Many parents wonder if it’s okay to use a pacifier when their baby is crying and fussing. Most experts agree that they’re safe and effective as long as you follow simple safety rules and wean your child off them at an appropriate stage.
In fact, pacifiers appeal to a baby’s natural urge to suck as a way to get nourishment and soothe themselves.
Some research even suggests that they can have important health benefits, including reducing the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and helping preterm babies to gain weight.
Find more answers to common questions about pacifiers in this parent’s guide. You’ll learn how to use them safely and how to break the habit when your child no longer needs them.
How to Use Pacifiers
Today’s pacifiers come in the traditional version and a wide variety of cute designs. The important thing is to ensure that they’re safe for your baby.
Follow these guidelines to avoid common hazards:
1. Make it sturdy. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends one-piece designs that will hold together with ventilation holes to let air in. You can also reduce the risk of accidents by using a pacifier clip instead of tying the pacifier to your baby or a crib.
2. Choose the correct size. Pacifiers come in 2 sizes for babies under and over 6 months. They also need to be at least one inch wide to prevent them from being swallowed.
3. Clean thoroughly. Put used pacifiers in the dishwasher until your baby is 6 months old. After that, you can wash them with soap and hot water.
4. Breastfeed first. Spend your first days or weeks becoming comfortable with breastfeeding before you introduce the pacifier. Remember that the pacifier is for soothing rather than delaying feedings.
5. Watch for ear infections. You may have heard about studies that link pacifiers to ear infections. Those effects can be eliminated by giving your baby a pacifier only when they’re going to sleep.
How to Give Up Pacifiers
Some experts suggest breaking the habit as early as 6 months before any emotional attachment forms. Most authorities agree that 4 years is the maximum to avoid overbites and other dental issues. Each child is different, so you’ll need to decide what works for your family.
Consider these strategies:
1. Go cold turkey. The advice for giving up pacifiers sometimes sounds similar to giving up smoking. Different individuals succeed through different methods. If you want to make it quick, discuss a quit date with your child and prepare to say goodbye to your pacifiers for good.
2. Set limits. On the other hand, you may want to proceed more gradually. Cut back on the amount of time your child uses their pacifier. You may want to save it for only those times when they feel an urgent need.
3. Tell stories. Let the Pacifier Fairy help your family through this difficult time. Some folks say you need to pack up your pacifiers so she can pick them up for recycling.
4. Offer rewards. Whatever strategy you use, give your child incentives for parting with their old friend. Praise them for becoming more grown up. Plan a special outing or serve their favorite meals. Give them another comfort object if needed, like a stuffed toy.
5. Be consistent. Remember to stand firm if your child begs for their pacifier and ensure grandparents and other caregivers do the same. Your child will soon adjust, and it will make the process easier in the long run.
Go ahead and give your baby the binky they love. Pacifiers are comforting for your baby and convenient for you. Be sure to keep them clean and discontinue their use when your child reaches an age where they develop other ways to soothe themselves.