping the pacifier is if your newborn is getting close to 4 months old and you are starting to have to do the pacifier yo-yo all night long. If you are going in to pop the pacifier back in, only to have them immediately spit it back out, it may be causing more problems than it’s worth.
Weaning off the pacifier at night when your little one is a newborn can be tricky with no real clear magical formula.
Your best bet is to try and replace the pacifier with a different soothing method. So start off by swaddling with only one arm in, that way your baby can begin to learn to self-soothe using their hand.
It will very likely take a few nights for them to adjust- this is totally normal! When your newborn wakes in the night and you know they are not hungry, try offering different soothing strategies such as rocking, bum pats, shushing, bouncing, etc. instead of the pacifier. We want to swap that sleep association and soothing tool out with something different.
You can also try using the Frida Baby Paci Weaning System.
It’s a safe gradual weaning system that “cuts” the tip off the pacifier little by little over 5 pacifiers so by the last pacifier, there is nothing left to suck on. You can check it out here.
Like I mentioned above, it is almost always easier to hang onto the pacifier until at least 4 months old. The easiest time to drop the pacifier is between 4-6 months and after 2 years old.
How to wean off the pacifier at night: 4-24 months
So just to reiterate, the best time to wean off the pacifier in the 4-24 month window is 4-6 months. The reason being, between 6 and 24 months, babies are usually very attached to their pacifier and trying to wean them off during this time will likely cause some sleep disturbances. Not impossible. But not an ideal time.
If you want to wean off the pacifier now, then the best time is at the beginning of sleep learning. Sleep learning can start at 4 months old and it is the process of teaching your little one independent sleep skills.
The Peaceful Sleeper method is a 4 phase process where you start with optimizing their sleep schedule, then work on independent sleep initiation for bedtime and naps (which is where you can wean the pacifier), then nap lengthening, and finally dropping any night wakings that are not necessary for feeding (only if you want to, of course!)
The key pieces to successfully weaning your little one off the pacifier during sleep learning are:
Ensure they have access to their hands to self soothe
This can mean starting by swaddling with one arm out and moving to both arms out, or using a sleep sack that allows your baby full access to their hands.
Other soothing strategies
At the start of bedtime: When you are soothing your baby as they learn to initiate sleep independently, offer other soothing strategies such as bum pats, bouncing, rocking, shushing, swinging, or my eyebrow stroke.
)For an example of the eyebrow stroke in action, check out my Instagram Reel by clicking here or on the image below.)
Night wakings: We want to find other ways of soothing baby that don’t involve the pacifier. When your baby wakes in the night, if it has been more than 3 hours, I recommend feeding and putting them back to sleep. If it has been less than 3 hours, try different non-pacifier soothing techniques as you work to find one that works best for your baby.
If your baby is finding the process of dropping the pacifier during sleep learning difficult, this is also an appropriate time to consider trying the Freida Baby Weaning System, as I mentioned in the Newborn section.
If you would like support with sleep learning, my 4-24 month course walks you through the whole process and teaches you 4 different approaches so you can choose and tailor an approach to best fit your family. I also talk about navigating all the ins and outs of pacifiers in great detail.
How to wean off the pacifier at night: Toddlers
If you’ve waited to wean off the pacifier until the toddler years, I find it is best to try to drop it after 2 years old. This is because your toddler has the cognitive ability to understand what is going on and be motivated and incentivized by different strategies.
Toddlers can be tricky little creatures. I’m sure I don’t need to tell you that simply taking away the pacifier one night is not going to fly with your little one.
Toddlers are at the height of discovering their independence but they are lacking reasoning skills. So the best way to navigate toddlerhood is to empower your little one with a sense of control and choices, while also maintaining clear and consistent boundaries.
When weaning off the pacifier, it is often more successful if you involve them in the process. Come up with a plan that you think would work best for your little one. Talk through the plan together and involve them in the process as much as possible and offer choices. Often just 2 choices at a time is best.
You want to get your toddler excited about this big step, and steer away from it being something negative. This is going to be especially important if you have a younger baby at home who still uses a pacifier.
Here are some examples of ways you can involve your toddler in the process of dropping the pacifier and keep it positive and exciting!
Strategies for weaning your toddler off the pacifier:
- Trade out the pacifiers with something exciting and fun. Maybe there is a “paci fairy” that comes in the night to take the pacifiers away so other little babies can use them, and she replaces the pacifiers with a fun book or toy.
- Gift the pacifiers to a younger baby who needs them. Involve your toddler in wrapping them up, and even writing a card to go with them.
- Throw a “paci farewell” party. There are lots of ways your toddler can be involved in this “event”.
- Trade off the pacifier with some “big kid” only activities, such as doing something new that they were not allowed to do when they were “younger”.
- Give them a new “big kid” job that makes them feel special and important.
It’s totally normal for this to be a rough transition and you may see some behavioral regressions, as it is a big change in your little one’s life. I highly recommend my Toddler Guide Pack as it has very detailed troubleshooting guides on navigating toddler power struggles, and what to do when your toddler is staying up late and stalling bedtime, plus so much more!!
Recap on how to wean off the pacifier at night
I hope these tips on weaning off the pacifier at night help you feel empowered to tackle this process, at any age, with confidence!
Whether you feel that the pacifier is hindering more than it is helping, or you feel that it’s just time to wean off of it, we are always here to help! If you are making the transition to wean off the pacifier during sleep learning, it can be especially helpful to work with a sleep consultant to get support and expert advice along the way. We are always here to help!