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When to Take Away the Pacifier

Sleep expert Heather Turgeon, co-author of "The Happy Sleeper: The Science-Backed Guide to Helping Your Baby Get a Good Night's Sleep—Newborn to School Age," will fix your family's sleep problems in this space as she does in her home consultations. Turgeon's solutions are nonjudgmental, kind and—best of all—based on science.

No situation is too challenging. Leave your sleep problem in the comments. Let's all get a good night's sleep, finally.

Q. Should I get rid of the pacifier for sleep?

— Sucked In

Dear Sucked In,

That's a great question. The answer depends on how old your baby is, and what happens when she falls asleep and throughout the night when she wakes. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a pacifier when your little baby is falling asleep—at bedtime and for naps—because doing so lowers the risk of SIDS.

It's fine to use a pacifier, even if you're breastfeeding, because research shows babies know the difference. Replacing breastfeeds with bottle feeds without pumping to keep up the demand will eventually lead to a milk supply problem, but pacifiers and breastfeeding are compatible.

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Once your baby reaches the middle of the first year of life, whether you use a pacifier for sleep or not depends on how it's going. If your baby goes to sleep with a paci in her mouth and isn't disturbed by it falling out in the night, or if all you do is replace it once or twice and she sleeps well otherwise, sounds like the pacifier is working just fine.

If your baby falls asleep with the pacifier in her mouth, can't find and re-insert it and is waking up many times a night missing it, that's a case when getting rid of paci's is called for.

First you could try putting multiples in the crib to make it easier to reach one. But if every time she comes into a light sleep, she wakes up fully, and you have to repeatedly go in and give it back to her—that's disruptive to your sleep and hers.

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If you do decide the pacifier is getting in the way of a full night's sleep, don't be afraid to move on from it. Babies always get used to not having the pacifier eventually—she will find something else to soothe herself with, like rolling to her belly, rubbing her face or using a lovey to get comfy and fall asleep.

Sleep happy,

Heather

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