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:
- When is the best time to give your baby a pacifier?
- When and how to take away the pacifier.
- Is it bad to give babies pacifiers while they sleep?
- Will pacifiers hurt my baby?
IN THIS ARTICLE:
- Do pacifiers help babies sleep?
- What Type of Pacifier Should I Use?
- When Do I Take Away My Baby’s Pacifier?
- The Upsides of Pacifiers
- What are the Downsides of Pacifiers?
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.
Pacifiers and Sleep:
Do pacifiers help babies sleep?
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!
Teaching Your Baby to Take a Paci
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:
- Offer the pacifier when they're relaxed - such as after a feeding.
- To do so, renowned pediatrician and author Dr. Harvey Karp suggests removing your breast or the bottle from your baby’s mouth as a feeding winds down and replacing the nipple with a pacifier. Sometimes a baby will be so relaxed they simply take the pacifier right then and there.
- If that “bait and switch” still doesn't work, Dr. Karp suggests “reverse psychology.” Instead of pushing the pacifier into their mouth, try to “take it away.”
- When your baby first sucks on the pacifier, before they've rejected it, try pulling the pacifier away from their mouth. Your baby may instinctually “suck back,” as if saying, “this is mine.”
- This “reverse psychology” process may take a few days but has proven results with many of Dr. Karp's patients, and our friends, too.
Is it Okay to Use Pacifiers While Babies Sleep?
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).
Is a thumb or pacifier better for my baby’s sleep?
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.)
When Do I Introduce a Pacifier?
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.
What Type of Pacifier Should I Use?
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:
- Orthodontic vs Regular Pacifiers - Orthodontic pacifiers have a flat bottom and rounded top, designed to mimic the natural shape of a nipple to encourage the movement and muscular development needed for breast or bottle feeding. A regular pacifier takes on the more traditional ‘rounded’ shape and although this more original design can still work wonders, some parents found that they diminished their babies’ ability to suck milk out of a breast or bottle.
- Pacifier Size: As your baby grows, so should their pacifier - make sure you are buying the right size based on their age.
- Latex vs Silicone: Silicone tends to be firmer and therefore longer lasting than the softer latex alternative - however it is important to consider that, while uncommon, your baby could be allergic to latex in which case silicone would be your only option.
- One Piece: Look for a pacifier that cannot break into two-pieces.
- Easy to Clean: Pacifiers that are dishwasher safe will save you a ton of time in the long run.
How Do I Wash a Pacifier?
- Sterilize pacifiers when babies are six months or younger, in the same way you clean pump parts, bottles and nipples. If the pacifier is dishwasher safe that works well as their immune systems are still developing at this point. Be sure to squeeze the water out of the nipple before you give it to your baby to avoid the hot water burning the inside of your baby’s mouth.
- After six months, your baby’s pacifier can be washed with dish soap and clear hot water, or you can continue to pop it in the dishwasher.
When Do I Take Away My Baby’s Pacifier?
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.
How Do I Wean My Baby from a Pacifier?
Some tips for eliminating the pacifier include:
- Phase it Out: Limit use to only naptime and bedtime and once that’s going well eventually remove it from sleeptime too. Nighttime will be the most difficult so it can help to start a new bedtime routine and try out different things to see what works best.
- Alternate Soothing Methods: When your child needs comfort, avoid reaching for the pacifier first. Hold them, sing to them, play with them and try to calm them down without the binky.
- Positive reinforcement: Praise your child when they don’t choose the paci and avoid any negative punishment when they do use the paci. This can cause them to regress.
- Say Goodbye: Have a special farewell ceremony or maybe have the ‘Paci Fairy’ come and take it away, leaving a reward in its place. This tends to work well for older children.
- Cold Turkey: Often the fastest, but also potentially will involve the most ‘protesting’. In this case you rip off the bandaid and let your child ride it out without the Paci. This is usually fastest and most effective with babies under 7-months old.
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.
The Pros and Cons of Pacifiers:
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?”
The Upsides of Pacifiers:
Peace and Quiet:
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.
Self-Soothing or Self-Settling:
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.”
Pacifiers Can “Pop” Ears in Airplanes:
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.
Pacifiers and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome:
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.
Pacifiers Can Be Thrown Away:
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.
What are the Downsides of Pacifiers?
We’ve reviewed some of the data-backed upsides of pacifiers, but there are what some people would call downsides.
Oral/Jaw Problems from Pacifiers:
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.
Pacifiers and Germs:
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.