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7 Best Pacifier Replacement & Alternatives for Toddlers

Best Pacifier Replacement _ Alternatives for Toddlers

Pacifiers are one of the best tools parents use to soothe and calm their babies. Apart from that, it has many benefits, like reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome.

However, it also comes with its drawbacks.

We all know never to do anything in excess. It goes the same with pacifiers for your babies.

Every parent has a reason for ditching the pacifier. Whatever it is, a pacifier alternative will be your best answer.

That’s why we put together a list of the best alternatives for pacifiers. We’ve also included a few tips to help your baby avoid pacifier use once and for all!

Table of Contents
Table of Contents

7 Pacifier Alternatives for Toddlers to Help Wean Off

1. Nurse Your Child

If you’re looking for the simplest alternative, then breastfeeding will be one of the best pacifier alternatives.

It’s more than just providing nourishment for your child!

Comfort nursing is one of the best tools you can use when soothing babies. They feel safe and protected when they’re wrapped up in their mother’s arms.

If your baby is fussy before bedtime, you can do this method to help them sleep better!

Just make sure they don’t spend too much time sleeping while they’re still latched to your breast. It’s best to avoid any risk of cavities.

Comfort nursing also hits two birds with one stone. Your child gets the nutrients they need from breast milk while they are being soothed at the same time.

It’s a total WIN-WIN scenario!

2. Don’t Stop Them from Thumb Sucking

Even before babies are born, they’ve already been sucking on their fingers, toes, or umbilical cord.

This sucking reflex allows your baby to find nourishment. That’s why most family physicians are cautious when they don’t have this reflex.

But apart from that, sucking also soothes babies!

That’s why it lowers their heart rate, stress levels, and blood pressure. It’s a SELF-SOOTHE method that has been passed down for generations.

Unfortunately, it’s also one of the biggest reasons why pacifier use is common among babies.

Older babies can start with a finger or a thumb when you wean them off from a pacifier. But if they’re having a hard time, you can even lend your pinkie!

The only disadvantage to this alternative is that you might have a harder time weaning them off from sucking their fingers.

Pediatric dentists often discourage this habit once they reach three years old.

3. Distract Them with Toys

Toys are universally loved by children!

Whether it’s your first child or your third, it will help them develop a few skills while being FUN! These two types of toys below are perfect pacifier alternatives.

Teething Toys

Teething may be one of the most uncomfortable feelings babies face. You’ll often have a fussy baby during this stage.

When babies are stressed, they’ll look for ways to self-soothe. That’s why they’ll reach for their handy pacifier.

Teething toys come in a variety of sizes and materials. It’s always best to pick a teething toy made out of silicone or wood. Teething rings are also great options!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends something that’s cool but a bit tough to gnaw on.

Freezing teething toys or adding frozen breastmilk is extra soothing and relieves any discomfort from sore gums. You can also give them a towel that they can chew on.

Besides that, babies love to put things in their mouths. It helps them explore and learn about everything!

Giving them a teething toy can be both soothing and fun while distracting them from any discomfort.

Soft Toys

Most kids love stuffed animals. Even some big kids still sleep and carry their favorite stuffed toys with them.

Even adults still find stuffed animals cute!

That’s why soft toys are also good pacifier alternatives. It’s the perfect companion for every baby. It will be with them everywhere they go, and it will keep them happy.

But since it will end up mostly inside your baby’s mouth, opt for a soft toy made of natural materials.

4. Soothe Your Child With the Right Sounds

Many parents believe quiet times are essential when babies are sleeping. But during their time in the womb, it’s anything but quiet.

That’s why white noise can help babies sleep!

But it doesn’t mean you can play loud music or any type of sound. You just need to play the RIGHT SOUNDS.

When your child wakes you up in the middle of the night, having a white noise machine can soothe them back to sleep.

There are plenty of white noise playlists on the internet, but it would be easier if you had a sound machine. If not, you can also do a shushing sound while rocking back and forth.

Every baby is different, so just try everything and see which works best!

5. Wrap Them Up

We mentioned earlier that babies love pacifiers because sucking soothes them. You can help them transition if you give them something that’s comfortable for them.

Blankets aren’t just cozy and snug — they also give babies a sense of security. Whenever they’re wrapped up, they feel secure and protected.

Swaddling is a great option if you have a new baby. It gives babies a sense of comfort, similar to when they were still in the womb.

Just make sure they’re not too tight!

