The Ins and Outs of Pacifiers

0-6 Months

When it comes to hearing your baby cry, there are a range of emotions you’ll experience as a parent—from anxiety to worry and sadness. Bottom line: It’s a heartbreaking feeling, and you would do anything you possibly could to get her to stop. For some babies, using a pacifier might be the best approach. Here are some tips that can help you decide if a pacifier is right for your baby and when to introduce it.

When to introduce a pacifier

Your baby is only a few days or weeks old, and people are already asking if you plan to use a pacifier. If you are breastfeeding, you may have read about “nipple confusion.” To avoid any confusion and to establish a positive breastfeeding relationship, we recommend waiting to introduce a pacifier until your baby is at least 1 month old.

If you are bottle-feeding, you can introduce your newborn to a pacifier at any time.

The best times to use a pacifier

Using a pacifier during your baby’s first year of life has been shown to decrease the incidence of SIDS. With this in mind, consider offering a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. If it falls out during sleep, that is perfectly normal, and it is best to leave it that way. No need to replace a pacifier once your baby’s asleep.

Once you know your baby enjoys a pacifier, you may be tempted to use it as a cure-all for fussiness. Just remember, there are times when your baby will cry for other reasons, like hunger (crying is a late sign of hunger). So make sure to learn and pay attention to her hunger cues. Your baby trusts you will feed her when she’s hungry, and giving her a pacifier at that time decreases that trust.

If your baby is not hungry and the pacifier doesn’t do the trick, try changing her, holding her or touching your skin to hers to calm her down. And during those times she’s enjoying life pacifier-free, or she spits it out onto the floor, clean it with soap and water.

How to introduce a pacifier

Once you and baby are ready to give the pacifier a try, here are a few tips:

  • Offer the pacifier when your baby is calm and fed—not hungry or upset
  • Choose a pacifier that is made in one piece and from durable material
  • Try lightly tapping on the pacifier or shaking it a little bit inside of baby’s mouth to trigger his instinct to suckle

If he doesn’t take to it right away, he may not be ready yet, or he may never be interested in a pacifier—and that’s OK. If you want to keep trying, consider waiting a couple of days each time.

We do not recommend coating the pacifier in something sweet. The sweet solution on his gums can lead to future tooth decay, and it can lead to your baby preferring sweets to calm him down. And that’s a habit that’s hard to break.