Trying to weigh up the pacifier pros and cons can be a challenge. These seemingly innocent tiny devices have the power to either save your sanity — or rule your life.
What’s more, expert advice changes like the wind, and should you decide to go for it, you’ll be faced with the tricky decision of which type to try.
So, to help you, I’ve put together all you need to know — the good, the bad and the alternatives.
When Should I Introduce a Pacifier?
Pacifiers can be introduced from birth. But if you’re considering breastfeeding, it’s often recommended that you wait. This is because your baby will use a different sucking method for a pacifier than when on the breast.
Once your baby gets to grips with breastfeeding — by around 3 to 4 weeks — would be the right time to introduce a pacifier.
Types of Pacifiers Available
A dodo, paci, binky, dummy — a pacifier is associated with many cute pet names and believe it or not, there are also many kinds to choose from.
The different types are designed to suit the age and development of your child. For example, the best pacifier for your tiny toothless newborn isn’t going to cut it for your toddler with a full set of baby teeth.
Pacifiers are also available in different materials. But what it will inevitably come down to is your baby’s personal preference. Here’s a run-through of the pacifiers to consider:
- Round-tip pacifiers — the classic type that you’re likely to remember when you were young. The idea behind this design is that the round shape is supposed to mimic an actual nipple. This is also why they’re often recommended for breastfed babies — so you don’t cause nipple confusion.
- Orthodontic pacifiers — featuring a nipple that’s slightly flattened at the bottom and rounded at the top — they’re made with teeth in mind. When in a baby’s mouth, the nipple flattens, providing your baby with a natural sucking action, while reducing pressure on those tiny developing teeth.
- Silicone pacifiers — are widely available, much sturdier and hassle-free to clean. These may be more suitable for a toddler with a few teeth.
- Multiple-piece pacifiers — made up of a few components, these are the most common type. Each part is manufactured separately and then combined to form a traditional pacifier. They’re made up of a nipple, a guard and a ring.
- One-piece pacifiers — as the name suggests, these are made out of a single piece of molded plastic, silicone or latex. This design reduces the risk of the pacifier coming apart and potentially causing a choking hazard.
- Latex pacifiers — while softer and providing more flexibility, this feature is also what makes them unsuitable for older toddlers. Their teeth could easily damage the nipple or bite it off altogether. And, avoid if you think your child could be allergic to latex.
How Many Pacifiers Do I Need?
This will vary depending on the age of your child and how often you misplace them. However, as the hip hop trio, De La Soul sang, ‘Three, that’s the magic number’ — is a good place to start.
With a trio of pacifiers close by, you have a backup plan if you can’t find one fast enough. A handy tip is to ensure you have at least one spare pacifier with you, and to preserve your sanity, another spare in your baby bag for emergencies.
You may find that your child becomes particularly fond of a specific pacifier. If this is the case, to avoid an end-of-the-world scenario, stocking up could be worthwhile. That said, you should also remember, your baby will grow and the pacifier that’s currently suitable, may not be in a few weeks or months — so, don’t go overboard.
Are Pacifiers Bad For Babies Teeth?
The use of a pacifier has been linked to dental or mouth complications, such as improper teeth alignment (malocclusion), protruding front teeth or changes in the roof of the mouth.
However, the advice is that providing your baby doesn’t use a pacifier long-term, then there should be no permanent damage. What’s more, don’t be tempted to dip that pacifier into something sweet, this will lead to tooth decay. The American Dental Association states that sucking is a completely natural reflex and makes a baby or child feel safe and secure. They also point out that offering a child a pacifier is far better than thumbsucking — it can be controlled by the caregiver, hence an easier habit to break.
When To Stop Pacifier Use?
If you do decide to use a pacifier with your little one, at some point you’ll have the unenviable task of having to say goodbye to it — this can be tricky. That said, you could be super-lucky, and your tot decides it’s not for them on their own accord.
However, here’s what the experts have to say on the subject.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) recommends weaning children from the pacifier by the age of 3. This can help reduce the risk of your child developing a ‘bad bite’ or malocclusion.
If you decide to wean sooner, at 6 months, research suggests it can help to reduce their chance of ear infections, but the threat of SIDS will be present in the first year.
Generally speaking, ditching the pacifier by the two-year mark is considered acceptable. Yet, this timeline isn’t set in stone. There is nothing stopping your child from parting company with their pacifier at an earlier age — if they’re ready.
Likewise, medical reasons could also mean a sooner rather than later departure of the pacifier.
If you’re about to take the plunge, there are a few tips that can prevent this event from causing you and your child unnecessary stress:
- Be brave and go cold turkey — remove all pacifiers, it doesn’t have to be a distressing event. Think out of sight, out of mind!
- Build up to the end of the pacifier journey gently. Remember, this tiny piece of rubber has played a huge role in your child’s world.
- Always use positive reinforcement — cheer, clap, praise your little one when they don’t reach for or want their pacifier.
- If you’re looking for a unique way to get your child to let go of the pacifier, you could use something like the ‘pacifier fairy’ — taking it away and leaving a toy in its place.
- Time it right — saying au revoir to the pacifier when there is a big life event coming up — such as the birth of a sibling or starting daycare — is setting you both up for failure.
