What You Should Know About Baby Pacifiers

baby with pacifier

Baby pacifiers tend to inspire strong feelings among parents on both sides of the debate. Some claim that any pacifier use at all is dangerous for developing teeth, while others argue that pacifiers are a harmless and highly useful tool. The reality is that pacifiers are neither all bad nor all good. Here is a look at the reality of baby pacifiers.

Child Age

A common myth holds that pacifiers are unhealthy for kids of all ages. An equally common myth argues that pacifiers are safe for children of all ages.

Infants have a strong sucking reflex, and most infants are easily soothed by pacifiers. Sucking on a pacifier can even reduce the risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by regulating how deeply an infant sleeps. No pacifier-related harm to the oral health or development of babies under 2 years old has ever been found, and the benefits are strong, so pacifiers ARE recommended for infants. 

Once a child reaches his or her second birthday, though, the benefits of pacifiers no longer outweigh the risks. At age 2 and above, pacifier use, along with thumb sucking, could cause misalignment of the baby teeth, interfere with oral development, and even increase the risk for ear infection.

Pacifier Design

A common myth is that all pacifiers are the same. The truth, though, is that pacifier design is a vital consideration. Latex nipples can easily be bitten through, and could lead to a latex allergy. Always choose pacifiers with silicone nipples.

In addition, you should always select a pacifier that has holes in the plastic shield to prevent choking. The design and color of the shield, though, is insignificant.

It is easier for babies to grasp a pacifier with a button the back, but it is easier for parents to retrieve a dropped pacifier with a ring back. A glow in the dark back makes the pacifier easier to find in the dark, while an automatic cover will protect the nipple when dropped.

Pacifier Safety

There are numerous myths about pacifier safety. In reality, any pacifier may be safer or less safe depending on what precautions you take.

Attachment cords no longer than 6 inches minimize choking risks. Glued on novelty parts increase choking risks. It is generally acceptable for a baby to fall asleep while using a pacifier, but one should never be inserted into the mouth of a sleeping baby. Pacifiers should be washed at least once a day with mild soap and thoroughly rinsed.

Pacifiers should never be the go-to for calming a fussy baby. Make sure the baby is fed, clean, and cuddled before offering a pacifier. Ideally, pacifiers should be used only at bedtime and naptime, as well as during unusually fussy periods.

When Should Babies Stop Using Pacifiers

It is best to start your weaning your baby off a pacifier around the first birthday. This allows plenty of time for an easy transition before the second birthday.

Start with some basic restrictions, and gradually increase them. For example, try allowing use of the pacifier only at home, and then only right before sleep. Insist that your child not use the pacifier when talking. Reduce overstimulation and ensure that your child is eating well and getting plenty of sleep, as most kids crave the pacifier when they do not feel well. Offer lots of love and support when your child is cranky.

When you feel that your child is ready, quit cold turkey. For best results, try connecting this to an event such as a vacation, but it can also work when choosing an arbitrary date. Tell your child in advance and help her count down the days. Expect some anger and crying, especially in the first few days. Stay calm, provide plenty of support, and remind your child matter-of-factly that the pacifier is no longer available. It can be difficult, but if you give in once, it will be that much harder the next time.

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