A Pediatrician Answers 9 of Your Questions About Pacifiers
Bah-bah. Binky. Button. Nip-nip. Num. Paci. Sassy. Soothie. Wubbanub.
Whatever you call it, parents have lots of questions about pacifier use.
Let’s look at some of the most common:
1. When is it OK to start a pacifier?
A pacifier can be a life-saver for the baby that doesn’t need to feed at the moment, but desperately wants to suck.
The classic teaching for breastfeeding moms is to wait 3 to 4 weeks for breastfeeding to be established prior to introducing a pacifier. But, I think the most important thing is to make sure you feel confident in your baby’s latch and nursing before introducing a pacifier (or bottle for that matter). If your baby can latch, it’s OK to give him or her a pacifier. This will help your baby’s need to suck and your need to sleep and get a break from the constant nursing.
So day 1, probably not, but you don’t necessarily have to wait 3-4 weeks if you have a baby who is latching and nursing well.
2. When should we stop using a pacifier?
Prolonged pacifier use can primarily lead to two problems: Interference with speech development and dental issues. To prevent these problems from occurring, I recommend changing your strategy for pacifier use to nap and sleep times only after one year of age and starting to wean completely by 18 months with a goal of having them gone entirely by age 2.
3. Do pacifiers actually work to calm a baby?
Yes. Babies have a desire and drive to suck and it’s not always limited to feedings. Some babies never really take to it but for others, it can be a life-saver. Be careful not to jump to the pacifier for every fuss, learn your baby’s other needs and check for those before using the pacifier. But using the pacifier for everyone to get some sleep is perfectly fine when all of your baby’s other needs have been taken care of.
4. Do pacifiers prevent SIDS?
Way below some of the other more significant risk factors for infant death like sleeping on the back, no smoking in the house and other significant findings, pacifier use may be protective for SIDS. Is it a direct and absolute reason to use one? Probably not. But it doesn’t hurt and may actually help.
5. What kind of pacifier is best?
Babies will like all different kinds of pacifiers so don’t buy a whole bunch of one type until you know your baby’s preference. Pacifiers that are single piece may be preferable because they are unlikely to break and turn into a choking hazard. At the very least, pay attention to multiple part pacifiers to make sure they are in good shape. Pacifiers that are easily cleaned and simple seem to make the most sense.
6. Should I put something on the pacifier?
No. The practice of putting sugar or honey on pacifiers is unnecessary and potentially harmful. They can both accelerate the damage to teeth and honey has been known to cause a severe infection known as botulism in infants.
7. When should I replace or change pacifiers?
Pacifiers that are damaged or have been chewed should be thrown away. Small pieces can dislodge and become a choking hazard. In addition, throw away a pacifier when a child can put the whole thing in his or her mouth.
8. Should I use a pacifier-attached lovie?
This might be the most controversial (or at least unwelcome) advice in this whole post but using a lovie attached to pacifier particularly at sleep times could be just as dangerous as having a large blanket or pillow in bed with the child and shouldn’t be used.
9. How should I clean my baby’s pacifier?
Use warm water to rinse a baby’s pacifier. Some are dishwasher safe. Soap can be used intermittently and some can be placed in boiling water. Can you clean them with your mouth? Yes and there have been studies that show it might decrease your child’s risk of allergies but can also spread germs.
I hope this helps. What other questions do you have about pacifiers? Respond in the comments and we’ll get back with you.
Get to know Justin Smith, M.D.
Justin Smith, M.D., is a pediatrician in Trophy Club and the Medical Advisor for Digital Health for Cook Children's in Fort Worth, Texas. Dr. Smith is an experienced keynote speaker for a variety of topics including pediatric/parenting topics, healthcare social media and physician leadership. If you are interested in having Dr. Smith present to your conference or meeting, please contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
He has an active community on both Facebook and Twitter as @TheDocSmitty and writes weekly for Cook Children's checkupnewsroom.com. He believes that strategic use of social media and technology by pediatricians to connect with families can deepen their relationship and provide a new level of convenience for both of their busy lifestyles. Dr. Smith’s innovative pediatric clinic, a pediatric clinic “designed by you,” open now. Click to learn more. To make an appointment, call 817-347-8100.