Infants have a strong sucking reflex and therefore many people choose to give their baby a pacifier. Some parents warn against it, encouraging you to have them “attach” to you rather than an inanimate object while other parents warn that if you don’t give him a pacifier, you will become his “pacifier”. Who’s right? No one! It will be up to you and what works for you and your baby and what works for others might not work for YOU.
When to introduce a pacifier
If you are formula feeding, you can use a pacifier from day 1.
If you are breastfeeding, it is a good idea to establish breastfeeding first before introducing another type of nipple. Some babies will have no problem going back and forth, but since you don’t know if yours will or not, it’s a good idea to wait so as not to cause nipple confusion and establish your milk supply, first. This is usually recommended no earlier than 3 weeks and anywhere from 4-8 weeks. If you just need to do it earlier (especially if you will be returning to work), that’s ok! Just do your best and if you start to have trouble, learn how to get baby back to breast.
Pacifier and Teeth
Is a pacifier bad for your baby’s teeth? In short, no. Only when your baby sucks her thumb or uses a pacifier past the age of two is there a risk of altering their bite. It is unrealistic to expect many babies not to want to suck during those first 2 years.
When a pacifier becomes a problem
There is a time when a pacifier can become a problem and that’s when it interrupts their sleep. Some parents are weary having to replace a pacifier 8-10 times per night. In this case, the pacifier has become a poor sleep association that you may want to consider breaking. Some babies will be able to find their own pacifier at night (particularly if you throw 3 or 4 or 8 into the crib), but usually that isn’t until around 6 months. Some may technically be able to, but simply won’t do it. Others will learn sooner. So, if you really want to hang on to the pacifier, you may be able to just wait it out.
When you’re a “pacifier”
Some parents feel they become their baby’s “pacifier” because they are breastfeeding and baby wants to suckle A LOT (what “a lot” means will vary from parent to parent). This can happen. My eldest son did not want a pacifier and not from a lack of trying (mostly by others because I was not 100% on board with a pacifier anyway), so yes, he did suckle a lot and yes, did develop a sleep association (I did not mind until it was ALL night long!) that we later had to break. We continued to successfully breastfeed until 13 months. He did take to sucking on a light receiving blanket as his “lovey” for several months (he stopped using it on his own), but I was fortunate because I never had to break a pacifier or thumb-sucking habit. So, when my second son came along, I actually decided not to give him a pacifier and it was rough for the first couple months, but then got a lot better and so far, no thumb-sucking, yet, either. I am hoping not to have to break either habit, again, but we’ll see.
Pacifiers day and night
If your baby has trouble sleeping with a pacifier at night, but not during the day (or vice versa), you can limit it to one or the other as a baby’s sleep is handled by different parts of the brain for each.
All in all, I’d say a pacifier can be a good solution (if you agree with the use of one), until it becomes a problem. Once it hurts more than it helps, it may just be time to get rid of it. For help breaking sleep associations or help with other child sleep problems, you may be interested in The 3 Step Guide to Help Your Baby Sleep or my one-on-one baby sleep consultations.