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Toddler Sleep Problems

No Pacifier, No Naps

By Amalah

Hi Amy,

My son is 22 months old. We recently stopped giving him a pacifier, which he’d only been using for naps and bedtime. After a bit of a rough adjustment, he’s back to sleeping great at night and at daycare, but his naps at home are a disaster.

He’s been pacifier-free for 2 weeks now. We had almost a week of struggling to put him to bed, but now he will go into his crib without protest and maybe fuss a couple minutes before falling asleep and sleeping through the night. At daycare, he had no issues at all adjusting to not having his pacifier. I think the peer pressure of all the other kids napping did the trick. His naps at daycare are at least 2 hours, sometimes up to 3 hours.

But at home, naps are not going well without the pacifier. He’ll protest at going into the crib and alternate crying talking to himself for 30 minutes before falling asleep. Then he’ll only nap for 30-60 minutes instead of the normal 2+ hours. I try not getting him right away when he wakes up to see if he will go back to sleep, but he won’t. Then he’s a cranky mess by bedtime. And I don’t particularly want to put him to bed early on the weekends, because then he just wakes up early the next morning.

Any advice on how to get him back to napping without a pacifier? Besides him being cranky, I’m pregnant and really need the downtime of him taking a good nap on the weekends.

Thanks!

I should start with the caveat that none of my babies used a pacifier beyond their first couple months or so. That wasn’t a deliberate choice on my part…my kids just never really liked them beyond the newborn stage. I would invariably go out and buy like, seven different kinds of pacifiers, find one that they SORT OF seemed to like, buy several more of that brand, only to eventually figure out that they were pretty indifferent to the whole thing after another month or two (or would just start spitting it out in protest). So then I’d give up, and maybe pretend that oh, look at me and my great foresight to take the pacifier away before it got too difficult, ha ha ha. 

Weaning Off the Pacifier

That said, weaning off the pacifier is really not all that different from weaning off of any other sleep crutch. You choose your method (gradual extinction, cold turkey, etc.) and you stick with it. For an all-day out-in-public binky sucker, weaning back to only having it for naps/bedtime might be the best first step. For an older child with an emotional attachment, books and a symbolic “giving them to the pacifier fairy who will give them to new babies” toy exchange can be the most effective. For a not-quite-2, already only-for-sleep user like yours, going cold turkey probably is the quickest (and least confusing to your toddler) method.

“Quickest” though, doesn’t mean you’re going to take it away and suddenly everything is fine three nights later. AS YOU’VE SEEN. The good news is that you HAVE seen marked improvement already: He’s sleeping at night and napping at daycare. I think that’s a sure sign that you’ve make the right decision and just need to keep going. Nap issues ALWAYS seem to take the longest to sort themselves out, in my experience. Giving the pacifier back for naps at home sends an inconsistent message to him (not that you seem to be considering that), so just tell yourself you’re doing the right thing and power through this last and final adjustment period. He really IS ready and the nap protests are just a fairly run-of-the-mill toddler protest that he’ll lose interest in…eventually.

Strategies

In the meantime, the only way through it, is through. You can try a lovey or other toy he might like to mouth on or fidget with while he attempts to settle himself down. Turn on some music to distract him.  You could try putting him down for a nap a bit earlier so he can get his 30 minutes of protest in BEFORE becoming so overtired it affects his nap length. (I know. Even after an overtired baby/toddler falls asleep, they tend to not sleep as long and wake up earlier. Sleep is weird.) You can put books or some toys in the crib so after he wakes up, he still has some “confined quiet time” while you get some downtime. And yes, I would DEFINITELY move bedtime earlier on days when a full nap doesn’t happen. FOR NOW. If he’s waking up significantly earlier in the morning, that can actually just be another symptom of his general overtiredness. You can even just do a 15 minute scooch forward on Saturday’s bedtime, then 30 on Sunday if both naps are lousy. FOR NOW.

Because while I KNOW this feels like it’s been going on forever and will never improve on its own and OMG you’ll never get a weekend break again…it’s been two weeks. If it takes him another week or two to finally give up the pacifier fight, that’s still honestly not that bad, in the grand scheme of things. You fought the good fight at bedtime and that improved, as did daycare sleep. Two hurdles down, one more to go. He’ll get there soon, I know it.

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Amalah
About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch

Amalah

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to amyadvice@gmail.com.

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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