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Baby sitting with a pacifier in his mouth.

Should You Give Your Baby a Pacifier?

By Dr. Khadijah Al-Dahwah, Partners in Pediatric Care

One of the decisions many new parents face is whether to give their infant a pacifier. Some mothers worry it can make it harder to breastfeed. Other parents wonder if prolonged use can damage a toddler’s growing teeth.

While both are legitimate concerns, there are also considerable benefits to giving your baby a pacifier. Most importantly, it’s a decision that parents can make after consulting with their pediatrician.

Perhaps the strongest reason to use a pacifier is that it may lower a baby’s risk for sudden infant death syndrome. Although it’s not clear how a pacifier helps, studies have found that pacifiers have a protective effect even when they fall out of an infant’s mouth. Pacifiers can also help soothe a fussy baby in addition to the comfort a parent can provide.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that pacifiers should be used when an infant is going to sleep at bedtime or for a nap. If an infant doesn’t want to use a pacifier, it should not be forced. And if a pacifier falls out while a baby is sleeping, it does not need to be reinserted.

For mothers who are breastfeeding, the AAP recommends introducing a pacifier once nursing has been well established, which can take a few weeks and may vary with each child. (Breastfeeding is also associated with a reduced risk of SIDS.) Infants who are not breastfeeding can begin using a pacifier when the parent desires.

Pacifier safety tips:

  • Never hang a pacifier around an infant’s neck. This can cause strangulation.
  • Do not use a pacifier that attaches to infant clothing during sleep.
  • Do not attach any items or stuffed toys to pacifiers because they can cause choking or suffocation.
  • Always check your baby’s pacifier for cracks or tears. Damaged pacifiers should be thrown out.
  • Replace your baby’s pacifier every two months to prevent damage.
  • Do not dip a pacifier in honey or sugar, which can damage teeth.

Remember, although a pacifier can satisfy a baby’s need to suck, it should never be used to quiet a child who is hungry. Parents should try to stop using a pacifier when their baby turns 1.

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About CHKD Medical Group

About CHKD Medical  Group Children’s Hospital of The King’s Daughters has been the region’s most trusted name in pediatric care for more than 50 years. As members of CHKD Health System, our pediatricians work closely with CHKD’s full range of pediatric specialists and surgeons. They also share a commitment to quality, excellence and child-centered care. With 18 practices in 29 locations throughout the region, a CHKD pediatrician is never far.