All You Need to Know About Pacifiers and When to Take the Paci Away
Updated Aug 15th 2022 | 9 min read
Updated Aug 15th 2022 | 9 min read
Written By Mandy Treeby Chief Baby Sleep Consultant
Whether you call it a pacifier, a binky, or a miracle, a lot of parents have questions about pacifiers including:
IN THIS ARTICLE:
You’ve come to the right place, because we’ve spoken with leading experts, other parents, and collated our research to share all you need to know about pacifiers and even how to consider pacifiers when sleep training your baby.
If you want to explore sleep training beyond pacifiers, download Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers . Co-created with pediatricians, sleep experts, and other parents to provide insightful, data-backed tips and techniques that can make sleep training a learning and growing experience for your baby and you.
Whether a pacifier will help your baby sleep really depends on your baby. If you find a pacifier works and you like them, by all means, pacify away! If your baby really isn’t into pacifiers, that’s okay, too!
If your baby resists a pacifier but you want to see pacifiers can help them, here's a suggestion on how to train your baby to take a pacifier:
The AAP recommends parents consider offering pacifiers to babies 1-month and older at both nap time and bedtime to help reduce the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
There is evidence that babies who suck their fingers have fewer sleep interruptions than those who use pacifiers. Probably because fingers are easier for your baby to find than a dropped pacifier. But of course, thumbs are harder to ‘take away’ when the time comes so that’s going to be a tougher habit to break.
(Tip: Once your baby is out of the swaddle and in the sleep sack, if they are using a pacifier , throw extra ones in the crib to increase their chances of finding one at night.)
Wait at least a month before giving your infant a pacifier. This delay ensures your infant develops the suckling skills needed to breast or bottle feed. It’s a good idea to make sure that your baby is nursing well before introducing the pacifier to avoid ‘nipple confusion’.
If you’re looking to establish healthy sleep habits for your new baby, or just generally want to improve your knowledge and confidence around managing sleep, the Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers App can help prepare you with the knowledge and tools you need.
This really comes down to which type of pacifier your baby prefers, and chances are you will need to try a few, but which type should you choose? Here are a few things to consider:
While a pacifier can help your baby sleep, it can also start to hinder it as they become dependent on it to fall asleep and can’t find one in their crib when they wake in the middle of the night.
Experts say that it is by far easier to wean or ‘get rid’ of the pacifier at around 6-months of age than it is at 9-months when babies have developed object permanence and have an emotional connection to their paci. The AAP specifically recommends 6-months to reduce the increased risk of ear infections - particularly if your child is prone to them.
In reality there is no hard and fast rule, and if the pacifier is more of a help than a hindrance you can keep using it and choose to remove it between 2 and 4 years of age.
The Pampers Smart Sleep Coach has comprehensive guidance on the use of pacifiers from our resident sleep experts Kylee Money and Dr Craig Canapari.
Some tips for eliminating the pacifier include:
Keep a positive mindset, but obviously be prepared that your child may simply not be ready to give it up yet and you don’t want them to feel like they are a failure, so if you hear “Mom, I’m not ready to be a big girl yet!” then you can meet them with “OK, I understand how much you love it, maybe we can try again next week?”
For information on other sleep training topics, including “How to Nap Transition” and “The Importance of Date Night,” download Pampers Smart Sleep Coach. We created this easy-to-use app so that anybody, anywhere can start sleep training their baby in a week or less.
Pacifiers are one of the more debatable parenting tools. Here we run through some of the common pros and cons of pacifiers, answering questions like “Will pacifiers cause oral problems?” and “Can pacifiers be recycled?”
Some parents and caregivers love pacifiers because pacifiers do precisely what they say: they pacify. If your baby uses them, you know that a small piece of plastic can deliver big results.
Pacifiers can serve another purpose – they help your baby learn the essential skill of self-soothing.
Greg Stasi, PhD, pediatric neuropsychologist, told us that pacifiers build independence when it comes to falling asleep or falling back asleep in the night. “A pacifier can help a child self-settle,” he says. “It can increase a child’s ability to fall asleep rather than relying on an adult to put them to sleep.”
This is good news for anyone traveling with their baby – pacifiers can help your baby “pop” their ears to relieve air pressure on planes, much like we adults may do with gum or a yawn.
Though rare, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) is one of the most mysterious and frightening medical issues out there. Even after decades of studies, doctors and researchers still have no answers as to what causes SIDS.
There is evidence, though, that pacifiers can reduce the risk of SIDS.
An upside to pacifiers versus a thumb is that pacifiers can be thrown away, which is useful when you want to wean them. As Dr. Berman told us, “The advantage over thumb-sucking is that eventually you can throw away the pacifier. Children may cry for a few days and then learn to soothe themselves.”
Self-soothing is an essential sleep training skill your baby will naturally start learning around the 4-month mark. For more information on sleep training, consider ourPampers Smart Sleep Coach. It’s an easy-to-use app that creates personalized, data-backed sleep plans that can help your baby and you sleep longer and better.
We’ve reviewed some of the data-backed upsides of pacifiers, but there are what some people would call downsides.
For some babies, pacifiers – and thumb-sucking – can lead to misaligned teeth, speech problems, and in some cases jaw issues later in childhood.
Though relatively rare, overusing a pacifier can lead to middle-ear infections from pressure buildup. But, again, this is rare.
You already know this, but babies tend to drop pacifiers and then pop them back in their mouths. This can obviously spread germs, so be sure to wash pacifiers properly after each use.
Now that you know the ins-and-outs of pacifiers, learn more about sleep training your baby with Smart Sleep Coach by Pampers. It’s an easy-to-use, data-driven, doctor-approved app that covers a variety of sleep training methods and offers personalized tips to help your baby start sleeping better in a week or less.
“Pacifier Use, Finger Sucking, and Infant Sleep,” Behavioral Sleep Medicine.
“Risks and Benefits of Pacifiers,” American Family Physician.
“Pacifiers: Are They Good for Your Baby?” Mayo Clinic.
“How to Recycle Your Baby Gear,” Parents.
"How to Get a Baby to Take a Pacifier," Happiest Baby.