Pacifiers can be a tricky thing. Some babies adore their binkies from the get-go, happily sucking all night long. Meanwhile, others spit them right back out at you! If you’re struggling to get your lovebug to take the pacifier—and you’d like them to—I can help! And if you want to try offering a binky at bedtime but are unsure when or how to do it—I can help you, too! Here’s everything you need to know for pacifier success.

When to Introduce a Pacifier

There’s evidence that pacifier use has little impact on breastfeeding in healthy, full-term babies…but there’s no conclusive evidence on when a pacifier should be introduced. Because of that, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends waiting to introduce the pacifier until breastfeeding is well established. That means, hold off until your milk supply is sufficient and consistent and your baby has mastered an effective latch. For infants who aren’t fed directly at the breast, you can introduce a paci as soon as you’d like.

Why You Should Offer Baby a Pacifier

Babies are born wanting to suck! After all, your little one needs to suck in order to get nutrients. Beyond that, sucking has the power to calm babies by lowering their heart rate, blood pressure, and stress levels. Research shows that sucking can even reduce crying after shots. All of the above is part of the reason that Sucking is an essential element of the 5 S’s for soothing babies. Like all of the 5 S’s, sucking activates Baby’s innate calming reflex, which is nature’s “off switch” for crying and “on switch” for sleep. The cherry on top? The AAP recommends offering a pacifier at naptime and bedtime to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). (Learn more about why babies love pacifiers.)

How to Introduce a Pacifier to Baby

First, shop for a pacifier designed for your baby’s age. (All binkies should be labeled with age ranges.) There are a variety of nipples to choose from, so you may have to try a few different kinds until you land on one that your bub loves. You might want to add a couple of different types to your baby registry.

Once you’ve selected a binky, simply put it in your baby’s mouth at sleepytime. Often, they’ll happily take it. If your little one resists taking the pacifier, try offering it when they’re relaxed, toward the end of a feed. If that fails, I have a simple trick to get just about any baby to take a pacifier.

How to Keep a Pacifier in Baby’s Mouth

If your little one shuns the paci, don’t worry! Instead, try a little reverse psychology. That means, rather than pushing the pacifier in your baby’s mouth every time they spit it out, pull on the binky a bit every time your baby  gives it a little suck! So, toward the end of a feed, when your baby is relaxed and their sucking has slowed—slide the paci between your baby’s lips. (It’s like a classic “bait-and-switch!”) When the pacifier is snugly in your bub’s mouth, wait for your baby to suck on it…then pull it back just a smidge, like testing if a fish is on the line. I bet your baby will respond by sucking harder! Repeat this exercise a few times a day and within, say, three days, your baby will likely  take the pacifier easily. (This technique works best before a baby turns 6 weeks old.)

This bit of reverse psychology is based on our natural feeling that “what’s in my mouth belongs to me.” Eventually, trying to remove the pacifier will be like prying a toy from a 2-year-old: The harder you pull, the more they’ll resist!

How to Keep Pacifier Sucking Safe

Sucking on a pacifier is great for babies…as long as you follow some safety rules, like these:

  • Opt for silicone pacifiers. Buy clear silicone pacifiers instead of yellow rubber ones. The yellow rubber gets sticky and deteriorates after a while—and they may release tiny amounts of an unhealthy chemical residue.

  • Don’t dip the pacifier into harmful substances. Never dip a pacifier into syrup or honey. This can cause infant botulism, a potentially fatal disease. Dipping the pacifier in some breastmilk or formula, however, is A-okay.

  • Wash pacifiers daily. In one study, 80% of pacifiers had a little film of yeast or bacteria growing on them. So, wash with soap and water, not your germy mouth! (Your saliva can pass a cold or even herpes onto your baby.) When done cleaning, squeeze the water out of the nipple with clean hands. Accidentally leaving hot water trapped inside might burn your baby.

  • Don’t use a pacifier to delay meals. Only offer your little one a binky when you’re positive they’re not hungry.

  • Never hang a pacifier around Baby’s neck. And don’t tie them to your baby’s crib or hand either. Strings may get tightly wrapped around their fingers, cutting off circulation or around the neck, causing choking.

  • Don’t use a bottle nipple as a paci. If Baby sucks hard, the nipple can pop out of the ring and choke them.

  • Inspect the nipples. Every once in a while, examine your baby’s pacifier to make sure the rubber hasn’t changed color or torn.

  • Tune into ear infections. If your infant suffers from frequent ear infections, your pediatrician may recommend weaning the pacifier. That’s because sucking hard can disturb the pressure in the ears and lead to infections.

When to Stop Using the Pacifier

There’s no rush! Binkies can be a great emotional support, sleep-helper, and stress-reducer for little ones up to 1 to 3 years. Plus, pacifiers can be super useful in times of transition or stress, like when your kiddo is sick, starting daycare, or traveling to a new place. That said, as your bub approaches 18 months old, it’s a good idea to start limiting their pacifier use to nighttime sleep or other stressful situations. For help, check out my guide for weaning the pacifier.

 

More tips on comforting your little one:

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.