If your baby girl or boy isn’t fond of being swaddled, you can also wrap them up in a sleeping bag. You can use it until they’re old enough to use a blanket.

6. Change How They Drink

A sucking motion is very soothing, especially if your baby has been using a pacifier for quite a while now.

Offering them a different type of sucking can help them wean pacifier use.

One of the easiest ways to do that is by reinforcing it when they drink. Sippy cups and straws are two of the best pacifier alternatives for toddlers.

Sippy Cups

A sippy cup is a great way to train your child to drink water without a bottle.

If your child wakes up during bedtime, you can offer them a sip from a spill-proof cup so they can easily go back to sleep.

You can also replace your baby’s bottles with sippy cups. Make sure they drink from there most of the time!

Straws

Big kids enjoy fun straws!

If your child is old enough, you can have them drink from a straw. It may be slightly different from pacifier sucking, but they will still find it soothing and comforting.

Find a spill-proof cup with a straw that they can have with them near their bed.

You can also encourage them to use their straw regularly.

7. Make Them Feel Safe

Your baby might be frightened without the pacifier during bedtime. A night light can help ease them when they’re upset or scared during these times.

It works WONDERS since your baby will direct their attention to it!

Apart from that, it’s also the perfect distraction!

It can be even more effective if you let your child pick their own night light for their room. They’ll build an attachment to it and feel more comfortable.

  • Some lights or projectors have the shape of animals, and some even have cute patterns, stars, or letters. There is even a night light that has a sound machine feature!

Whatever you end up with, just make sure it’s not too distracting. We don’t want overstimulated babies in the middle of the night.

Why Your Baby Should Stop Using Pacifiers at Some Point

Pacifier use is alright when they’re young.

But if they use it for too long, your baby might encounter problems, even if they become a big kid.

Here are 4 reasons why you have to avoid pacifier use as your child grows older.

It Impedes Speech Development

Your child can suffer from speech delays when they rely too much on pacifiers.

Speech-language pathologists found that pacifiers limit your child from babbling. It may even distort speech to some degree.

Although every baby is different, it’s recommended to lessen their pacifier use so they can speak more often.

It Increases the Likelihood of Ear Infections

According to a study, regular pacifier users are at a higher risk of ear infections.

There are even studies that show babies are three times more likely to contract ear infections if they use pacifiers.

The more babies use pacifiers, the more likely they will have ear infections.

If your baby regularly contracts ear infections, your pacifier may contribute to it. You should lessen pacifier use right away!

It Hinders Proper Breastfeeding

Early introduction to pacifiers can negatively affect how they breastfeed.

Why?

Because the sucking motion for using pacifiers is different from when they’re breastfeeding, the most common term used for this is nipple confusion.

There are still some misconceptions regarding nipple confusion, but pediatricians still recommend parents wait until their babies are at least 4 weeks old.

There are also a few tips you can do to help your baby breastfeed properly.

  1. Make sure your baby is positioned correctly and gently.
  2. Pay attention to if the baby bites their fingers or is fussy; this could be a sign that they are hungry!
  3. Express milk early before latching your baby onto you. Doing so will encourage feeding!

Make sure to seek a pediatrician if you’re having a hard time breastfeeding your baby.

It Increases the Risk of Permanent Teeth Damage

Using pacifiers can negatively affect your child’s teeth in the long run. Extended pacifier use can cause dental problems such as crossbites or overbites.

But this is only true for permanent teeth!

Baby teeth are found to shift back to normal after several months without a pacifier.

However, it’s still recommended to stop using pacifiers around 2 or 3 years old, so your child stops developing the habit. The risks are higher once they reach past 3 years old.

By the time they lose their baby teeth, their pacifier habit should be non-existent!

When Should You Start Pacifier Weaning Your Baby?

It can be difficult to pinpoint when you should start weaning pacifiers.

Your child should begin pacifier weaning starting at 6 months old. Ideally, they shouldn’t rely on pacifiers when they reach 2 or 3 years old.

If you prolong it any further, they’re at more risk of speech delays, teeth damage, and ear infections.

Apart from that, the longer they use pacifiers, the more likely they’ll get attached to them!

Just make sure they’re no longer using pacifiers once they reach 3 years old to avoid dental problems.

At 2 years old, most children are emotionally ready to have their pacifier weaned off. Some kids might need help, and some may even self-wean before they reach 2 years old.

Always make sure to give your kids alternatives so they’re more comfortable with the transition!

