Reviewed by: Michael W. Woolridge B.Sc., DPhil
Pacifiers have been popular baby soothing tools for hundreds of years. Babies with a sucking reflex often suck their thumbs or fingers to lull them to sleep, which is why parents have been relying on pacifiers to help make the bedtime process easier for their baby (and for them). While this is not a new invention by any means, one question remains: do pacifiers actually help babies fall asleep? Keep reading to consider the do’s and don’ts of giving your baby a pacifier and discover if it’s the right choice for your family.
Let’s start with the basics.
What is a pacifier?
A pacifier is a rubber, plastic, or silicone nipple substitute designed to help soothe babies when they’re fussy between feedings or to give babies something to suckle on before bedtime. Pacifiers serve as a self-soothing tool to help new parents during those early months when babies may show distress and prove difficult to calm.
The pros of a pacifier:*
They help calm/soothe a fussy baby – Many babies are at their happiest when they’re sucking on something. Pacifiers offer babies the same soothing effects of a nipple without overfeeding them. Luckily, innovative products like Emulait’s pacifier replicate the texture and feel of a mother’s nipple to make this transition easier. Stay tuned for the Emulait pacifier coming soon!
Serve as a temporary distraction – Pacifiers offer a useful soothing distraction when babies are especially fussy during or after medical procedures like shots, blood tests and more.
Help babies fall asleep – Many babies fall asleep at their mother’s breast, which means they often wake up irritated when it’s time to place them in the crib. When slipped into your baby’s mouth during this transition, babies are less inclined to wake up and are able to fall back asleep seamlessly.
The cons of a pacifier:*
Risk of nipple confusion during breastfeeding – If babies are given a pacifier too early on, it can disrupt their ability to learn to latch on to the breast to breastfeed. Experts recommend avoiding pacifiers during the first 2-4 weeks after a baby is born and waiting until breastfeeding is established.
Dental issues – Prolonged pacifier use, beyond 4-5 years of age, can eventually lead to dental misalignment. To avoid this, experts recommend weaning off a pacifier by a child’s fourth birthday.
Pacifier dependency – If your baby is used to using their pacifier as a tool to fall asleep, they can become dependent on it over time. This can lead to crying spells in the middle of the night when the pacifier falls out of their mouth.
Ear infection – Although rare, a higher risk of ear infections can be associated with prolonged pacifier use. Consult with your healthcare provider if you think your child may be suffering.
What to look for to find the best pacifier*
Shape – Pacifier nipples come in all different shapes from cylindrical and cherry to butterfly and orthodontic. It’s important to try different shapes to find one that suits your baby’s needs best.
Safety – Make sure to purchase a pacifier that does not come apart as this can be a major choking hazard and inspect your pacifier regularly for any signs of damage that could be harmful.
Size – A pacifier shield should always be large enough so that a baby can’t put the entire thing in their mouth.
Silicone vs. latex – Both materials have benefits and setbacks. Silicone pacifiers are sturdier while latex pacifiers are softer.
What we’ve learned
We’ve covered the pros and cons of pacifiers along with what to look for if you decide to shop for one of your own as a tool to help your baby sleep. Keep in mind that every baby is different and that it’s important to do your own research about the risks and benefits of pacifiers or speak to a medical professional when making decisions that are best for your baby.
Companies like Emulait are committed to working with doctors and experts to design products that keep your baby’s safety and health in mind. Be sure to keep up to date on Emulait’s latest products and you might just find the pacifier you’ve been looking for. Contact us today to learn more about how Emulait can support you and your family.
Mayo Clinic Staff. (2022, February 10). Pros, cons, do's and don'ts of baby's pacifier. Mayo Clinic. Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/infant-and-toddler-health/in-depth/pacifiers/art-20048140
Sexton, S., & Natale, R. (2009, April 15). Risks and benefits of pacifiers. American Family Physician. Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://www.aafp.org/pubs/afp/issues/2009/0415/p681.html
Gilmerm. (2021, June 4). Baby pacifier pros and cons. Cleveland Clinic. Retrieved June 23, 2022, from https://health.clevelandclinic.org/baby-pacifier-pros-and-cons
The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only, and does not substitute for professional medical or health advice. Always consult a medical professional or healthcare provided for any medical advice, diagnoses, treatment, or health objectives.