Pacifier Alternatives (For Babies and Toddlers)

Are you looking for pacifier alternatives because you don’t want your baby to use them or your little one doesn’t like them?

Either way, it can be quite frustrating when a baby is crying repeatedly and you don’t know what to do, so I thought it would be a good idea to see what we could do to soothe babies without using a pacifier.

Although, for some parents, a pacifier can be an amazing tool to calm and soothe their babies, probably because it provides a break they desperately need when they have a baby who’s colicky or having a particularly fussy day. However, several ways are quite easy to soothe a baby without using a pacifier.

In this article, we talk about pacifier alternatives for babies and toddlers to help you tackle the challenging phase of kicking the pacifier habit for good.

Why Some Babies like Pacifiers?

Research has shown that about 75-80% of babies in Western countries use a pacifier. Babies are born with a suck reflex, this is considered to be one of the main 5 S womb sensations associated with calming a baby.

This sucking reflex babies exhibit helps lowers their heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels. Usually, babies begin sucking on their thumbs and hands in the womb, and their need to suck does not change even when they are born.

Since sucking is so soothing for babies, According to Dr. Harvey Carp the author of Happiest Baby on the Block, who is a huge supporter of pacifiers advised parents not to allow their baby to suck too much in the first few months. He said this is something they naturally need to do to be soothed.

Another reason why babies like pacifier are because it gives them a feeling of security. As your baby grows they may become too attached to their pacifier sucking because of the sense of security it provides as a means to feel soothed.

Pacifier Pros and Cons

best pacifiers 2021

Before we dive into our list of pacifier alternatives, I’d just like you to go through the pros and cons of using pacifiers. As concerned parents, you need to know the circumstances under which a pacifier could be a good or a bad idea for your baby to suck on one.

While some parents may disapprove of using pacifiers just because they think it’s not good for their baby. However, in some situations, a pacifier can be a lifesaver.

Pros

 1. Provides Comfort

A pacifier can help comfort a baby when he/she is crying or being very fussy. The sucking behavior they exhibit helps babies soothe themselves.

 2. Reduced Risk Of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

According to the AAP (The American Academy of Pediatrics), they encourage using a pacifier when putting a baby down to sleep to help reduce the risk of SIDS.

3. Reduces Pain

As mentioned earlier, since the suckling behavior helps babies stay calm and soothe themselves, a pacifier can also help reduce pain and discomfort, like teething or when receiving a vaccination.

 4. Sleep Better

Since babies sucking behavior comforts them, a pacifier can help your baby fall back to sleep or even sleep better. This can be very helpful when you’re trying to remove breastfeeding as a sleep association during sleep training!

5. Helps Mothers with PPD with breastfeeding

Mothers who are at high risk of postpartum depression (PPD) do better with breastfeeding if their baby uses a pacifier reported by a study from the Journal of Human Lactation.

The self-soothing activity of the pacifier gives the mother some time between feedings, reducing stress.

6. Helps Preterm Babies

According to reports, non-nutritive sucking, like the use of a pacifier, can significantly reduce the length of hospital stay in preterm infants and can help with the transition from tube to bottle feeding.

 7. Easier to Stop Than Thumb Sucking

Reports from parents and the AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry) say that it’s easier to stop children from the habit of sucking on a pacifier than it is to stop them from sucking on their fingers or thumb because these are not part of baby’s body.

Cons

 1. Affects Breastfeeding

Introducing your child to a pacifier before breastfeeding (usually when your baby is 3-4 weeks old) can significantly affect your ability to breastfeed.

The reason is that sucking on a pacifier is different from sucking for breastfeeding, these activities can get your baby confused (also called “nipple confusion”). However, to know the best time to introduce a pacifier, check out this post.

 2. Dental Problems

When a pacifier is been used for a long period, it can affect the shape of the teeth and mouth, which causes problems like an overbite or cross bit.

This is usually common for children over 2 still using a pacifier. According to the AAPD (American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry), they advise weaning babies from a pacifier from age 3 latest.

 3. Limits Speech Development

Reports from certain speech-language pathologists stated that extended use of a pacifier may cause speech delays by slowing down the child’s opportunities to talk. However, there is no clear evidence from research to support this claim.

 4. Ear Infections

Research has indicated that children who do not use a pacifier for a long period have one-third fewer ear infection episodes than children who do.

 5. Dependence

Extended use of pacifiers can become addictive to babies and toddlers and, it can be difficult to stop once you’ve started it. Additionally, children who are dependent on a pacifier don’t like to lose it. This means lots of crying at or during the day when they can’t find it.

Read Also: Does Wubbanub Help Keep Pacifier in Mouth

When To Stop Using Pacifiers

As a concerned parent, it’s important not to use a pacifier for a long period. The ideal time to start weaning your baby off their pacifier is between 6 and 12 months.

