How and When to Introduce a Pacifier to Babies
Giving your baby a pacifier is a big decision - And you should be able to make an informed, educated decision as to when and how to integrate pacifiers into your baby's life! Medela is here to help you know when to introduce a pacifier to your baby in a healthy, positive way.
Every parent gets it – When their little one is agitated, showing signs of discomfort, or upset, it can be heartbreaking. As parents, we’re willing to move mountains to comfort our little ones and alleviate any pain they may be feeling. If some calming quiet time cradling, embracing, and rocking your newborn doesn’t seem to help, then a pacifier may be a solution that can help your little one learn to soothe themselves – whether he or she is a newborn, 3 months old, or even 6 months old.
Wondering how to introduce your baby to a pacifier? What about when you should give a newborn a pacifier? Are there best practices to consider? These questions may confuse you, especially if there’s conflicting information easily found online. To help you introduce a pacifier to your baby in a healthy and positive way, we’ve gathered some valuable, evidence-based advice to share. Here’s how you can start giving your little one a pacifier, what techniques help your baby accept their pacifier, and additional considerations for encouraging calm and self-soothing with the help of a pacifier:
When is the Best Time to Start Giving a Pacifier to Your Baby?
Pacifiers can be given from birth to any age – You can even start giving your little one a pacifier if he or she is already 3 months or even 6 months old. With many different shapes and designs, there are even pacifiers specially developed for newborns and shaped to accommodate their tiny mouths and made to protect their ultra-sensitive skin.
When breastfeeding your newborn, you may wish to wait and introduce a pacifier after your baby has learned to latch correctly and nursing is well-established between you both. Studies have shown that the use of a pacifier in healthy breastfeeding babies, started 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.
With that in mind, we recommend holding on the use of a pacifier when it’s close to feeding time and ensuring the pacifier isn’t used as a mechanism to delay feeding. Instead, enjoy your feeding moments together with the knowledge that it helps support that truly magical, unique bond that you and your baby have with one another.
Whatever timeline you prefer to follow, keep in mind that every baby is unique and may react and adapt differently to this brand-new experience introduced into their life!
So, How Can I Get My Baby to Take a Pacifier?
Every baby has their own preferences, and introducing a pacifier is no different. What worked for a niece, nephew, friend’s baby, or even your older child may be completely different than what works for your new baby. Try these steps when helping your little one discover a pacifier for the first time:
- Be sure to thoroughly clean and sanitize any pacifier before it’s introduced to your baby.
- Gently touch the skin around your baby’s lips and cheeks with the teat of the pacifier. This will help trigger his or her rooting reflex, often causing your baby to turn their face towards the stimuli.
- Observe your baby’s behavior. If your little one opens his or her mouth, then they are searching for something to suckle. Place the pacifier gently on their lower lip or on the front part of their tongue, and wait for the suckling reflex to start.
- If the first introduction is successful, your baby will eventually begin to explore and suckle on the pacifier.
Remember to be patient with your baby and don’t force the pacifier, as this may cause a negative response. If it seems as though your little one is rejecting the pacifier at first, it may instead be an indicator that he or she just needs a little more time to explore and discover. Give your baby plenty of time to learn, explore new feelings and sensations, and become familiar with the pacifier on their own terms. You’ll know when he or she starts enjoying their pacifier – It will usually be apparent from their content expression and calm behavior!
Though it may seem hard to believe, your baby is already their own little person with individual preferences and budding interests – and you may even find that he or she doesn’t care for pacifiers! By carefully observing their reaction upon introduction, you can quickly make the determination as to whether your baby is ready for a pacifier – and he or she will likely let you know too.
Like all things right now for your baby, discovering the pacifier is just another learning experience. Your little one will learn all about it through their senses and by using their tongue, lips, and natural suckling instincts to explore this brand-new object. In time, they will likely perceive and recognize their pacifier as a pleasant object that allows them to suckle and encourages them to relax and calm themselves.
 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