Ah the great debate… after all, the list of pacifier pros and cons is lengthy!
This topic can get heated as people are extremely opinionated on the subject.
Here are ‘The Moms At Odds’ you know we love to talk about different parenting techniques. This debate is perfect for us as Rachel’s family loves the pacifier but Jo did everything she could to avoid it.
Today we really want to weigh in on some pacifier pros and cons. To take it a step further, we want you to feel good about whichever decision you make.
If you choose to use a pacifier, we’re going to discuss the best products and techniques.
If you want to abstain, then we’ve got you covered with alternatives.
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The Ultimate List of Pacifier Pros and Cons
A Case for the Pacifier
Rachel’s household is a big fan of the pacifier.
2 of her 3 babies used and loved them, which made Rachel love them too!
She’ll be the first to admit she initially had a lot of fears about complications and problems weaning. However after her first had no issues, she didn’t hesitate to give a pacifier to her subsequent children.
Her second was the one who just wasn’t into them, even though she wished so hard he would be! He was the fussiest and most unhappy baby, and she tried every pacifier in an attempt to sooth him.
Rachel says that pacifiers have saved her sanity. When the crying is intense you need every tool available to get through.
Here are some of the biggest ‘pros’ for pacifier use.
Pro #1 | Babies Want to Suck
Babies have a natural sucking reflex when something touches the roof of their mouth. This reflex starts during pregnancy and is so important since babies need to suck to eat.
Non-nutritive sucking is completely normal for babies and the pacifier can satisfy this urge.
Pro #2 | Pacifiers Are Soothing
Pacifiers are comforting to many babies. They can help calm a fussy baby and can be especially helpful to colicky babies and parents.
They are so effective at soothing, they’re often used as part of pain relief for minor procedures in your infants such as injections and heel sticks.
These soothing effects of the pacifier can also help babies fall asleep and stay asleep.
Pro #3 | Reduced SIDS Risk
Pacifiers have been shown in many studies to be correlated with a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
This protective effect is why the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends pacifier use at naptime and bedtime.
The reasons are not fully understood yet, but some theories include that it helps to decrease reflux, increase arousal, or maintain airway.
Since SIDS is a major fear for most parents this can help everyone sleep a little better at night.
Pro #4 | Benefits for Preemies
Pacifier use has been associated with several benefits for preterm infants.
As said above babies start sucking during pregnancy, but preemies may be born before developing this ability or having much time to practice. It is speculated that the pacifier may help premature babies to develop the sucking reflex which is necessary for oral feeding.
Pacifier use has been correlated with improved bottle feeding as well as shorter hospital stays.
Pro #5 | Eases Air Travel
That screaming baby on your flight is probably struggling with ear pain from the pressure changes. No one wants to listen to that the whole trip, least of all you, the parent.
Sucking will help baby to “pop” their ears, stop the pain and hopefully also the tears.
One way to achieve this to feed the baby during take off and landing. This works if you manage to align the feeding times and the baby isn’t too distracted by the new surroundings. It is also important to note that the safest place for a baby to fly is in their car seat which makes feeding more challenging.
A pacifier can be an ideal solution. The binky can give baby the comforting sucking while safe in their restraint, able to look around, and without perfectly scheduling feedings.
The Anti-Pacifier Case
Jo chose to skip the pacifier for both of her kids.
For her it was a combination of fearing the dreaded “nipple confusion” and the possibility of addiction/difficulty weaning.
Here are a few of the reasons why NOT to use a pacifier.
Con #1 | Issues with Breastfeeding
There are a few reasons why pacifiers inhibit breastfeeding for some children.
For starters, there’s the idea of “nipple confusion” we mentioned earlier. This term is used to describe when infants have difficulty switching back and forth from an artificial nipple (like a bottle or pacifier) to their mother’s breast.
In these cases baby’s may prefer sucking on the artificial nipple because it’s easier. It can also lead to sucking issues as they can develop an improper technique.
Additionally since baby’s sucking on their mother’s breast (even if just for comfort, not for nourishment) encourages mom’s milk supply, pacifiers have been linked to low production and earlier weaning.
All of that being said, many women successfully breastfeed and use pacifiers. Read on for some helpful tips below.
Con #2 | Choking Hazard
Pacifiers frequently appear on recall lists because of potential choking hazards.
Extra toys/straps attached to the pacifier, improper use, or pieces falling apart are the most common offenders.
Con #3 | The Obsession
The reliance and obsession many kids develop with pacifiers can be so serious that we have an entire post dedicated to pacifier weaning.
Remember that sucking provides babies, toddlers, and even older children with a level of comfort. When they have pacifiers readily available, they are less likely to find other methods for self-soothing.
This can make the pacifier weaning process extremely difficult and frustrating for parents.
Read below for some comfort alternatives and suggestions!
Con #4 | May Impede Oral Development.
A constant pacifier presence can affect the way a baby’s jaw is supposed to naturally move throughout the day.
For instance, when crawling baby’s jaw is actually supposed to move as the arms and legs move. Or when watching a parent walk across the room, baby’s mouth will open and their tongue will move.
Inhibiting these movements can inhibit strengthening and affect the ability to eat and talk.
Similarly, prolonged pacifier use can lead to misaligned teeth and/or a malformed soft palette on the roof of mouth.
