Please watch my video below on what to do if your baby needs a soother to fall back to sleep at night.
To ask a question about your child’s sleep, just leave it in the ‘Comments’ section below! I’ll choose one and create a new video answer each week!View the Video Transcript
Hi! I’m Dana Obleman, creator of The Sleep Sense Program. If you’d rather read than watch, I’ve transcribed the text of this video below.
This week’s question comes from Michelle. She writes:
“My five-month-old falls asleep on her own in her crib every night and for every nap. But most nights, she wakes up after only three hours. I then put the pacifier back in and she goes to sleep. The problem is that this is happening almost every hour for the rest of the night. Please help.”
I think it’s interesting when people write to me—and you’re not the only one—and tell me that their child falls asleep on their own in their crib. Well, that’s great. She’s not relying on rocking, she’s not relying on lots of nursing from you or attention from you. She’s falling asleep on her own, which is good. But she’s not doing it on her own. She’s basically using a pacifier to get herself to sleep.
I’ve said this over and over, so forgive me if I sound like a broken record, but sleep is a journey. How to get yourself from point A to point B is the problem for a lot of babies. How do I bridge the distance between being awake and falling asleep? So, if a baby is using a pacifier to get themselves to sleep, they’re not really doing it on their own. It’s a prop, just like anything else. You get that soother in your mouth, you suck, suck, suck, and that’s your cue that it’s time to start falling asleep. But, somewhere in the night—and usually as soon as they get into the deeper part of their sleep cycle—the soother comes out. It either falls out, or you can even watch a baby push it out with their tongue, just so they can really get into their deep part of the cycle. So, when she has a little wake-up somewhere in the night, and the soother’s no longer there, she’s going to need help.
I’ve read things that say just put five or ten soothers in the crib, and maybe when she’s flailing around in the dark she might luckily find one and get it back into her mouth. I don’t know of very many babies that actually works for. In fact, I don’t even know many toddlers that works for, because of the thought process that has to go on in the night when you’re half asleep and you want your prop but you can’t find it. You think, “Maybe if I just pat around, I’ll find one, and then I’ve got to get it into my mouth, and it has to be the right direction.” That’s a lot of things that have to happen just right or else that soother’s not going to make it. And with most babies, as soon as they wake up enough and realize it’s not there, they’re just crying. If they can sit up, they sit up. If they can stand, they stand. They’re upset. They’re not happy to be awake—it’s the middle of the night. So you need to come in and solve the problem by putting that pacifier back in.
What you need to do is teach her how to fall asleep without the pacifier. The pacifier should not be involved in sleep at all. You would do the same routine every night. You’re going to put her in there without the pacifier. You can expect that’s going to be a bit of a change for her and a transition to learn, “How do I do this without that sucking sensation?” But she will. She got used to using the soother; she can definitely get used to not using it.
You can handle it a variety of ways. If you want to do a leave-and-check style, you can go in every two or three minutes and reassure her and then leave. Or you can follow the stay-in-the room method, just to be supportive to her. You realize this is a transition and you know it’s not going to be easy at first and you’re there to be supportive. But, learning the skill of sleeping is something that only I can learn—you can’t do it for me. You have to keep that in mind as you begin this.
The good news is that once she figures out how to do this without the soother, the night wakings are going to stop. They won’t stop instantly, but they definitely will follow, and pretty soon you’ll have a peaceful night where she’s sleeping 11 or 12 hours without any need for assistance from you.
I do think this is the perfect time and the perfect age for you to go ahead and take this step. You don’t have to get rid of the pacifier altogether. If you want to use it when you’re in the car or in the grocery store or just to buy yourself a few minutes while you get dinner on, then use it. But it shouldn’t be involved in a child’s strategy for sleep. Good-sleeping children are prop free, so that’s your goal.
Thanks for your question. Sleep well!
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