Babies like sucking on pacifiers because it reminds them of being in the womb. In fact, sucking is one of 5 womb sensations (known as the 5 S's) capable of triggering a baby's innate calming reflex.

About a Baby’s Sucking Reflex

Sucking's power to calm babies is quite extraordinary: It lowers the heart rate, blood pressure and stress levels; it even reduces crying after shots and blood tests. It's amazing how much pleasure a simple pacifier can bring your little one throughout the day!

Why Sucking Makes Babies Instantly Happy

A baby's survival depends on sucking. This skill is so important that babies start practicing long before birth! In utero, it's easy for babies to suck their fingers because the womb's soft walls deflect their hands toward their mouth. After birth, newborns don't suck their fingers much because they have poor muscle coordination. They may attempt to suck but they're more likely to whack their hand their nose than find the mouth. That's why babies are so relieved when we pop a pacifier, breast or bottle right into place.

Doctors call infant eating nutritive sucking.

What is Nutritive Sucking?

Nutritive sucking is when a baby is sucking to gain nutrients from milk.

New babies grow so fast they need a milky meal 8 to 12 times a day. Some people say they eat like “little pigs,” but piglets can’t hold a candle to our babies! Every day our little ones “snort down” three ounces of milk for every pound of their body weight. That’s like you guzzling five gallons of whole milk every day, seven days a week!

What is Non Nutritive Sucking?

While nutritive sucking is when a baby gains milk for sustenance, non nutritive sucking is when a baby is sucking but are so full that they are just doing it for comfort.

When babies suck on a pacifier, toy or thumb, it's called non-nutritive sucking (because it yields no nutrition). Like baby meditation, non-nutritive sucking helps babies stay calm amid the chaos of the world around them. But as hunger builds, your baby will eventually spit the pacifier out, as if to complain, “Hey, I ordered milk—not rubber!”

After some great nutritive sucking—that is, a good feeding—she’ll happily accept the binky again.

The Benefits of Pacifiers

Some parents never offer their baby a pacifier because they worry it's habit forming. Fortunately, it's impossible for babies to suck too much. It isn't candy or an addiction; it's an integral part of the 4th trimester and one of your baby's first steps toward self-reliance.

Do Pediatricians Recommend Pacifiers?

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that parents begin providing their newborn with a pacifier at one month of age and older.

As a special bonus, scientists have discovered that sucking a paci at bedtime and naptime can lower your baby’s risk of SIDS . . . even if she spits it out after falling asleep. (Although, doctors have yet to figure out how this bit of sucking works such wonders.)

Can Babies Sleep With a Pacifier?

Giving your baby a pacifier at bedtime may help reduce the risk of SIDS and suffocation during sleep. While the exact science of “why?” remains a mystery, you can rest a little easier knowing your infant is sleeping safely.

When Can I Give My Newborn a Pacifier?

Bottle-fed babies can sleep with a pacifier right at birth. Breastfed babies can start as soon as nursing is going well.

Don't be surprised if the binky becomes your child's best friend. For many babies, sucking is the most calming of the 5 S's!

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

View more posts tagged, Soothing

Have questions about a Happiest Baby product? Our consultants would be happy to help! Submit your questions here.

Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.