Pacifier, yes or no?

84% of babies use a pacifier at one point or another. Does that mean we should give them a pacifier, or not?

The pros of using a pacifier
  • It is better to suck on a pacifier than on fingers because it causes less damage to the teeth development.
  • It’s easier to control sucking on a pacifier rather than on fingers. You can throw away the pacifier at one point but you can’t get rid of a thumb!
  • According to the latest medical research, sucking on a pacifier reduces the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.
The cons of using a pacifier
  • Not using a pacifier correctly can lead to problems with breastfeeding, teeth (cavities and overbites) and even ear infections.
  • Homemade pacifiers, pacifiers dipped in a sweet liquid or pacifiers tied around the neck are not very secure and could be harmful and even deadly for a baby. If you decide to use a pacifier for your child, use it the right way.
Instructions for use
  • Make sure that breastfeeding is well established before introducing a pacifier; otherwise, it could become difficult to breastfeed. Sick, premature or hospitalized babies are an exception to this rule since they need the pacifier for self-soothing.
  • Always check if the baby is hungry, tired or bored before giving them their pacifier. Not every problem is solved with a pacifier. Feed the baby, let them take a nap or play with them!
  • Before using a new pacifier, you must boil it in water for 5 minutes to sterilize it. Wait until it cools down before giving it to your baby.
  • Wash it in hot soapy water after each use to keep it clean. A recent study took 40 pacifiers and showed that 52.5% of them had traces of microorganisms.
  • Don’t put the pacifier in your mouth to “clean” it. You may pass germs on to your baby.
  • Always check to see if the pacifier is either torn or ripped before giving it to your baby. If it is, throw it out.
  • Some medication (such as painkillers, antibiotics, and vitamins) can damage the pacifier.
  • Don’t dip the pacifier in sugar or honey. These foods are bad for the teeth and cause cavities. Furthermore, honey may cause botulism, a type of infant food poisoning.
  • Don’t tie the pacifier around the baby’s neck because he or she could get strangled. Use pacifier clips with short ribbons as a safe option.
  • Don’t make your own pacifiers with the tip of a baby’s bottle, a bottle top or fabric. Your baby could choke.
  • Don’t leave an older child with a pacifier in their mouth all day long. It could affect their language development or cause dental problems.
  • Don’t let your baby chew on the pacifier. The pacifier could break and they could choke.

Many pieces of research show a strong correlation between using a pacifier and a premature breastfeeding withdrawal. The pacifier can be “confused with the breast” or preferred to the breast, especially if it was given early on before the breastfeeding was well established. La Leche League Canada highly advises against using a pacifier to replace the breast or the mother’s comforting presence. However, they explain that for first-time breastfeeding mothers, the pacifier can be useful if used correctly, in short doses and in specific situations.

Mild ear infections

Using a pacifier seems to be a risk factor for mild ear infections. However, this is only one of the many factors associated with this pathogenesis. The longer and more frequently you use the pacifier, the bigger chance it has of causing ear infections.


Cavities, overbites and receding gum lines are often the results of pacifier use. Most of the research done on these issues show that these problems occur when there is an excessive (after the child is 5 years old) or inadequate (pacifier dipped in sugar) use of the pacifier. However, a recent study showed a significant difference in the dental arch and the overbite of children who used a pacifier for 24 and 36 months, and those who stopped using it before 12 months. The Canadian Dental Association (CDA) recommends using a pacifier to stop babies from sucking their thumb because it's easier to control a pacifier when you want to reduce the sucking frequency.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS)

Studies show a link between the usage of a pacifier and a lower risk of SIDS. Many reasons are given to explain these results. Pacifiers represent a mechanical obstacle for babies who want to roll on their stomach. The suction effect and the pacifier keep the tongue in the front of the mouth and leave the upper respiratory tracks free. A baby with a pacifier moves a lot less during their sleep, which reduces the risk of being smothered by the blankets.

Painkiller effects

The Canadian Paediatric Society recommends pacifiers as a simple comforting solution when the baby has to go through little painful interventions.

How to put an end to the pacifier?
  • Limit the time period for which you allow your child to have a pacifier in their mouth. Give your baby their pacifier during sleep or comfort times and plan on getting rid of it before they reach 12 months old.
  • Don’t humiliate or punish your child for not wanting to abandon their pacifier.
  • Let your child take part in deciding to abandon their pacifier by letting them choose to give it away or put it under their pillow for the tooth fairy.
  • Have a motivation chart to write your child’s progress.
  • Congratulate your child when they decide to leave the pacifier behind. Tell them how proud you are to see them grow up.
  • Let your child express their feelings when he or she is sad or angry. Give them big hugs to help them get through the situation, they need a new type of comfort after giving up their pacifier.
  • If your child asks for their pacifier back (which they probably will), don’t give in. Remind them that the pacifier is gone and that they are a big kid now.

Sources : Canadian Paediatric Society, Canadian Dental Association (CDA).

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