Pacifiers and Baby Sleep


For a long time, parents who put their babies to sleep with a pacifier caught a lot of flak. Some were concerned that using a pacifier might cause problems when babies’ teeth start coming in.  Some have expressed concern that using a pacifier might hinder breastfeeding. Others simply didn’t feel that popping a pacifier in baby’s mouth every time she cries is good parenting. In recent years, however, the research has shown that there are some pretty significant benefits to putting a baby down with a pacifier.

Benefits of Using a Pacifier

It has long been known that babies tend to fall asleep better when they are suckling. This is true whether they are sucking on a bottle, the breast, or a pacifier. Even when they’re not hungry, suckling is soothing for babies.

Using a pacifier has other benefits beyond soothing your baby, however. Studies have shown that putting your baby down to sleep with a pacifier significantly reduces his chance of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Additionally, many parents have found that using a pacifier made the weaning process easier.

Concerns about Pacifiers

In all fairness, there are some legitimate concerns with using pacifiers. One of them is that they may cause confusion for breastfeeding babies. Generally speaking, the risk of SIDS is strongest after baby is one month old and before her first birthday. If you are concerned about nipple confusion, don’t give your baby a pacifier until after she’s a month old.

Some studies show that babies who use pacifiers are more prone to ear infections. It isn’t really known why this is, but babies who sleep with a pacifier have about 40% more ear infections than babies who sleep without a pacifier.

Another legitimate concern is that parents might use the pacifier when they should be feeding the baby instead. If there’s any doubt as to whether baby is hungry, you should feed her instead of reaching for the pacifier. Still, most babies’ need to suckle stretches beyond their need for feeding.

Pacifier Safety

Most parents find that the benefits of using a pacifier outweigh the concerns. If you do choose to use a pacifier, follow these tips for safety:

  • Choose a pacifier with a nipple that is symmetrical.
  • Choose a pacifier with vent holes in the mouth shield. This allows air in and out better.
  • Don’t attach pacifiers to baby with cords. This can present a strangulation risk.
  • Don’t share pacifiers.
  • Clean pacifiers regularly.