The Pros and Cons of Pacifier Use

{Choosing on Purpose}

I started up a conversation with a fellow mother in a coffee shop a few weeks ago.

Her infant was screaming his head off.  She had just fed him and he was rubbing his eyes fiercely.

“I’m so sorry,” she apologized, “but I have to give him a pacifier.  I’ve tried soooo hard not too, but I can’t help it.”

pacifier use

Is pacifier use a sign of lazy parenting?

I was little shocked, to be honest.

Not that she used a pacifier.

I was shocked because she APOLOGIZED for using a pacifier. As if she was not quite up-to-par on her parenting and was ashamed to admit it.

Goodness gracious friends!  Since when does pacifier use in public require an apology?

Or binky use…or dummy….or paci…or soothie…or plug…or whatever you call it in your neck of the woods.

I wish this could be the first time that’s happened…but I can’t.

New parents are carrying around way too much guilt.

Guilt about breastfeeding or formula.

Guilt about co-sleeping or crying it out.

Guilt about starting baby foods or waiting.

All this guilt…must we had pacifier use to the list?

Most often the guilt is because parents are forced to make decisions they aren’t ready for.  They’re reacting out of desperation.

They don’t have the time to research pros and cons.  They can barely find the time (and energy) to check email.

*patting on the shoulder*

That, my friend, is why I’m here.

I do it.  I write it.  I email it.

You read it.

Learning both sides and deciding exactly what you want to do, and why you want to do it.

Guilt?  What guilt?

The Pros of Pacifier Use

  1. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that infants under 1 year old use a pacifier because studies have shown that they reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by 61%.
  1. Older babies (than 4 weeks) who use pacifiers and breastfeed show less problems because they have more sucking practice.
  1. Weaning from the pacifier is a LOT easier than weaning from thumb-sucking.
  1. Pacifier use satisfies your baby’s desire to suck on something, promoting calmness and better sleep for all.

The Cons of Pacifier Use

  1. A study published in Pediatrics linked pacifier use to higher rates of ear infections by 33%.
  1. Babies who use pacifiers when they are younger than 4 weeks old often have breastfeeding troubles, because parents may a pacifier when a breast would be better (to stimulate higher milk production)
  1. Pacifiers can become a sleeping crutch.  If you can’t find it, you may be heading to Walgreens at 2am.  This can be overcome if you keep an well-stocked “emergency stash” somewhere in the house or car.
  1. Another recent study has suggested that boys who used pacifiers as babies may struggle later on with emotional expression.  (See the article.)

Safety First!

Obviously, an unsafe pacifier would be a major CON.  Keep your baby safe by…

  1. Don’t use old pacifiers.  Always check to make sure your teething infant hasn’t bitten off a part of the binky (choking hazard).
  2. Don’t make homemade pacifiers from bottle  nipples.  They don’t have the wide base to prevent choking.
  3. Wash them often (or stick them in the dishwasher) to keep them bacteria free.
  4. Make sure the pacifier is made of silicon and not latex.  Latex allergies are on the rise.
  5. Switch out pacifiers regularly to keep your baby from having a “favorite”.
  6. Watch the sizes!  The pacifiers for older babies are bigger than those designed for younger, smaller, mouths
  7. Don’t buy your binky’s at discount or dollar stores.  I’ve seen WAAAAAY too many of those recalled.  Buy the real deal, and then use a cool clip (like the ones below) to prevent loosing them.

Trendy Designer Pacifier Clips

If you decide pacifier use is for you, get a cute pacifier clip to keep them falling all over the floor or getting lost.

My Crystal Dream creates designer paci clips that are just gorgeous.

Obviously, you don’t want anything that could wind around your baby’s throat and choke him.  These are the perfect length.

From classic ribbons to blinged-out beads, these are completely original and each hand-made. 

my crystal dreams pacifier use

Crystal, the designer at My Crystal Dream, has generously provided a coupon code exclusively to my readers!

Use the code 10PRCNT and save 10% off your entire order.

first baby invites coupon code

The Tricky Thing About This Decision…

I’m happy to provide you with this research about pacifier use.

And I hope it helps you think through this issue in a way that fights-off any guilt later on.

That said…there’s something you should know about babies.

They have opinions.

Despite all your careful planning, your opinionated infant may steal the decision from you.

She may insist on being latched to your breast 24-7 until you’re feeling like a parasitic host, forcing you to into pacifier use in order to save your sanity.

Or, she may decide that in NO WAY will she be putting anything but the real-deal in her mouth, and no cajoling or tears will force her to suck on that silicon abdomination.