It’s not necessary to stop the use entirely, but starting to reduce the use to sleep times only will make the process a lot easier later on.

This is necessary because, around the age of 6 months in a newborn’s life, pacifier use begins to be associated with recurring ear infections.

Research carried by a team of pediatricians in Finland found that reducing the use of a pacifier can help reduce the number of infections by 29%.

By the time your child is about 2 years of age; it’s time to wean them off of their pacifier entirely because, at this period, pacifier use can cause dental and speech problems.

Read Also: 10 Best Baby Pacifier

Pacifier Alternatives For Babies And Toddlers

Without further delay, here’s a list of pacifier alternatives for babies and toddlers. We divide them into two different categories: pacifier alternatives for babies (newborns and infants, up to 1 year old), and pacifier alternatives for toddlers (over 1-year-old).

This is because newborns and infants have different comfort needs compared to older toddlers, who will react better to different soothing alternatives. Here are some great suggestions on how to soothe your baby without one.

Pacifier Alternatives for Babies

1. Breastfeeding

If you are a breastfeeding mom, then this is the first alternative to soothe your baby! Whether your baby is crying because he/she is uncomfortable, or because they are tired (and not necessarily hungry), the breast will always come to your rescue.

Naturally, there’s always this strong chemistry between breastfeeding and nursing, but most moms usually forget that offering their breasts to their baby doesn’t just need to be for nursing purposes.

Comforting your baby with the simple act of breastfeeding is often called “comfort nursing”. Normally, one thing you should be aware of while breastfeeding is that you will find yourself feeding quite a lot!

I know a lot of my friends who constantly take their breasts out to feed so they could comfort their child and, whilst I appreciate their effort, I don’t think it could have ever worked for me.

One other thing you should be aware of is that breastfeeding can create a very strong sleep association. This means that your baby won’t be able to fall asleep on his own unless they suck on your breasts.

If that is the case, you will begin to notice it towards the 4-month-old mark, when you go through the nightmare of 4-month sleep regression.

2. White Noise

white noise machine can do a great job at settling your crying baby, hence can be a very good and clever pacifier alternative. I use to doubt the power of white noise at settling babies until I witnessed my first son falling asleep within seconds by listening to the noise of our vacuum cleaner.

Although, the running noise of a vacuum cleaner might not be an option at night for some parents. Therefore, I would recommend buying a white noise machine.

And, if possible, buy a portable one that you can hook on your baby stroller or car seat and take with you wherever you go.

The Hushh Portable White Noise Machine is one of my favorites, I used it with my second son and it was one of the best investments I have ever made.

Alternatively, if you can’t buy a white noise machine, while at home just go to YouTube and play on a video of hair drier or the vacuum cleaner sound when baby is upset and see what will happen.

3. Swaddling / Sleeping Bag

Swaddling your baby has many benefits, such as it recreates the secure and cozy feeling of the womb, it gives the baby a sense of comfort, warmth, and security.

Therefore, using a swaddle can also be a good pacifier alternative for your baby. If you are practicing swaddling, make sure to stop as soon as your baby begins to roll, so that their arms can be free.

My favorite choice of swaddles is the SwaddleMe, I love them because it has a very convenient velcro and zips at the bottom for easy diaper changes.

Although every child is different and not all children like to be swaddled! My son, for instance, never liked to be swaddled (other than the first few days after birth), so I just put him to sleep with a blanket and then in a sleeping bag.

A sleeping bag is another great alternative; it gives the same sense of comfort and security to your child. And you can keep using this item until your child is ready to use a blanket or duvet, that is around 2 years old.

If your baby doesn’t like the swaddle and you don’t like the idea of putting them to sleep in a sleeping bag, then check out the Love to Dream Swaddle UP.

This hybrid between a swaddle and a sleeping bag has two wings; these unique features allow babies to sleep in their natural arms up position, instead of restricting their arms movement down. This way your baby can self-soothe by touching his face and suckling on his hands, just like in the womb.

Read Also: How To Use SwaddleMe Wrap

4. Rocking / Bouncing

This is another great alternative to soothe your baby. Babies like to be bounced around. I could remember spending so much time in the evening walking round and round the lounge while rocking my baby so he would fall asleep in the evening.

This simple act reminds babies of when they were in the womb and how to they used to be jiggled around in mama’s belly. While doing this, always make sure you are supporting the head and neck

If you are still planning your baby nursery, I would suggest you go for a rocking chair, so that you can keep the rocking going even when you are too tired to stand up and walk.

Just like in breastfeeding, be careful while practicing this method so it doesn’t become a newsleep association, where your baby can only fall asleep if they are rocked to sleep.

I started rocking my son to sleep when I wanted to wean him off the pacifier. It was either that or he would fall asleep while breastfeeding.

