Its 2am. You hear it. It suddenly gets louder and louder. What is it?!
Your baby crying out because the binky fell out… again… for the 27th time tonight!!
Have you become your baby’s personal binky replacer all night every night? Well, you are not alone! This happens to more parents than not. It is frustrating and easy to feel trapped in this endless loop of replacing the binky to have it fall out again. Your sleep is disrupted and so is your baby’s!
The pacifier can be a really helpful tool…. for newborns. After those early weeks, the binky can become “the bane of your existence”, as one Dad that I worked with referred to it as.
So why does this “helpful tool” become such a problem? When babies are newborns, their sucking reflex is very strong. They also spend a lot their time sleeping in deep sleep. The combination of the two results in the ability for the pacifier to stay in longer and, if it does fall out, they spend so much more time in a deep stage of sleep that it usually doesn’t wake them as easily. Then, they hit the 4 month sleep regression and now they spend less time in deep sleep. They begin to cycle through the stages of sleep and have more bouts of light sleep. Once they realize the binky is gone, they call out for it since they need it in order to fall back asleep. That’s where you come in, to replace it every 45 mins to an hour!
What if your baby is old enough to find the binky and put it back in but it still seems to cause problems? The reason for this is that finding the pacifier, turning it the correct way and getting it back into their mouth requires a lot of coordination. This can make those naturally occurring awakenings between sleep cycles turn into full-blown wide-awake time. And that’s when you have yourself an issue!
Breaking the dependency of the pacifier can be described with a few adjectives. Beneficial, helpful, relieving but most of the time SCARY! Parents depend on it to help soothe their baby just as much, if not more than the baby actually does. Breaking it can be a terrifying thought for them.
So, let’s talk about when and how to do this.
If you’re reading this, chances are you already have an issue with the binky. The best time for you to let it go is right now. I typically advise parents to think about removing it from the nap and bedtime equation at around 4 months old. If you want to keep it for car rides and other things during wake periods, that’s fine! But, eliminating it for sleep times can really help your child (and you) sleep better.
Alright, how do we do this?!
If your baby is younger, the best way to get rid of the pacifier is cold turkey. Just rip that band-aid off and don’t look back! Trust me, you will be so thankful that you did this! You can offer a Lovey if your child is of age and you are comfortable with it. Just be sure that the Lovey is 12 x 12 inches (if it has a blanket), the material is breathable when you put it on your own face and that it doesn’t have sewn on eyes or a nose (if it’s an animal).
If you have an older child, then I have a few ideas for you. Read through them and think about which way one will fit your little one the best. The most important thing is to do what you say you’re going to do. If you remove the binky one night but give in 3 nights later, this is sending a mixed message to your child and it could make it harder from that point. They may remember that one time that you caved and keep pushing back on you until you cave again.
The first idea is to take your child and their favorite binky to Build-a-Bear and have them put it inside of the bear. Then, they can sleep with their new bear and feel like they have their beloved pacifier with them still. Or, you can introduce a new Lovey and throw a Welcome Lovey party! Avoid bringing up the binky. We are just going to erase that memory and put the new Lovey in its place. This will take a lot of control on your part but after time, they will move on and this will all be a thing of the past! The last idea is to say that it’s for a new baby and have them help you round the binkies up to give to someone or use for a new sibling. Be careful with this one though. Keep in mind that it could backfire, and they could decide they don’t want to be a big kid anymore and they would like to remain the baby to keep the binky. Using this strategy and seeing success will depend greatly on the personality of your child.
There you have it! Good luck! This will help your baby or child in many ways so just stay strong!