When to Introduce a Pacifier to Your Baby: Your Guide to Pacifiers

Babies have a natural instinct to suck, and pacifiers have long been used to soothe and comfort them. However, it’s natural to wonder when it’s appropriate to introduce a pacifier to your baby, whether it’s safe, and when an ideal time is for your little one to stop using a pacifier. Keep reading for the answers to these questions and helpful insights regarding pacifier use for your baby.

Do Babies Need Pacifiers?

Deciding whether to give your baby a pacifier is a personal choice that depends on your baby’s needs and preferences as well as your parenting style. If you’re wondering whether pacifiers are bad for babies, you’ll be reassured to know that using a pacifier can actually offer many benefits for little ones. These benefits may include:

  • Reducing the risk of SIDS. Studies have shown that giving your baby a pacifier at nap time and bedtime may reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).

  • Helping to soothe and comfort. Babies are born with the rooting and sucking reflex that some use to soothe themselves. Your baby may even be sucking their thumb while still in the uterus. Sucking on a pacifier can help calm your baby if they’re fussy or even colicky, providing them with a sense of security and relaxation.

  • Acting as a sleep aid. Pacifiers may help your baby fall asleep faster and encourage them to self-soothe when they wake up during the night.

  • Providing a temporary distraction. Pacifiers may offer a temporary distraction during times of discomfort, such as vaccinations, or when traveling.

What Are the Benefits of Not Using a Pacifier?

It’s natural to weigh the possible outcomes, both positive and negative, when it comes to giving your little one a pacifier. But at the end of the day, the decision is up to you. Some of the potential drawbacks of pacifiers include:

  • Leading to dependency. Your little one may come to rely on their pacifier to help them fall asleep, which may lead to crying during the night when it falls out. Giving them a pacifier each time they cry may also lead to them becoming dependent on it—making things more difficult when the time comes to part ways with the pacifier.

  • Causing dental problems later on. Using and sucking strongly on a pacifier after the age of 2 to 4 years may lead to a change in the shape of the mouth or the way the teeth are lining up.

  • Increasing the risk of ear infections. Pacifier use may increase the risk of middle ear infections in babies and toddlers.

When to Introduce a Pacifier to Your Baby

If you’ve just welcomed a new baby into the world, you may be wondering, “Can I give my newborn a pacifier?” Newborns can use pacifiers at any time; however, if you’re breastfeeding, some experts recommended waiting until breastfeeding is well established, typically around 3 to 4 weeks (though this varies from baby to baby), before introducing a pacifier.

Pacifiers and Breastfeeding

As mentioned above, you may wish to wait until you and your newborn have settled into your nursing routine before introducing pacifiers to a breastfed baby. The concern is that pacifier use may disrupt breastfeeding by causing “nipple confusion” due to the different sucking mechanisms used in breastfeeding and pacifier use.

If you have any questions about breastfeeding and when to introduce a pacifier, check in with your baby’s healthcare provider or with a lactation consultant for personalized guidance.

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Tips on Safety and When to Use a Pacifier

If you plan to offer your baby a pacifier, you may want to consider the following points and suggestions:

  • As mentioned above, giving your baby a pacifier at nap time or bedtime may help reduce the risk of SIDs (sudden infant death syndrome). And keep in mind that if your baby still wants to suck after feeding, a pacifier may satisfy their needs.

  • But, if your baby doesn’t like or take the pacifier, or they can’t keep it in their mouth, that’s OK. What’s important is respecting your baby’s needs and noticing their cues. Not all babies will take to pacifiers, and some may prefer other soothing methods.

  • Offer your baby a pacifier between or after feedings. It’s best not to give them a pacifier when they’re hungry or as a replacement for feeding.

  • When cleaning your baby’s pacifiers during the first few months, run them through the dishwasher or boil them. When your little one is at least 6 months old, you can wash their pacifiers with soap and warm water.

  • Choose a dishwasher-safe, age-appropriate, one-piece pacifier without small parts that could pose a choking hazard for optimum safety. Avoid using a string, cord, or ribbon attached to your baby’s pacifier.

  • Whether your little one is breastfed or bottle-fed, you can find the best pacifiers for your baby with the help of our article, which outlines the various types of pacifiers and things to consider when buying them.

  • If you’re wondering, “How many pacifiers do I need?” it's helpful to know that most parents like to have several on hand. A pacifier can easily get lost, so it’s a good idea to have spares. You may also wish to buy different types of pacifiers to find out which one your baby prefers.

Can Babies and Newborns Sleep With a Pacifier?

Babies and newborns can safely sleep with a pacifier; in fact, sucking on a pacifier at nap time or bedtime may soothe your little one and help them fall asleep. Experts also believe that pacifiers may help reduce the risk of SIDS.

If your baby sleeps with a pacifier, they may wake in the night if it falls out. If they’re not old enough to put it back in their mouth themselves, you may need to help them if they cry out for you.

If the pacifier drops on the floor, clean it using the methods mentioned above, or give your baby a fresh one to use.

When “Should” Babies Stop Using Pacifiers?

How long should babies use pacifiers? Although there is no standard age range for pacifier use, professionals recommend discontinuing them once a child turns 1 year old. However, it’s not uncommon for children to still use pacifiers at an older age, then stop using them between 2 and 4 years of age.

If your little one is having difficulty letting go of their pacifier, gradually reduce the frequency and duration of pacifier use to help your baby transition away from it. Perhaps limit it to sleep time or when your little one needs comfort.

Use positive reinforcement, such as praise or small incentives, to encourage your child to give up the pacifier. Create a supportive environment during the transition process.

Remember, every child is different, and you should consider your child's individual needs and consult with their healthcare provider if you need guidance.

The Bottom Line

Offering a pacifier to your baby can provide comfort and soothing benefits and may help protect against SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). However, it’s best to establish your breastfeeding routine first before introducing a pacifier. It's also wise to consider your little one’s preferences, prioritize safety, and eventually wean your child off pacifier use to reduce the risk of potential dental issues.

Remember that every child is unique, and it’s essential to adapt your approach to suit their individual needs. Consulting with your healthcare provider can offer personalized advice and guidance throughout this process.

How We Wrote This Article The information in this article is based on the expert advice found in trusted medical and government sources, such as the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. You can find a full list of sources used for this article below. The content on this page should not replace professional medical advice. Always consult medical professionals for full diagnosis and treatment.