How Do I Help My Toddler Fall Asleep Without a Pacifier?

It can be hard for babies to fall asleep, especially when you’re limiting their pacifier use.

Your child will always look for security and a sense of comfort. If they can’t find it by using a pacifier, then you have to offer them a few pacifier alternatives.

Sometimes you even need to give more than one alternative.

Luckily, there are a few ways you can help your toddler fall asleep.

Give Them a Sense of Comfort

A child’s pacifier is one of their biggest sense of comfort.

During bedtime, make sure your baby feels secure and comfortable so they won’t resort to pacifier use.

  • If your child is afraid of the dark, a night light can help them feel safe. You can choose their favorite animal or color.
    • They might even be more open to turning on their night light if they specifically chose it!
  • You can also wrap up your baby in a sleeping bag or give them their favorite blanket.
    • If you don’t have one, buy them a new blanket and use it during bedtime or when you want to snuggle with your baby.
    • That way, they’ll associate their blanket with cuddle times with you instead of the pacifier!
  • If you want your baby to feel extra safe and secure, consider staying by their side for a few minutes while they sleep.
    • You can snuggle close to them in their blanket during storytime, then turn their night light on after you kiss them goodnight.

Doing all of these methods gives them a sense of safety and comfort, which is much needed during bedtime!

Keep Them Calm with White Noise

Music is very effective in keeping us calm or focused. But playing white noise has been more effective in keeping them calm.

A study even found that 80% of babies fall asleep within 5 minutes using white noise.

A white noise machine can be VERY helpful! There are even some that allow you to control the machine from a different room.

This feature is very helpful when your baby always wakes up in the middle of the night.

Another alternative is to play white noise from YouTube or Spotify. However, those playlists can be a hit or a miss for your baby.

  • Some babies love to hear lullabies or bird noises and there are others who enjoy the sound of waves. There are also babies who think the sound of hairdryers is soothing.
  • You can also do a shushing noise while rocking your child back and forth until they fall asleep.

Look for what your baby likes the most!

Offer Toys

Even a big kid will choose a toy anytime over almost anything else!

Not only does it gives them a sense of comfort, but it also makes them feel like they have a companion.

If your baby is teething, offer them teething rings and teething toys to soothe them.

The whole process is very uncomfortable. It’s so uncomfortable that it can keep them awake at night.

If they’re still relying too much on pacifiers, it’s one of the most effective pacifier alternatives for toddlers.

You can also offer them a new toy to keep them distracted. A soft toy or a stuffed animal are popular options that kids get emotionally attached to.

Apart from having a cuddle buddy, they can also use soft toys like teething toys.

Additionally, give them a cuddle buddy that they can bring with them anywhere. It will most likely even become their favorite toy.

Over time, they’ll completely forget their pacifier!

Tips to Remember to Help Wean Off Pacifiers

#1 Don’t Force it Right Away

Going cold turkey right away is not always the best way to go about it. Although some parents find this method helpful, every kid is different.

If you want to break the habit, you have to do it gradually over time.

You can start by slowly limiting their use from time to time. Only offer it during naptimes or bedtimes until you can remove the pacifier entirely from their routine.

If you do it this way, your baby may not even notice that they want their pacifier!

Of course, you should give them pacifier alternatives like a soft toy or a new toy to keep them distracted while you slowly wean pacifiers.

Slowly working on it will reduce instances of pacifier withdrawal from your child.

#2 Patience is Key!

Expect a lot of meltdowns and outbursts at this stage. Your baby will most likely lash out that they can’t get their beloved pacifier.

But whatever happens, stick to your plan. Be patient. Make sure you don’t give in right away. You got this!

Try every alternative you can to keep them calm. Sometimes, you’ll have to do a combo of alternatives to keep them from fussing over.

If things get too tough, always remember that you’re doing this for your baby. You need to make sure they don’t rely on their pacifier too much.

#3 Use Positive Reinforcement

Make sure to compliment your child every time they aren’t using a pacifier!

Always praise them when they do something on their own, like choosing their outfit, making their bed, or when they clean up their toys.

You can congratulate them or give them rewards whenever they do something a big kid will do. A new toy or some snack are great options to keep them motivated!

Make them feel like they’re more grown-up and stronger. You can tell them they’re doing a good job when they hand over their pacifier after nap time.

#4 Try Pacifier Weaning

If you can’t keep your baby from reaching for the pacifier, then it might be best to make pacifiers unenjoyable for them.