I found this to be a smooth transition to help him fall asleep without a pacifier. Teaching him to fall asleep by himself was the next thing to do and that took a lot of time and sleep training!

5. Teething Toy

Usually, babies need extra soothing when they are teething. Babies use their mouths to navigate and learn more about the world. Offering your baby teething toys and chew toys can be a very effective method to soothe your baby.

Make sure to buy toys made of natural materials like silicone or wood instead of potentially toxic plastics. These toys are great for very young babies. Teething toys that you can add frozen breast milk to or the ones that be frozen can have a particularly calming and soothing effect on sore gums.

One of my favorites is the Nuby’s products, which includes the Nuby Silicone Teethe-eez Teether, these products are of good quality and highly recommended.

Other teething toys that can also be frozen (the cold helps with the soothing), like the Nuby Ice Gel Teether Keys, or that you can add frozen breastmilk or any other liquids too, such as the Teetherpop Freezable Teether are also a good choice to go for.

Read Also: 20 Best Six Months Old Baby Toys

6. Baby Swing / Bouncer

Honestly, I couldn’t have survived the first 3 months after my son’s birth without the help of a baby swing or bouncer. This is a must-have item in your baby nursery, and I’m sure some of you already have one or are thinking of getting one.

Its concept is similar to rocking and bouncing, your baby will be soothed by the simple act of swinging motion.

I had quite a few nights watching television with my partner while rocking our baby swing with my hand or foot to keep it moving so he wouldn’t wake up.

Usually, most of the baby swings come with music, though I never found it helpful in calming my babies. Rather what seemed to be helpful for me was the vibration! My favorite is the Graco Soothe N’ Sway, I like it because it comes with vibration, I highly recommend you get one.

There are also other brands of baby swings that swing automatically at the press of a button, like the Fisher-Price one. However, as a concerned parent, whichever you choose, ensure that there is a newborn insert, as they can be pretty difficult to use with newborns otherwise.

7. Walks

If you like to walk to a distance, also go for a walk with a baby stroller or a baby carrier. My son uses to love being carried in a stroller or wrap, so I usually go for walks outside.

If you’re still expecting, this item should be on top of your list! Once your baby is in it he’ll soon forget about the pacifier.

8. Finger

This can be a great pacifier alternative for both babies and toddlers. My niece learned to suck her fingers (index and middle fingers) when her mom weaned her off the pacifier!

The only downside to this method is getting your child to stop sucking their finger(s) can be a lot harder than getting them to stop using a pacifier. You can do this at your own risk.

For newborn babies, it can be very difficult to learn how to suck their fingers, so an alternative way is to offer them your finger (the little pinky usually works).

This is an effective pacifier alternative that people usually don’t talk about, and the only reason I found out that the trick works was seeing my sister offer her finger to get her daughter to take milk from a syringe when she was born: this helped stimulate her sucking reflex.

9. Skin to Skin

Skin-to-skin contact is another effective way to soothe your child without using a pacifier and it benefits the mom, dad, and baby.

This method promotes a mother’s body to produce breast milk. So, even when you’re not breastfeeding your baby, skin-to-skin contact helps the mother’s body build a supply.

Interestingly, skin-to-skin contact also helps regulate your baby’s temperature. This trick works with mom and dad. Therefore, if your baby is fussy or upset because he/she is too hot or too cold, skin-to-skin could be a lifesaver.

10. Car

If the above-mentioned methods fail, I can tell you that the car rarely fails to disappoint at soothing babies. I have met so many parents that used to drive around my block just to get their child to sleep.

I noticed that the car seat was very comforting for my son when he was very little, without the need to drive the car. There were times when I put him into the capsule and swung him into the lounge.

Read Also: Baby Shopping List For First Time Moms

Pacifier Alternatives for Toddlers

Here are a few things that you can try to break a toddler from a pacifier, most of them involve swapping the pacifier with another item that they can get attached to.

1. Soft Toy 

This item is something you can try to wean off your toddler from the pacifier. Normally, most toddlers have a favorite teddy that they like to cuddle in bed and fall asleep with.

And I’m sure you have a lot of soft toys or stuffed animals around your house that people gifted to your child. Introduce this item to your toddler and see if they show any interest in one.

Whichever your baby chooses, start placing it in bed with them at night, and also go with it for adventures together. You can also offer it to your baby when he gets fussy or upset.

By doing this, your baby will start associating the lovey with a new sense of comfort and may want to take it everywhere with them. Be mindful that, once your baby gets attached to the toy, he won’t be able to go anywhere with you without it!

My son got so attached to a soft toy that now we are very careful never to leave it behind, or it’s going to end in tears!

For older toddlers, you can also try to have a conversation and offer a swap, which is the pacifier in exchange for a new soft toy. The thought of getting a new cuddle buddy can be interesting enough for your baby that he’ll agree to it.

