Babies have a reflexive urge to suck. If you find your little one still fusses at night even after being fed, burped, cuddled, and rocked, sucking a pacifier can be immensely calming for them as they drift off to sleep. Pacifiers are also believed to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by keeping your baby in a lighter state of sleep, meaning it’s less likely that he or she will stop breathing.
There are both benefits and downsides to using pacifiers (also known as “binkies”) to soothe your baby to sleep. We’ve compiled everything you need to know about them right here.
Binkies While Breastfeeding
There is some evidence to suggest the use of pacifiers can lead to nipple confusion, making it more challenging to breastfeed your little one. The jury is still out on that one, but just to be sure, it’s best not to offer your baby a binky until your milk supply is established, and he or she has gotten the hang of this nursing business and is gaining weight. At that point, the binky can satisfy your baby’s desire to continue sucking after they’ve had their fill—giving your nipples a well-earned break!
If you don’t plan to breastfeed, you can start using a pacifier from day one.
You might see other mommies picking their little ones’ dropped pacifiers up and popping them into their own mouths to “clean.” This isn’t a good example to follow—would you put someone’s toothbrush in your mouth to clean before handing it back to them? For one thing, the bacteria in your mouth can actually cause cavities to form in your baby’s soft teeth as soon as they erupt. (It’s also really gross.)
Instead of your mouth, use soap and warm water to clean your little one’s pacifiers, or run them through the dishwasher. Take a quick look at them before you offer them to your baby—if they look discolored or cracked, or you spot holes or tears, it’s time for a new one. An old pacifier can be dangerous, as your baby may choke if the nipple breaks off while they’re sucking.
Picking a Pacifier
Until your newborn is six months old, only use small pacifiers—after all, his or her mouth is tiny! It’s also very malleable, meaning that sucking a pacifier won’t cause any dental damage (though it’s generally advised not to use a pacifier into toddlerhood).
When choosing a pacifier, ensure it has ventilation holes in the shield to let air in, and is bisphenol-A (BPA) free. To prevent your little one dropping it continuously, you can purchase a specially designed pacifier clip to attach it to his or her clothing. This is much safer than using a ribbon to tie it to the crib or around your baby’s neck—the ribbon could potentially strangle your baby.
One downside of using pacifiers is the increased risk of ear infections, especially at age six months or older. If your baby does suffer from frequent ear infections, speak to their pediatrician—they may need to be weaned off the pacifier sooner rather than later.
Avoiding Sleep Association
While pacifiers can provide welcome relief when your little one is fussing at bedtime, they can also become a crutch. As they grow older, you might find your baby will not go to sleep without their binky—and will wake you repeatedly in the night to replace it.
To avoid this, it’s a good idea to start weaning your baby off pacifiers around the four to six month mark. Since SIDS is most prevalent in infants under four months old, this means you can get the benefits of pacifier use without the tears of taking away their favorite thing.
The pacifier will probably fall out of your newborn’s mouth while they sleep. Unless they wake up, don’t feel the need to pop it back in—they need to learn to sleep without it. As you wean them, you can also try gently removing the pacifier just as your baby is drifting off.
If you do let your little one keep their binky past six months, this is okay too. Using a pacifier makes it less likely they’ll develop a thumb-sucking habit—and it’s easier to take away a binky than a thumb!
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