Worried parents sometimes ask me, “Are pacifiers bad?” Fortunately, the answer is…very rarely! Sucking in fact has great benefits for babies!

DO Let Your Baby Suck!

A love of sucking is genetically passed from parent to child — one generation to the next —just like hair color or freckles. Sucking isa terrific, comforting “routine” that triggers a baby’s calming reflex. An entire chapter of The Happiest Baby on the Block is devoted to sucking —it’s the 5th and final “S” ofthe 5 S’s method for soothing babies. So, not am I only unconcerned about babies sucking, I encourage it!

Cleaning Pacifiers

Always wash a brand new pacifier with soap and hot water before giving it to your baby. If it falls out of her mouth and on to the floor (and it will! more times than you can count!), rinse it off with water. Putting it in your mouth to clean it can pass along germs (colds…even herpes).

Pacis at Bedtime

Research shows thatletting a baby suck on a pacifier while falling asleep can lower the risk of SIDS. There’s no shame in the binky!

When to Go Easy on the Sucking

Strong sucking can create pressure inside the ear. If your child’s ears are frequently infected, cut back on pacifiers, and when she is drinking from a bottle, be sure to keep her head up a bit. Consider switching her off the pacifier to a cuddly lovey, like a blankey (safe after your little one has passed the one year mark). And, using an “auditory lovey” that makes soothing white noise sounds at night may help reduce the need for night sucking.

Beware of Sugar-y Sucking

Milk and fruit juice have tons of sugar. Sucking on a bottle or sippy cup of either of these for 20 minutes may cause cavities. So, if your childloves juice, keep the sucking time short. You can also add a bit more water every day to gradually dilute it. Or better yet, switch to a naturally sweet, caffeine-free tea like mint or chamomile.

Saying Goodbye to the Paci

Sucking helps toddlers calm themselves too – especially those who are shy or under stress. Most toddlers are ready to wean off the pacifier by 2-4 years. So from time to time, mention to him,“When kids turn 3, the pacifier fairy flies away with old pacis and brings back new toys! I wonder what she’ll bring you!” Don’t say the fairygives pacifiers to new babies. Your child might resent the next little guy he sees sucking on what he thinks is his “old friend!” Prolonged pacifier use doesn’t always cause dental problems, though thumb-sucking may cause buckteeth. Ask your doctor or dentist to check.

Did you know?

Happiest Baby invented SNOO Smart Sleeper with smart technology based on the 5 S’s. It gives babies safe swaddling, gentle rocking, and soothing shushing to help extend a baby's sleep. 

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.

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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.