2. Night Light

A night light or a projector can be very effective at making your toddler feel safer at night sleeping in their room. This trick gives babies something to direct their attention to each time they cry, instead of the pacifier

It works effectively if you involve your baby in the decision of which light or projector to buy for their room. My partner and I had a night light with a cute shape of a deer when our son was little and it worked very well: My son wouldn’t sleep without it and we carry it everywhere we go.

When he got a bit older, we were gifted a night light with words on it and a very cute pattern, and he was always very happy with the letters and the stars on it.

One thing you should be aware of with a projector is to be careful that it doesn’t over-stimulate your baby before falling asleep.

Of course, you need a good distraction from the pacifier, but you also don’t want a child that doesn’t want to go to bed! You can begin with a light first and, if that doesn’t work, then you can introduce a cool projector.

Also, before you try out this method, it’s necessary to be aware that stand-alone lights can be very handy because they are usually small and you can take them anywhere for instance during camping, without worrying about plugging them in. But, remember if you leave it on the whole night, the batteries don’t last that long.

Read Also: How To Get A Toddler To Sleep Without Pacifier

3. Blanket

This item is similar to a soft toy and offers a very strong sense of security to toddlers, therefore can be another great pacifier alternative.

To introduce this idea to your child, begin by placing it with your child particularly during nighttime when reading books, storytime, or going to bed.

Do this often and offer it to him even when he is upset. Once your baby starts associating the blanket with a new sense of security, that’s when you can try to take off the pacifier.

However, just like with the soft toy, bear in mind that once your baby gets attached to the security blanket, you always have to carry them along with you anywhere you go.

4. Bottle

This is another effective method that’ll help wean your baby off a pacifier. Simply offer your toddler a drink with a bottle instead of the pacifier when they get fussy or wake up at night.

It’s best advised to use a bottle with a straw, or one that’s not a feeding bottle, as it gets your toddler used to a different type of sucking. This simple act can also help with weaning from breastfeeding or bottle feeding as well.

If you are still nursing, adding milk or formula to the baby bottle can be a great idea to start with, but as time goes on you should gradually swap that with water as you begin weaning your toddler off breast milk or formula.

A good idea is to have a spill-proof bottle with a straw on the cot or by the bed so that your child can be able to reach it at night. We use CamelBak water bottles for our toddlers and would recommend them to any parents as well!

Read Also: 10 Tips On How To Transition From Breastfeeding To Formula

5. Breaking the Suction

This is another effective method that’ll help your toddler kick their pacifier habit. Just create an incision in the pacifier teat. This simple act breaks the suction power and helps the pacifier lose its appeal for many toddlers.

Bear in mind, you should be prepared for tears when trying this out and, if this trick doesn’t work, you have to buy a new one.

6. New Toy

When it comes to weaning your baby off the pacifier, giving your child a new toy can do the magic. This trick might work perfectly with older kids (closer to 2 years old), who get excited at the idea of choosing a new toy and could trade the pacifier in for it.

A child below this age (1year old) might still be too young to fall into this trap. If you want this trick to work, you need to get your child excited about getting a new favorite toy, take him to the mall or store so he can choose for himself, and praise him for the good choice.

7. Sleeping Bag

This item can be such a great idea and one that I and my partner have used successfully with both of our children for years. It gives babies a sense of comfort and security and you can keep using it until the baby is ready to transition to a blanket or duvet (around 2 years old).

8. Doll with Hair

Hair-twirling can be a self-soothing activity that your toddler may engage in during times of stress, boredom, or (most commonly) before bedtime to help wind down says Kids+ Pediatrics.

Some babies when they get fussy would start pulling mom’s hair by default. If your baby does this to you, you can buy a doll with hair it works!

9. Weaning the Pacifier

Try giving this method a go! This is such a great idea: it is a modification of a regular pacifier, where a hole is been created in the nipple so it can’t be sucked well, hence rendering the pacifier unsatisfying for the child.

While this idea sounds great, not all toddlers that try it also enjoy it! Some toddlers may be crying for the old one, others get attached to it like they used to be attached to the previous one.

However, this method is worth trying, but don’t have very high expectations. The big advantage to this method is that if it works that means you have removed the pacifier without creating a new strong attachment unlike in a soft toy or a blanket for instance.

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Wind Up

We hope this guide has given you all the ideas you need to soothe your baby and toddlers without reaching for a pacifier. There are lots of pacifier alternatives for babies and toddlers!

Of course, many new parents rely on a pacifier out of desperation, but if you are against using a pacifier on your baby then you should try out any of the pacifier alternatives we’ve listed.

As you may know, reports for the negative impacts of pacifier use have promoted research into other methods for soothing your baby.

If any of the above-mentioned methods didn’t work for you, then it’s time to think outside the box as a concerned parent. Remember, every child is different and you might find an alternative that works for your child that’s not mentioned here.