One of the cheapest options is to trim the pacifier teat little by little. By reducing the suction power, your baby will find it very unsatisfying over time.

They might even throw it out on their own!

However, be VERY CAREFUL as tiny pieces might break off and become a choking hazard to your child!

Weaning pacifiers are a better option to avoid any accidents. They’re like modified pacifiers where a hole is placed on the pacifier teat.

This makes the suction power unsatisfying for your baby. Although there’s no guarantee your baby will love it, it’s still worth giving a try.

#5 Completely Remove Pacifiers

Many parents have to use their last resort at some point.

There are cases when going cold turkey works well enough. It’s bound to lead to some drama with your baby, but it will all be worth it if you just stick to it.

You can start this by encouraging your baby that they’re already big enough and that bigger kids don’t need pacifiers.

You can also help them move on by having them give their pacifier to a younger baby that needs it more.

Keep reminding them how good they’re doing! Positive reinforcement!

You can also replace their pacifier with a new toy to keep them motivated each time they give it away. Also, make sure to replace their bottle with a sippy cup instead.

When the time comes, they’ll be finally ready to give up all their pacifiers!

#6 Use Bedtime Stories

If your child loves bedtime stories, incorporating it with weaning pacifier use should do the trick!

Some stories like the pacifier fairy who takes their pacifier to replace with a new toy may just be the motivation they needed to hear.

There’s even a storybook that you can read to your child to make it more visually appealing.

Just make sure that the ‘pacifier fairy’ doesn’t forget to leave the new toy while your child is still asleep!

You can also use other stories to help them let go of their pacifier. Get creative!

Frequently Asked Questions About Pacifiers

Can Pacifiers Cause Sleeping Problems?

Although babies usually look for a pacifier before they sleep, they are one of the biggest sleep disruptors.

It may seem counterintuitive, but there’s a good reason!

Babies are very sensitive to their environment, especially before and after bedtime.

When they seemingly wake up between sleep cycles and figure out something’s missing or off, it’s going to trigger them to be fully awake!

If that happens, putting them back to sleep might become a harder task.

It’s rare for a baby to put their pacifier back on. Normally, they’ll cry so that their parents will come and get their pacifier. Sometimes this can go on all night long!

It’s best to reduce pacifier use before bedtime to keep your baby from disrupting their sleep. Opt for pacifier alternatives like a soft toy or a night light instead.

How Long Does Pacifier Withdrawal Last?

Whatever pacifier alternative you use, there will certainly be backlash from your baby. Be prepared for a lot of meltdowns and crying for the next several days or weeks.

Pacifiers give babies a sense of comfort and security, which is why it’s also addictive to them. Once you start, it can be hard to stop.

If your baby becomes too dependent or has a solid pacifier habit, pacifier weaning can become even more difficult.

Usually, the first 4 days without the pacifier are the hardest. The first week is when it all happens.

Your baby might have pacifier withdrawal during this time. But if you wean pacifier use even before going cold turkey, you shouldn’t have any problems.

When Does a Pacifier Affect Teeth?

Although pacifiers don’t have any negative effects on baby teeth, it’s still best if you can avoid pacifier use once your baby reaches 3 years old.

Pacifiers can affect your child’s teeth if they become TOO dependent.

In the long run, pacifier use can affect the shape of the mouth and teeth. It can even cause problems like overbites.

To decrease any risk of dental damage, make sure to wean pacifier use by 2 to 3 years old. Your baby should be able to forego the pacifier by the time they lose their baby teeth.

Final Words

Whatever pacifier alternatives you go with, always remember to BE PATIENT.

You’ll need to be persistent and somewhat strict, especially when your child goes on a rampage looking for their beloved pacifier.

Even if your kid voluntarily traded their pacifier for a new toy, they can still have a meltdown and ask for it back.

Always remember that this is for both you and your child!

It can be a stressful and difficult journey, but you’ll get the hang of it in time. These pacifier alternatives should make the transition EASIER.

Always remember to be firm and keep them from reaching for their pacifiers. Good luck!

FINAL TIP: If your baby is still too young to give up pacifiers, it is best to give them natural and organic pacifiers!

About the author

A few years ago, Angelica found out about all the plastic and toxic ingredients that got into most children’s products. And this worried her to no end. Because of this, she began to research what the best ingredients and materials were for children and made it her mission to share this information with other mothers.