Are Pacifiers Good For Your Baby? Here's the Pros and Cons
If you’re a new mom or mom-to-be, the wellbeing of your little one is – without a doubt – your main priority and you want your baby to have healthy development, both physically and emotionally. When it comes to pacifiers, there’s a lot of opinions and theories out there. Learn more!
It’s totally normal to feel confused or conflicted when it comes the pacifier pros and cons – and knowing what’s best for your baby and his or her unique needs. It’s often hard to tell on which side of the truth many of these theories and opinions regarding pacifiers lie and whether or not we can classify pacifiers as “good” or “bad”.
Like many other things when it comes to your baby, there’s no “black or white” answer to using pacifiers. You may have a sibling who swore by using a pacifier with their baby because it was sometimes the only thing that helped calm or soothe their little one. On the other hand, you may have friends who advise against using pacifiers because it can be a tough habit to break or because they had a bad experience with them. The truth is, every baby – and their needs – are totally unique. That means that what worked for one baby may be completely different than what works or is preferred by another little one.
In fact, the use of a pacifier can bring a lot of benefits to your baby when used responsibly and when following certain guidelines and its instructions for use. We’ve collated some science-based information and myth busters regarding the use of pacifiers, including knowing when and how a pacifier can be most helpful to your baby and when to consider withholding a pacifier to help you make the most informed decision for your little one.
Pacifier Pros and Cons
- A pacifier can offer comfort when your baby is crying and/or agitated.
Truth. Pacifiers can be very helpful in comforting your little one during times of distress, because the suckling action helps babies soothe themselves.1
- Pacifiers can be given to breastfed babies.
Truth. Pacifiers can be given to a healthy breastfed baby from birth. Studies have shown that the use of a pacifier in healthy breastfeeding babies, starting from birth or after lactation is established, did not significantly impact the frequency or duration of exclusive and partial breastfeeding up to 4 months of age.2 However, you may wish to consider introducing a pacifier after you and your baby are comfortable with breastfeeding. It’s important to ensure that a pacifier doesn’t replace or delay feeding time!
- Pacifiers negatively affect teeth.
Myth! When used responsibly and within the recommended time limits, pacifiers should not negatively affect developing teeth or cause crooked teeth. Experts recommend limiting pacifier use to a maximum of 6 hours per day.5 With that in mind, understanding that each child’s mouth and teeth develop differently is important. Using pacifiers in children older than 24 months is a decision that should be made by each parent, based on advice and/or recommendations from their pediatrician or pediatric dentist.
The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry recommends weaning from the pacifier should start by 3 years old at the latest.6 We recommend choosing a pacifier shape that supports oral development, usually designated by the word “orthodontic” in the product description or on the packaging.
- Pacifiers can provide pain relief to your baby.
Truth. Scientific evidence has shown that pacifiers can help babies to better cope with distress and discomfort during minor events1, such as receiving shots or getting blood drawn at the pediatrician’s office. The act of sucking on a pacifier can help your little one calm and soothe themselves. This is especially true during episodes of teething, as your baby might feel very uncomfortable and experiences aches and soreness. A pacifier can offer some relief to that discomfort. Just be sure to pay attention to the condition of your baby’s pacifiers and replace them right away if they begin to look worn out!
- Pacifiers cause colic.
Myth. The cause behind colic is still unknown, but there are some theories – such as an immature digestive system, lactose intolerance, allergies, or changes in the normal bacteria of their digestive system. Swallowing extra air during feedings can cause painful gas and aggravate colic.7 It’s often difficult to calm babies during a colic episode, as they cry intensely for long periods with clenched fists and curled up legs. Though symptoms typically begin to improve around 10 – 12 weeks postpartum, a pacifier may help calm your baby8 as suckling can be soothing and help regulate your little one’s emotions.1
- Weaning can be extra-difficult.
Myth and truth here! Some babies have no problem giving up their pacifiers and are ready to do so quickly. Others may need more time to say good-bye. This is because babies become attached to their pacifiers and the comfort it brings. Weaning will be a learning and compromising experience for you and your little one, but with love and patience you will help your baby reach this exciting milestone.
Find tips and ideas for weaning in our pacifier guide for parents.
If you feel that using a pacifier is a good option for your little one, consider which one might be best for your baby. There are a wide range of pacifiers available in a variety of shapes, sizes, and materials – from extra-small sizes for newborns and one-piece pacifiers made of 100% silicone to pacifiers designed specifically for daytime or nighttime use. Be sure to check out all of our unique pacifier options to find the perfect match for your little one! Medela is here for every stage of your baby’s journey.
- Vu-Ngoc H, Uyen NCM, Thinh OP, et al. Analgesic effect of non-nutritive sucking in term neonates: A randomized controlled trial. Pediatr Neonatol 2020; 61: 106-113.
- Jaafar SH et al. Effect of restricted pacifier use in breastfeeding term infants for increasing duration of breastfeeding. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016; (8):CD007202. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007202.pub4/full
- Alm B et al. Breastfeeding and dummy use have a protective effect on sudden infant death syndrome. Acta Paediatri. 2016; 105(1):31-38.
- Moon RY. SIDS and Other Sleep-Related Infant Deaths: Evidence Base for 2016 Updated Recommendations for a Safe Infant Sleeping Environment. Pediatrics. 2016; 138(5):e20162940. https://publications.aap.org/pediatrics/article/128/5/1030/30941/SIDS-and-Other-Sleep-Related-Infant-Deaths
- Proffit WR. On the aetiology of malocclusion. The Northcroft lecture, 1985 presented to the British Society for the Study of Orthodontics, Oxford, April 18, 1985. Br J Orthod. 1986; 13(1):1-11.
- AAPD. Guideline on periodicity of examination, preventive dental services, anticipatory guidance/counseling, and oral treatment for infants, children, and adolescents. Latest revision 2018. In: American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, editor. The reference manual of pediatric dentistry. 2019-2020. Chicago IL: AAPD; 2020. p. 209–19.
- Johnson JD et al. Infantile Colic: Recognition and Treatment. American Family Physician. 2015; 92(7): 577–582.
- Lam T.M.L. et al. Approach to infantile colic in primary care. Singapore Med J. Singapore Med J 2019; 60(1): 12-16.