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Is my baby too attached to his pacifier?
Q: My 8-month-old wakes up six or more times a night. Sometimes he will fall back asleep on his own. Other times I have to give him his pacifier. Should I do away with it because he's attached to it?
Tara Chillicothe
A: All of us, including babies, have natural sleep cycles that bring us into deeper sleep phases, lighter sleep phases, and awake periods approximately every 90 minutes throughout the night. We're usually not aware of awakening because we learn to quickly put ourselves back to sleep. One of the most important things your baby is learning is how to comfort himself and put himself back to sleep.

Babies have a natural sucking reflex, and sucking on their thumbs, fingers or a pacifier can comfort them and help them get back to sleep. It's great that your baby is soothed by the pacifier. Leave the pacifier for him in the crib so he can find it and put himself back to sleep without calling out for you. In fact, recent studies show that babies who sleep with a pacifier in their first year of life are at lower risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). In all, the pacifier will help both of you sleep better.

It's normal for babies and young children to have comforting habits such as sucking on a pacifier or their thumb, or rubbing a blanket on their cheek. Don't worry that there's anything wrong with your baby being attached to the pacifier at this age. Most experts don't worry about the pacifier or thumb unless it's interfering with a child being able to talk and play, or it's affecting the development of their teeth and jaw, usually not until after 2 or 3 years of age. In fact, most babies naturally lose interest in the pacifier after 1 year of age. So enjoy the better sleep you get from the pacifier now.
Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician