Are Pacifiers Good For Babies?
This is one activity your baby may have been born to do.
When you’re a new mom, it can seem like everyone has an opinion on how to care for your infant—including when and until what age you should use a baby pacifier, and whether or not you should even give them a baby pacifier to begin with. And while people are generally well-intentioned, it can be challenging figuring out what advice to take. As with so many things in life and childcare, there are pacifier pros and cons—among them, some pros you should know about that go beyond just calming a crying baby.
To clear up any confusion about using a baby pacifier, we’ve divvied up the pros and cons of a pacifier. You’ll also learn the answers to common questions such as if you should use a pacifier for a breastfed baby, how to get your baby to take a pacifier, and the best times to use one.
Pacifier Pros & Cons
Babies instinctively have a sucking reflex from the time they’re born (it’s how they eat, after all). So much so that some babies have even been seen sucking on their thumbs or fingers while they’re still in the womb. But in addition to helping to soothe them, there are other major benefits and some potential drawbacks. Ahead, we’re breaking down pacifier pros and cons.
- Makes baby happy: Sucking on a baby pacifier can be pure bliss for many infants. It can soothe them when they’re fussy and keep them happy between feedings—sometimes at their happiest.
- Helps lull them to sleep: Your little angel needs a lot of sleep, especially when they’re newborn, and sucking on their binky may help if they’re having trouble settling down.
- Lowers the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): Speaking of sleep, studies have shown that sucking on a baby pacifier at night may significantly reduce the risk of SIDS.
- Provides a temporary distraction: Parenting often comes down to the art of distraction. Whether you’re taking your child to see their pediatrician, running errands, or doing chores, giving them their binky to suck on can buy you some valuable time.
- Makes flights and going to higher elevations more comfy: Unlike older kids and adults, infants don’t know how to swallow or yawn on demand to “pop” their ears if pressure builds up when they're traveling in high altitudes. A baby pacifier might help.
- The binky habit is easier to kick than thumbsucking: Babies love to engage in some sucking action—hands, feet, pacifier, and random objects galore. And while it’s generally recommended that you start to wean your baby off of a pacifier by the time they're a year old, beyond that, most kids stop using them on their own between the ages of 2 and 4. But some kids have trouble breaking the habit, and it tends to be even harder for them if they’re used to sucking on their thumb or fingers instead of a baby pacifier.
- Falling out of their mouth: Until your baby hits important milestones that enable them to pick up their binky and put it in their mouth, they may get upset and cry when it falls out.
- Timing might be everything: Less of a true “con” and more of a strategic approach, if you breastfeed, you may want to wait until you both have feeding time down, usually around when they’re 3 to 4 weeks old. That said, many newborns don’t run into baby pacifier-induced issues with breastfeeding (more on that in a bit). If you’re concerned at all that yours might, always speak to your pediatrician. (If you don’t have one already, learn how to find the right one.)
- Poses a risk of ear infections for older infants: From birth until about 6 months of age, the risk of ear middle ear infections are the lowest, which gives pacifiers a surprise benefit in this age group (since it’s also when the risk of SIDs is the highest). After around 6 months, sucking on a binky might make them more prone.
- May cause dental problems in older kids: While baby teeth are generally not affected by binkies in children’s first few years, using a pacifier for too long—past 4 years old—might affect the alignment of their little chompers.
- Swallowing air: There’s nothing inherently harmful about swallowing too much air, but doing so while sucking on a baby pacifier could cause a gassy tummy. Fortunately, you can help relieve gas fast with Infants’ Mylicon Gas Relief Drops in our dye-free or original formula. They quickly break gas bubbles down to help your baby naturally release them, and are safe for even the newest of newborns. The active ingredient, simethicone, is never absorbed into your baby’s system—it just ends up in their diaper.
Mommy Pro Tip: You can help promote healthy digestion overall while supporting your little one’s immune system with Infants’ Mylicon Daily Probiotic Drops. Plus, if your baby has colic, they can help reduce crying and fussiness by 50% or more over time!
Can I Use a Pacifier for My Breastfed Baby?
As we mentioned, you may want to wait to give your infant a baby pacifier until both you and your little one are used to breastfeeding, around the time they’re 3 or 4 weeks. However, healthy, full-term babies have been able to hop on the binky train without it interfering with breastfeeding too. When in doubt, it’s always best to ask your pediatrician for their thoughts on using a pacifier for a breastfeed baby.
What Kind of Pacifier Should I Use?
No two babies are the same and, just like older kids and adults, their needs and preferences can vary. That’s why baby pacifiers come in different styles and colors made of different materials. Typically, however, there are two main types of pacifiers that come in a range of sizes to accommodate new and growing babies: conventional and orthodontic. Conventional pacifiers come in many different shapes and have a rounded nipple, while orthodontic pacifiers are somewhat flat and relatively square to better mimic a natural nipple. Ask your pediatrician which one of the following would be best for your little one’s needs.
Whichever shape you choose, be sure to get a dishwasher-safe baby pacifier—without any string, ribbons, or chords attached—so you can keep their binky clean in the dishwasher or by boiling it. And always squeeze the water out of it and make sure it cools down before offering it. The shield on one for a newborn should be at least an inch-and-a-half wide, so it won’t fit in their mouth and pose a choking hazard, then a wider, age-appropriate size as they grow. It’s also probably wise to get more than one binky—they have a tendency to be floor magnets, seemingly always ending up on the ground.
How Do I Get My Baby To Take a Pacifier?
Some infants have no issue taking a baby pacifier from the get-go, while others—both breastfed and bottle-fed—may need a little coaxing. It’s not uncommon for babies to show no interest in a nipple that produces no milk, spit out a baby pacifier, or even get upset by the offer of one. But how to get a baby to take a pacifier is a fairly simple technique. Try stroking the inside of their cheek with it to get your baby’s sucking reflex going, then hold it gently in their mouth so it doesn’t pop out until they can hold it for longer and longer periods of time.
When Can I Give My Baby a Pacifier?
Pacifiers can have numerous benefits, from helping to calm your baby or lull them to sleep to reducing the risk of SIDs. Just don’t force one on your infant if they’re really not into it, or use it to replace or delay any meals. And a time will eventually come when it’s time to put down the binky and progress to bigger and better milestones (like potty training!).
Next: If your infant seems uncomfortable or especially gassy after mealtime, milk may be to blame. Find out what the different signs of a milk allergy versus a milk intolerance are. And always be sure to consult your pediatrician or an allergist for a proper diagnosis.