Baby pacifiers, also known as dummies and soothers, are one of the powerful tools in mom’s arsenal that can keep your little one calm and comfortable for a long time.
But similar to any other newborn products, pacifiers for your baby also come with their own pros and cons.
Beyond helping with soothing and nutrition, sucking also helps with sleep and fussiness. Research also proves that letting your newborn suck a pacifier during sleep can also help prevent SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
Not only it looks adorable to see your little one sucking away, but this accessory is all and all good for the babies and parents. (who doesn’t like a self-soothed baby after all?)
Just like any other mom, you must be wondering what’s the right age to introduce a pacifier to your baby.
We’ve put together this post to help moms learn everything they need to know about pacifiers. So follow along!
What Are Pacifiers?
Pacifiers are “a rubber, plastic, or silicone nipple substitute given to an infant to suckle upon between feedings to quiet it's distress by satisfying the need to suck when it does not need to eat.” (Source)
There are different types of pacifiers available on the market, including ortho pacifiers and traditional pacifiers. You can choose any one of them based on the factors of the construction, design, and size of the pacifier.
Just ensure you stay away from home-made pacifiers and the ones that are tied around a baby’s neck as they are not safe and may cause choking.
The Right Age To Introduce A Pacifier To Your Baby
While there is no hard and fast rule as to when you can introduce a pacifier to your little one, you can give your baby a pacifier when you and your little one have a proper nursing routine.
Apart from that, it’s also important to ensure that your newborn has gotten the hang of breastfeeding before you introduce a soother to him.
According to AAP, to avoid nipple confusion, you must wait for your baby to grow 4-weeks old before you give a pacifier to him.
What Is Nipple Confusion?
Nipple confusion occurs when bottle-fed babies have a hard time getting back to breastfeeding.
But this isn’t always the case. Most babies do not have any issue switching from breast to bottle and going back and forth.
Here it is crucial to understand that each child is different. You must first let your little one get the hang of breastfeeding if he’s finding it hard to switch.
On the other hand, some babies are more comfortable sucking from the pacifier, making it more challenging for them to suck while breastfeeding.
While a pacifier is a useful tool, it should never be used instead of feeding. That is why it’s important that you set a proper routine for your little one so that their feeding schedule won’t get disturbed.
Pacifiers can also be a great option for preterm babies who have weak sucking muscles. Your pediatrician or a nurse may suggest you introduce your baby to a pacifier first so that they build up a sucking habit at their own pace.
According to research conducted by AAP back in 2013, giving dummies to your babies may help infants breastfeed only.
This study considered those babies who were breastfeeding and have offered pacifiers at the same time.
More than 70% of babies who have offered dummies were breastfed only (no top feed or formula milk was given to them). On the other hand, around 68% of babies without pacifiers breastfed only.
From this research, it is pretty evident that pacifiers are effective and may help keep your baby distracted and satisfied between breastfeeding spans.
In conclusion, you can give your baby a pacifier when they’re already on a bottle/formula feed.
According to Dr. Karren Breach, Pediatrician, Carolinas Healthcare System,
“There is no magic to introducing the pacifier.”
“It’s tempting for parents to resort to using the pacifier on the first seemingly endless night of feedings, just to get some sleep. Don’t. Doctors stress that it’s essential to wait until there’s a solid feeding pattern, complete with established latching, before switching to the plug,”
The fact is that babies do have natural sucking abilities. They suck everything you give into their mouths. So, if they’re crying or feeling uncomfortable, you can try giving them a pacifier.
Some kids are the exact opposite of what we’ve discussed above. They simply won’t take dummies into their mouths no matter how much you try. In that case, you should remain patient and must not force them to do anything they’re not willing to do at the moment.
Pros & Cons Of Using A Pacifier
Pacifiers Promote Self-Soothing
Pacifiers enable your little one to self-soothe and help them sleep on their own during nap time or at night.
This makes it incredibly easier for moms (especially those who’re working) to manage their daily routines.
You Can Control The Use Of The Pacifier
Unlike the thumb, which is in your baby’s control, you can restrict the use of pacifiers according to your need. Research also suggests that the habit of thumb-sucking isn’t easy to break.
Decreases The Risk Of SIDS
According to children's hospital.org, more than 2300 infants die in the US every year because of SIDS. This condition affects infants aged between 1 to 4 months, and it is more likely to occur in boys than girls.
The use of pacifiers can significantly reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. According to research, pacifiers help open up space in a baby’s mouth that lets them get adequate oxygen.
Ease Discomfort During Air Travel
Since infants can’t automatically pop their ears to relieve ear pain while flights, sucking a pacifier might help.
A Great Option For Soothing A Fussy/Crying Baby
For fussy babies, pacifiers can be a key source of contentment. Also, some babies are naturally happy when they’re sucking something.
