Giving your baby a pacifier is a controversial subject on parenting boards. You may feel overwhelmed by all the information. Will it affect breastfeeding? How many pacifiers do I need? Will my baby become dependent on a pacifier?
These are questions that every parent has. In this article, we’ll go over the pros and cons of pacifier use and what you should look for in a pacifier.
The short answer is no. Your baby doesn’t necessarily need a pacifier. However, many parents find that pacifiers help their babies sleep better — which allows the adults to get some much-needed shuteye, too.
Some babies have no interest in pacifiers, and there’s no need to force the issue. But if your baby accepts a pacifier, they can improve nighttime safety while also improving their sleep.
There are several benefits to using a pacifier for breastfed babies and newborns. These include:
- Lowered risk of SIDS
- Satisfied suckling reflex
- Better sleep
Lowered risk of SIDS
The biggest one for many parents is that they reduce the risk of SIDS or Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. This reduction can be as much as 50 percent. Doctors and scientists aren’t exactly sure what the connection is. There is some speculation that using a pacifier stimulates your baby’s brain while asleep, thereby encouraging them to breathe.
But if your baby won’t take a pacifier, there is no need to panic about SIDS. The most critical part of avoiding SIDS is putting your baby in a safe sleep environment. This means being in their own bed with no pillows, blankets, or stuffed animals.
Better sleep for babies
Some parents find that pacifiers also help their babies sleep better. This ties into the previous point — it helps satisfy that suckling reflex throughout the night. It may help your baby sleep more soundly and for longer stretches.
Satisfied suckling reflex
Another benefit of using a pacifier is that it satisfies the baby’s natural suckling reflex. Why is this beneficial? For one thing, it gives Mom a break. If you’re breastfeeding, your breastfed baby might try to nurse just for comfort.
This is just fine, but if you need a rest and the baby isn’t actually eating, a pacifier is a good option. It helps your little one satisfy that suckling reflex and gives your nipples some time off.
Pacifiers also help babies learn to self-soothe. This is an important skill to develop. Newborns don’t yet have that reflex, so every discomfort and stress will lead to crying. Pacifiers help them learn that they can calm themselves down without yelling for Mom and Dad.
If you decide to give a pacifier, you probably wonder: how many pacifiers does a baby need?
There is no set rule for how many pacifiers you need. But a good rule of thumb is to have more than you think you do. Babies often hide their pacifiers or lose them in odd places, and they vanish at a surprising speed.
As for how many pacifiers a newborn needs or number of pacifiers for preemies, the same rule applies. They might not hide their binkies yet, but pacifiers still tend to fall behind furniture or get lost.
Make sure you have a minimum of two or three pacifiers on hand. That’s enough for your baby to use one while you wash (or track down) another.
Bigger pacifiers aren’t necessarily better. You will want to buy the right size and shape for your baby. Some of this depends on the age of your child and some depends on their personal preference.
If you get a pacifier that is too big or too small for your baby’s mouth, they might have a hard time holding onto it. And there’s always the possibility that they’ll reject a pacifier that’s too big.
In that case, what pacifier sizes are there? Pacifiers are usually sized by age. This makes it easy to choose the right size for your baby. They are typically in a range of a few months, which we will cover in the later section on choosing the right pacifier.
Choosing the right pacifier for your baby takes some trial and error. Not every pacifier on the market will be suitable for your little one, and that’s okay. You might find yourself buying ones at the beginning that your baby never ends up using.
Babies have personal preferences from the very beginning. With all the options, it’s a good idea for you to know the differences, too.
Pacifiers are generally divided into a range of months. These usually fall into broad categories like 0-6 months, 6-12 months, 12-18 months, and 18+ months. It’s essential to buy your baby the right size pacifier. The wrong size might not soothe them well, and sizes that are too small can become choking hazards.
Pacifiers come in a variety of shapes and designs. The two main shapes are orthodontic or round. A normal or traditionally round pacifier, as the name implies, has a round nipple. Some babies have a hard time holding onto these pacifiers and you might find yourself replacing them frequently.
Many parents and babies alike prefer orthodontic pacifiers. These are shaped to fit the mouth, with a rounded top and a slightly flattened bottom. Many babies have an easier time maintaining suction on orthodontic pacifiers. Ultimately, however, either type is safe. It all comes down to which type your baby prefers.
Another design component to keep in mind is whether a pacifier is one-piece. Some pacifiers are made of two separate parts: a hard plastic shield and a soft rubber nipple. These pacifiers pose a moderate choking hazard, as there is a risk of the nipple breaking off from the shield.
On the other hand, one-piece pacifiers are made from a single piece of soft rubber or silicone. They are far less likely to break apart and pose a safety risk.
When you’re looking for a pacifier, choose one with good ventilation. This means that it has holes in the pacifier shield to let air flow through, which is safer for your baby. A larger shield also helps air flow better around and through the pacifier.
Some pacifiers have scents like vanilla added to them. The manufacturers claim that these scents help soothe babies. Ultimately, there’s no real evidence that scented pacifiers soothe babies more effectively than unscented ones.
Some babies may actively dislike the smells as well. We recommend parents to stick to unscented ones though.