- Try a gradual approach — start by only allowing a pacifier when they’re tired. Then limit use to bedtime only, and not during naps.
- Consistency is key — everyone who cares for your little one needs to follow the same rules. You’re fighting a losing battle if the grandparents give in to their demands.
Pacifier Alternatives For Toddlers
You don’t get anything for free in this world, and this is exactly the same when it comes to your toddler giving up their pacifier. If you want them to quit the habit, you may have to offer them something in return.
A few top toddler-friendly alternatives to their beloved pacifier include:
This is a common option that many parents opt for. It also works alongside the theory of providing your child with a substitute source of comfort. A blanket helps to provide them with a feeling of security.
It may be a blanket that they’ve had since they were a baby, or you could purchase a new one as a gift for getting rid of the pacifier.
There is a huge range of these projector nightlights available. Some project stars, animals or different colors. You can get your toddler to help you pick one out, and this will also help them prepare for the end of the pacifier.
Nightlight projectors work as a form of distraction, directing your child’s attention to something other than the pacifier they are missing.
This works along the same lines as the blanket. A toy is a great alternative to a pacifier because it still provides your toddler with a feeling of comfort and security.
You could take a little trip to the local toy store for them to pick one out. This will also give them time to mentally prepare for the loss of their pacifier. You can talk through what you’re planning and explain that their new toy is going to replace their pacifier.
You could offer them a bottle of milk as they doze off to sleep or if they become unsettled during the night. It’s also a worthy idea to offer your little one a drink from a bottle with a straw rather than a feeding bottle. This will allow your toddler to get used to a different type of sucking. Personally, I would gradually change the contents to water as you begin weaning off milk.
One more thing to remember, try to use a bottle or sippy cup and place it near their bed or cot, so that they can reach it themselves during the night. Non-spill is advisable, if it tips over, this type of vessel will prevent those wet-bed accidents.
5. Piece Of Your Clothing
My toddlers are the world’s worst sleepers. However, by simply being close to them they’re soon back in dreamland. As well as your presence, your smell offers comfort to your child.
To save you getting into bed with them — and adding another habit to break — ask them to pick a favorite t-shirt of yours. You can wear it for a few hours and when it comes to bedtime, give it to them to help them settle down to sleep.
Pacifier Pros and Cons
So, should you let your baby self-soothe or grab that pacifier? To help you decide, here are a few points to think about, both the good and the bad:
- Some babies are happiest when they’re sucking on something, whether it’s a pacifier, nipple, or thumb. Pacifiers can help to soothe a fussy baby. And, unlike a thumb, allow parents to control the amount of access they have to what they’re sucking.
- Offering a pacifier to a baby just as they’re about to fall asleep could reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) according to The American Academy of Pediatrics.
- If your baby is having trouble drifting off, a pacifier could help them to fall asleep easier.
- Pacifiers can be a great distraction, especially after shots or other procedures.
- We all know how painful your ears can become during plane landings and takeoffs, but your baby can not rectify this pressure change. Sucking on a pacifier can help to alleviate this pain.
- The best thing about pacifiers is that they’re disposable. So, when it’s time for your baby to stop using one, you can simply throw them away. Much easier than trying to prevent them from sucking their thumb.
- If your baby uses a pacifier to help them drift off to sleep there is a strong possibility they will become dependent on it. This could lead to some nighttime disturbances when that pacifier falls out.
- Using a pacifier could disrupt breastfeeding. Hence, if you are, experts suggest you don’t offer a pacifier until you have an established feeding routine or your baby is at least 3 to 4 weeks old.
- While normal pacifier use in the early years of life doesn’t cause long-term dental problems, prolonged use may lead to issues with teeth positioning and mouth development.
In babies 6 months and over, an increase in middle ear infections (otitis media) has been linked to pacifier use.
Pacifiers offer a convenient way to soothe an anxious or upset baby. These tiny devices provide an immense source of comfort and security. However, there is also a downside, in that they’re associated with medical and potential dental issues.
Furthermore, keep in mind that nothing lasts forever, and eventually, your little one will have to say goodbye to the pacifier. This can often be a tricky and stressful time for both parents and child alike.
Hence, you should carefully consider all the pacifier pros and cons before deciding if it’s the right option for you and your baby.
Pacifier Pros and Cons FAQs
Do Pacifiers Cause Problems?
While normal pacifier use in the early stages of your baby’s life doesn’t cause any long-term dental problems, prolonged use especially beyond 4 years old can lead to problems with mouth development and teeth positioning.
What Is a Good Age To Take Away a Pacifier?
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) notes that it’s completely normal for babies and young children to suck at something that doesn’t provide any nutritional value, such as a pacifier. But they also recommend that children should be weaned off a pacifier by the age of 3.
How Often Should You Clean a Pacifier?
The Mayo Clinic recommends that for babies under 6 months, their pacifier should be sterilized before each use. For those over this age, pacifiers should be cleaned with hot soapy water before using.
Do Doctors Recommend Pacifiers?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that parents consider using a pacifier once their baby is one-month plus — during the night and at nap times — to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).