Choosing Safe Pacifiers for Baby

baby with pink pacifier
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Many parents have a love-hate relationship with baby pacifiers. Pacifiers are soothing to baby and are recommended by safe sleep experts for use at bedtime for SIDS prevention. However, parents dread taking the pacifier away one day or having pacifiers discourage breastfeeding. Before you buy baby pacifiers, take a look at these common features and safety tips to be sure you're choosing the best ones for your baby.

Pros for Baby Pacifiers

If you're breastfeeding your baby, it may be best to wait until your nursing relationship is fully and successfully established before introducing a pacifier into the mix. The World Health Organization (WHO) recommends avoiding pacifiers in the first months of life in order to have the best chance of successful breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is known to reduce the risk of SIDS, as well as reducing the occurrence of ear infections and other childhood illnesses, in addition to having lifelong health benefits. That means it's best to get that breastfeeding relationship started right so it can be successful long-term.

However, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) now says there isn't hard evidence that early pacifier use is damaging to the breastfeeding relationship. In fact, when the hospitals studied stopped offering pacifiers to parents of newborns, the incidence of exclusive breastfeeding actually went down.

AAP also recommends offering a pacifier at nap time or bed time for SIDS prevention. The pacifier shouldn't be forced on the baby, nor does it need to be replaced in baby's mouth if it falls out while he or she is asleep. A pacifier shouldn't be used to delay feeding a hungry baby. If you're breastfeeding and want to use a pacifier, try nursing the baby first, then offer the pacifier for additional comfort or sleep.

Don't Buy Too Many Pacifiers Before Baby Arrives

When you're stocking baby's nursery, it's tempting to buy several boxes of those cute little pacifiers. Buying a few pacifiers in different styles is a good idea, wait until you know your baby will take a pacifier before buying too many. Some babies just don't like pacifiers. Others are particular about which pacifiers they will take. Try a few styles with baby before buying a year's supply. Add several styles to your baby registry so your baby has a sampler platter to choose from.

    One-Piece Pacis Only

    Most new pacifiers are one-piece. Check to be sure the nipple is firmly attached to the base of the pacifier. If you are able to detach the nipple with a tug, you can be sure baby will eventually detach it. Avoid pacifiers that have liquid or gel inside the nipple. Liquid-filled pacifiers may look cool, but they're messy and possibly harmful when baby bites through and releases the liquid.

      Don't Improvise

      While many baby products can be recreated at home, pacifiers are not in that category. Do not use bottle nipples and caps as pacifiers, as they can come apart and cause choking. Homemade pacifiers may not be sturdy enough to hold up to repeated use without breaking down or posing other health risks to baby.

        Orthodontic vs. Rounded

        Orthodontic pacifier nipples have a rounded top and a flat bottom, and were designed to prevent tooth troubles later in baby's life. However, if your baby prefers a rounded traditional pacifier nipple, go with what works. Both types of pacifier nipples have been found to increase bite problems, like overbite, later in life, but limiting the amount of time baby spends with the pacifier and taking the pacifier away after baby's first year can minimize dental damage.

          Silicone or Latex?

          Both silicone and latex have advantages, and the choice usually comes down to baby's preference. Silicone is sturdy, doesn't retain odors, cleans up easily and is harder for baby to bite through. Silicone is not as soft on baby's mouth, though. Latex is soft in baby's mouth and baby may like the way it retains scents, but latex doesn't hold up as well to repeated cleanings and little teeth can quickly chew through it.

            Must-Have Features

            A safe pacifier should be at least 1.5 inches across to prevent choking. Anything smaller won't meet federal safety standards for choking hazards. The well-known brands in major stores are usually a safe bet for size. If you're browsing super-cheap pacifiers in a dollar store or other discount venue, it's a good idea to measure just in case.

            Many babies develop rashes from the constant moisture under the pacifier shield. Pacifiers that have vent holes in the shield to let air get to baby's skin could help. Color and style are up to you, but brightly colored pacifiers are easier to spot under vehicle seats and in diaper bags. Glow-in-the-dark pacifiers might be easier to find at bedtime. Be sure the pacifier can be boiled or put in the dishwasher for cleaning.

            Some popular pacifiers to try are Philips Avent Soothie or FreeFlow designs, or any of the MAM pacifiers, which come in a vast array of sizes, patterns, and colors.

              Don't Tie It On!

              No matter how tempting it is to tie a pacifier to your baby, don't. Pacifiers get lost a lot, but putting a ribbon or string around baby's neck or tying the pacifier to clothing carries too great a risk of strangulation. If your baby keeps losing pacifiers, either keep small stashes of baby's favorite style in the diaper bag, car, nursery, etc. so that you always have one at the ready, or look for a sturdy pacifier clip at the store.

                Check for Pacifier Recalls

                It doesn't happen very often, but baby pacifiers are sometimes recalled for safety issues. When something is in baby's mouth so often, it's important to know if a flaw poses a choking hazard or other danger.