You may read pacifier descriptions that refer to “symmetrical nipples.” This means that the nipple imitates the shape of a human nipple, making the baby more likely to accept it and be able to maintain suction, especially if you have a tongue-tied little one.
Another upside of symmetrical pacifiers? You can’t put them in the wrong way.
Pacifiers are made from a range of materials, including latex, silicone, and soft rubber. In general, any of these is safe for your baby and undergoes safety inspection. Silicone is hardier than latex and less likely to break down as quickly.
There is a slight possibility of a baby having a latex allergy. If your baby has a reaction to a latex pacifier, avoid them in the future.
The AAP and the AAFP recommends that babies stop using pacifiers after the age of 1, and that pacifier weaning is best started when babies are 6 months old onwards. This reduces the risk of recurrent ear infections known as otitis media, and dental issues. However, it’s not a real problem until they reach the age of 2 or 3. At that point, weaning from pacifiers becomes more urgent.
Like almost anything, there are some mild risks to using pacifiers. These don’t necessarily affect every baby — or even most babies. But they are something to be aware of if you plan to offer your baby a pacifier. These risks include:
- Slightly elevated risk of recurrent ear infections after the age of 6 months
- Pacifier attachment
- Dental problems (with prolonged use)
If you plan to offer a pacifier, there are a few easy safety tips to follow. These can help your baby stay safe and healthy while using a pacifier.
Before you offer a new pacifier to a baby for the first time, make sure to sterilize it. Good ways to do this include boiling in a pot on the stove or microwaving in a bowl of water for a few minutes.
This might be easier said than done — babies love sharing their pacifiers with friends. If at all possible, try to keep your little one from playing “pass the paci.” This helps avoid germs and lower the risk of sickness.
Before offering your baby a pacifier, always glance at them to make sure they’re in good shape. Pacifiers can split or crack, increasing the risk of choking. They can also become dirty or even get foreign objects lodged in them. It’s always worth double-checking before you give it to your baby.
Which Pacifier Is Best?
Oftentimes, new parents may be at a lost figuring out the best pacifiers to get for their little ones for a start. It may take a while to learn what works for your baby, but here are some of our best pacifier recommendations:
- Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier: The Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier is made from soft silicone. The pacifier is one-piece with a symmetrical nipple. With a safe design and an affordable price, it is a top choice for both hospitals and parents.
- NUK Orthodontic Pacifier: The NUK Orthodontic Pacifier has a unique heart-shaped shield. This is designed to rest under your baby’s nose to keep their airway open and clear. It also has large holes that help release sweat and drool. The orthodontic shape is easy for babies to hold. The NUK comes in a range of sizes.
- Natursutten Orthodontic Pacifier: The Natursutten Orthodontic Pacifier is slightly more expensive than many other pacifiers. Despite that, it remains a popular choice both in its native Denmark and in the United States. It is made of natural rubber. The large shield rests against your baby’s nose to mimic the natural feel of breastfeeding.
- Dr Brown’s One-Piece Silicone Pacifier: Dr. Brown’s is well-known for its bottle line, but the One-Piece Silicone Pacifiers are popular as well. Made of long-lasting silicone, these pacifiers are also one single piece, reducing choking risks. The shield is made to rest under your baby’s nose to increase airflow and help them stay safe.
- Chicco PhysioForma Soft Silicone Pacifier: The Chicco PhysioForma Soft Silicone Pacifier has a one-of-a-kind nipple shape. This pushes the baby’s tongue forward to help keep their airway open. The shield keeps the baby’s nose free and repels spit-up. This pacifier comes with a special sterilizing case so you can clean it in the microwave.
Some parents worry that their baby won’t eat enough if they satisfy the sucking instinct with a pacifier. But babies have an instinct to suck for comfort whether or not they are hungry. Pacifiers can help the opposite problem and avoid overfeeding. If a baby is truly hungry, they will communicate hunger.
You may have read alarming articles about nipple confusion, but rest assured, breastfed babies can take pacifiers without issue. Official recommendations are to wait a week or two to establish breastfeeding before offering your baby a pacifier.
Unfortunately, there is no sure way to answer this question. Some babies sleep through the night at just a few months old, while others take a year or more. Regardless, pacifiers do generally help babies sleep for longer stretches and reduce nighttime wakings.
Pacifier use has been proven to lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by more than 50 percent. This is true even if the baby lets the pacifier drop from their mouth after falling asleep.
Although pacifiers may affect the growth of teeth if used into toddlerhood, they aren’t likely to affect teething in the early stages. They might even provide your baby with some comfort during the painful process of teething.
Pacifier clips can be helpful tools for keeping track of your baby’s pacifier. But there are a couple of caveats. Never use a pacifier clip that has beads or other detachable parts. Similarly, make sure they are no longer than 7 inches. Anything longer poses a strangulation hazard.
Keep the pacifier clip at your baby’s shoulder, attached to their shirt. Never let your baby sleep with a pacifier clip, as this is unsafe.
Pacifiers can be a helpful tool for teaching your baby to sleep and self-soothe. To make sure you can always find one, keep at least two or three on hand. Of course, most parents would argue that you really can’t have too many when answering to “how many pacifiers do I need”!
Now that you know how many pacifiers you need and tips on choosing the right pacifier, you can help your baby stay safe and thrive. Comment below if you have questions for us!