As the Sleep Doula, I hear many parents with similar concerns. One that comes up on a regular basis is the pacifier. Below is a recent letter I received.
Dear Sleep Doula, I have a two month old who needs a pacifier to sleep at night. I am concerned that it will turn into a crutch and I don't want a 3 year old who still needs a pacifier. Should I get rid of it now? Sincerely, Concerned Mother
Parents, this may come as a shock to you – but in my opinion for the first five months of your baby’s life, it's all about survival. You do what you have to do. You make your choices based on knowledge and what works best for you, your partner and your infant.
I believe there are some children who need to suck and some who don't. My main piece of advice if you are introducing a pacifier is - best to wait until breastfeeding has been established. Once your baby is feeding properly, if you choose to, you can proceed with introducing a soother. Just be aware of how much you rely on it and try your best to not constantly be putting the pacifier into their mouths. You want to encourage them to find other tools to soothe themselves.
If your child is over five months and you seem to have to pop a pacifier back into their mouth hourly, all night long, it may be time to bid it farewell. Dr Harvey Karp, paediatrician and author of "Happiest Baby on the Block", suggests the best time to get rid of a pacifier is around six months. This is the age where infants become more dependent on the tools they have chosen to soothe with; and you want to try to prevent the soother from being their primary object. I suggest finding a transitional item - like a small baby wash cloth. This item will become their new soother. Encourage them to build a relationship with it and start by putting it in your bra before you give it to them; this will ensure the new item smells like mommy!
If you want your little one to make the decision for you, I suggest leaving a few pacifiers scattered around the crib. If your little one is able to put it in their own mouth then it can be kept around for sleep. However, if they can't do this on their own, chances are they will choose another object to self soothe with.
I sometimes think that we, as parents, are more dependent on pacifiers then our children. Try saying goodbye to the soother. You never know, you may be pleasantly surprised in your child's ability to soothe themselves.