Con #5 | Increased Ear Infections
There are some studies that suggest pacifier use is linked to an increased frequency of ear infections.
This reference suggested that the “risk of ear infections is up to three times higher in those who use a pacifier”.
If after reading our list of pacifier pros and cons you’ve decided on using one, you might be wondering about the best pacifiers on the market.
Honestly, the best pacifier is the one your baby likes.
They can be surprisingly discerning about their favorites. It may take trying several different brands to find one that your baby takes.
That said, the AAP recommends using the one piece pacifiers instead of the more traditional ones made from multiple pieces. The solid one piece may be less likely to break apart (though not impossible) and are usually easier to clean.
Our Top Pick: Philips AVENT Super Soothie Pacifier
This is one of the most common pacifiers and for good reason. This is the one you probably got from the hospital.
This simple one piece design is durable, easy to clean, and inexpensive to stock up.
One of the best things about the Philips AVENT Super Soothie Pacifier is that since the backing is a circle, there is no wrong way to put the pacifier in their mouth. It’s never upside down or sideways and this seemed to make it easier for baby to figure out how to get it in their own mouth.
Runner Up: JollyPop Pacifier
The JollyPop is another one piece pacifier with similar benefits. A couple of the differences are the notch below the nose for easy, unobstructed breathing and the contoured backing.
The backing also has a loop shaped handle that I actually like better than the Avent tab.
The JollyPop Pacifier pacifier is available in multiple sizes including preemie.
Rather oddly, these pacifiers also come in different scents, but I guess some babies like that.
Runner Up: WubbaNub Pacifier
So this is actually an Avent pacifier, but now it’s attached to a cute animal (the Narwhal one is adorable!) .
The stuffed animal makes these easier for baby to grab and hold onto. It also makes these much easier to find among the baby toys or digging through the diaper bag.
The biggest drawback is that the animal doesn’t detach so cleaning is not a easy. WubbaNub Pacifiers are machine washable, but the nipple should be sterilized.
Runner Up: NUK Sensitive Orthodontic Pacifier
Finding a one piece orthodontic pacifier is a bit more challenging, but the NUK Sensitive Orthodontic fits the bill.
Like the others, it is durable and easy to clean. The heart shape allows for easy air flow and the backing is contoured to fit the baby’s face.
Setting it apart it the orthodontic shape of this nipple which is specifically designed to prevent dental issues.
If after reading this list of pacifier pros and cons you would like to first try some alternatives, it’s important to realize why babies find comfort in pacifiers in the first place.
Sure they love sucking, but why? It’s because sucking leads to feelings of comfort, soothing, and security.
So the best pacifier alternatives should elicit those feelings.
- The real thing. Offer the breast if baby is fussy and just wants to suck.
- Teething toys.
For Older Babies and Toddlers…
- Chew stick. Kind of like for dogs, but it’s designed for kids!
- Offer a straw. Put those sucking muscles to work and teach them how to use a straw.
- New toy. Not to suck on, but to provide comfort.
- A familiar lovie.
Night Time Comfort…
- Projector night light.
- Mom’s shirt. One you’ve worn so it has your scent.
- Heartbeat stuffed animal.
- White noise.
Related How to Establish a Perfect Baby Nap Schedule
Tips For Pacifier Use
If you’ve decided to try one after reading our list of pacifier pros and cons, feel confident in your decision!
Moms make the best decisions for their family’s individual situation. Plus, you’ve obviously done your research so you can feel good about getting all the facts.
Here are some tips to minimize some of the potential risks of pacifier use.
Keep It Clean
Clean baby’s pacifiers frequently. Keeping them clean can help avoid germs and thrush. Follow their cleaning instructions for sterilizing. Luckily, many can go right in the dishwasher.
Wait If Breastfeeding
Wait to introduce the pacifier if you are breastfeeding. It is often suggested that moms wait about 4 weeks before giving a pacifier.The less specific (though probably more accurate) advice is to wait until breastfeeding is established. This avoids “nipple confusion” and allows that newborn sucking to stimulate milk production.
Don’t Delay Feedings
The pacifier should not be used to try to delay a feeding. Babies need all of those frequent feedings, so the pacifier should not be used to modify their feeding schedule. This can slow weight gain and decrease milk supply if breastfeeding.
The general rule is that pacifiers should be replaced every 2 months. This keeps them from getting too gross.
Also, a broken pacifier becomes a choking hazard and can cause injury. Always check the pacifiers for weakness and damage and throw them out immediately if you notice any problems.
Pay Attention To Size & Age
Pacifiers are made to accommodate different age babies with different sizes.
Make sure that you are using the appropriate age and size for your baby.
A pacifier that is too small can become a choking hazard.
A pacifier that is too big can cause gagging.
Pacifiers offer the most benefit during the first 6 months, after which other risks increase. By starting to wean at 6 months, you may avoid other potential complications like ear infections. Generally, if you wean by the age of 2, you can avoid dental problems.
Pacifier Clip Safety
Products specifically designed to be pacifier clips are generally considered safe for babies.
That said, make sure that the tether can not wrap around your baby’s neck. It’s also not considered safe for babies to sleep with these clipped on.
It is not safe to use a ribbon or necklace to secure the pacifier.