Unlike thumb-sucking (a habit that is hard to break), you can throw pacifiers when you feel it's time to stop.
They Offer Temporary Distraction
You can use a pacifier to distract your little one during medical procedures.
You Might Ignore The Real Reasons Of Baby’s Discomfort
With pacifiers, you might overlook the actual reason for your little one’s discomfort and pain.
Your Little One Might Become Dependent On The Soother
If you’re giving your baby a pacifier during sleep, it would be challenging for you to break this habit once he’s used to it.
Increases The Risk Of Ear Infections
Pacifiers increase the risk of middle ear infections in babies over 6-months of age.
May Cause Dental Issues
Long-term use of pacifiers may also lead to dental issues, including cavities, and misaligned teeth, etc.
Pacifiers Might Disrupt Your Baby’s Breastfeeding Routine
You must not introduce a pacifier to a breastfeeding baby until he is 4-weeks old as it may disrupt his nursing routine.
How To Identify If Your Baby Needs A Soother?
Luckily, there are ways you can easily identify if your baby needs a pacifier. For example, if your baby constantly suckles his empty bottle, you can consider it as a clue that he will happily take a pacifier.
Similarly, when you see your little one constantly suckling his thumb or fingers, you can try giving him a pacifier.
When To Introduce Your Baby To A Pacifier?
At what age a baby can start using a soother depends on many factors.
If you plan on bottle feeding your baby, then you must not wait and introduce a pacifier right away. Experts recommend that you must pay attention to different cues, including sleep timings and hunger before you introduce a soother to your little one.
On the other hand, if you plan to breastfeed your child, you should wait for some time until you’re content with your baby’s nursing routine.
Since sucking a pacifier is very different from breast-sucking, your baby may lose his interest in feeding if you try to introduce a pacifier without building his nursing routine.
Things To Consider Before Introducing A Pacifier To Your Baby
The process of introducing a soother to your baby is extremely simple and straightforward.
Here are a few things you must consider before you introduce a pacifier to your little one:
Make sure you dedicate time to introduce your baby to the dummy. Ideally, it should be after the feed and a little close to the next feed. Do not give a pacifier when your baby is hungry.
Give your little one enough time to get familiar with the touch and construct of a pacifier. While some babies immediately take a pacifier into their mouths, the experience might be a little different for others. So, do not force your baby and give him the proper time to accept the change.
Just like your baby needs time to familiarize himself with the construct and texture of the dummy and a nipple, they may also need some time to get familiar with the taste of the nipple.
Tip to consider: Consider dipping the tip of the pacifier nipple in breast milk/formula milk before you give it to your baby.
Make sure you keep your baby’s mood in mind before you introduce a pacifier to him. If he’s already crying, hold off until the baby's mood improves.
Choosing the right type of pacifier can also make or break a deal for you. It is not necessary that a pacifier adored by one child is appreciated by your baby in the same way. Introduce different types to see which one gets the approval.
Do’s & Don'ts Of Using A Pacifier
- Do not introduce a pacifier if you’re not happy with your baby’s breastfeeding routine. You may, however, consider introducing a soother to a preterm baby who’s in the hospital and need something to suck for satisfaction
- Always try to solve other concerns first before putting a pacifier into your little one’s mouth
- Never give a pacifier to your baby without sterilizing it for at least 5-7 minutes in boiling water
- Never give a broken/damaged pacifier to your little one. Also, replace it after every 2-months
- Never dip a pacifier in honey or sugar as this may lead to food poisoning
- Never tie a soother around your baby’s neck as it may cause choking
- Do not give a pacifier every time your baby shows a sign of discomfort
Immediately discard and replace a pacifier if you notice any tears or holes in the nipple. You must also consider replacing the product if you observe nipple discoloration.
Always go through the cleaning instructions printed on the backside of the packaging. Almost all pacifiers need sterilization and proper cleaning before you give them to your baby.
There are different types of pacifiers available on the market. We suggest you try a few products first before you settle for one.
When To Stop Pacifier Use?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests limiting or stopping the use of pacifiers at the age of 6-months when your child is at a higher risk of ear infections.
Remember, you should never rush your baby to give it up. Instead of using punishment or humiliation strategies, opt for a reward system to help your little one get through this phase.
Give more time and attention to your baby during this time. For instance, you can gossip about his favorite pets or stuffed toys. Put cute and attractive ‘bye bye’ stickers on the dummy to help your little one realize it’s actually a time to say goodbye to his beloved paci.
All in all, a newborn pacifier is a great investment. We hope this post has cleared some of your doubts about the types, use, and maintenance of soothers.
For many mothers, it could be tough to decide when to stop pacifier use. Do not pressurize your child and remember that nobody ever goes to university with a soother.