Well, if it’s the former, comfort yourself with the pacifier use pros above.  If it’s the latter, remind yourself of the many cons.

And then hold on.  You’ve just entered the world of “You can’t tell me what to do!” parenting.

Let the games begin. 


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P.S. Who made the pacifier use decision in your house?  You? or Junior?  Share your story in the comments!
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  1. A real indepth informative piece, thank you!

    I’ve written a short piece on my pacifier dilemma, whether to let my son use one or not, you can read it here

    regards from London

  2. Any advice on weaning from the pacifier? My kiddo is almost 2 and has only been using one at nap and bedtime for a year. If he doesn’t have it, he does okay until about 5:30am when he wakes up screaming and doesn’t go back to sleep paci or not. Same thing happens at nap. Instead of a 2-3hr nap he gets 45min. I let him cry for about 10min before I go get him. Not sure if he’s to old for CIO or if I should just get hin up and he’ll get so tired after a few days of this that he’ll start sleeping normally again. He is SUCH a good and predictable sleeper now and I don’t want to permanently screw that up…I’m 7mo pregnant and need at least one sleeping regularly. Any advice would be helpful!

    • We always did a Fairy (you could do a Pirate), and had her gather up all the binkys and put them under a tree outside (or a plant inside in the winter) then the “Binky Fairy” or “Binky Pirate” would come and take the binky’s away “for another child who needs them”. In the morning we’d leave a gift or something there instead as a thank you. The first night was rough, but after that the girls did just fine. The key is to be consistent.

      If you’re having sleeping issues, you may want to consider signing up for our free Super Sleeper tips here. It launches on Saturday and will send you “homework” of things you can be working on to make improvements without using CIO. Might be just what you’re looking for! xo

  3. There’s absolutely no evidence that avoiding latex with infants prevents a latex allergy. In fact, it may be just the opposite. Latex allergies have been going up, yes, at the same time that latex use has been going *down*. It may well be that the *lack* of latex exposure makes kids more likely to have a latex allergy later. There have been no studies on this, either way. Despite the widespread advice to avoid allergens in babies, there is no research to support that.

    Studies on food allergies, particularly peanuts, have shown that early exposure to peanuts (in the first year) is correlated with *less* peanut allergies later. Other foods have been studied now too and are showing the same thing. Frankly this makes more sense: things a baby is more likely to be exposed to early on are things that are likely to be common in the baby’s environment. It would make *no* sense evolutionarily for a baby to be more likely to develop allergies to things common in their environment. It makes more sense for early exposure to reduce the risk of allergies, that a baby’s body learns to be tolerant of the environment that they live in.

    • Thanks CP for sharing your comment. Do you have any links you could share with us about these studies? Many parents prefer to the read the research from the source, so to speak, so if you could comment back with some of your sources, that would be very helpful. Very interesting!

  4. Heather Edwards says:

    Dear Heather,

    I need some help. My daughter is going to be 4 this year and has used a pacifier since she was born. I don’t have a problem with it at all, it helps her calm down just like her blanket she has had since she was born. We have got her to limit her pacifier use only during nap time and bed time. She doesn’t get it through out the day anymore but I am wondering if I am okay with letting her have it and she wants it and it isn’t causing any problems should I or should I begin to take it away. Please help me.

    • Heather, I can relate completely! My girls all had binkys until they were three-ish. Here’s what we did to make the transition. #1 – We introduced the concept of the Binky Fairy. We talked about how the binky fairy takes binkies to other children who need them, emphasizing what a BIG GIRL she is and that she doesn’t need her binky as much as little babies do. (You could also do a Paci Pirate for boys!)

      #2 – Pick up a toy or something exciting for her, wrap it and stow it away.

      #3 – Decide on the night you’re going to stop using the paci. I would recommend a friday night, or something where you’ll be home the next day to recover, if the night doesn’t go well. No trips or vacations for sure.

      #4 – That day, go and do a “round up” finding all the binkys in the house and putting them in a basket or something. Designate a special tree outside (or a corner if you’re doing it inside) and leave the basket there for the binky fairy to pick up. The first night is going to be tough. There will be tears for sure. Just keep reminding her that she’s a big girl, and since she’s giving her binky’s away, she may get a special surprise from the binky fairy in the morning!

      #5 – Early the next morning, go put the gift under the tree. Then she can go out and receive her special “I’m a big kid now” surprise. I had one child that had two difficult nights, but the others were all binky-free within 24 hours.

      If you try this, be sure to let me know how it goes!

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