When to Introduce a Pacifier

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One of the most common questions we hear from our clients is when the best time to introduce a pacifier. The answer--like most of the answers we give--is that it depends!

Pacifiers come with a number of benefits, including:

  • Satisfies your baby's sucking reflex 
  • Can be a way for the baby to self-soothe especially in situations where it is difficult to hold or feed your baby, such as while in the car
  • Recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics for SIDS prevention

Drawbacks of pacifier use include:

  • If introduced to nursing babies too early, may interfere with breastfeeding
  • Prolonged pacifier use (beyond age 2) can affect dentition
  • Some studies have shown that babies who utilize pacifiers might be more susceptible to ear infections, but the results aren't totally conclusive

So what's a new parent to do? 

For breastfeeding families: 

Consider waiting to introduce the pacifier until breastfeeding is well established. While some professionals recommend waiting a full 4-6 weeks, we believe in evaluating the mom and baby, not the calendar. Is the baby latching well, transferring milk, having plenty of diaper output, and gaining weight? Has any initial nipple soreness dissipated? If so, a pacifier can be a great tool to help a breastfeeding mother get a break or use an additional tool for soothing.

For bottle-feeding families:

There's plenty of benefits to introducing a pacifier right away. A pacifier can be a great way for bottle-feeding babies to satisfy their sucking urge without overeating. And babies of all ages benefit from the SIDS prevention offered by pacifiers.

Some of our favorite pacifiers: 

  • Natursutten or Hevea for a natural latex option
  • Mam always works well for those babies that just don't want to take a paci!
  • Avent Soothies are commonly used in hospitals

P.S. It's no problem if your baby isn't interested in pacifiers at all! Follow your baby's lead.

Maura Winkler CNM IBCLC is a nurse midwife, birth & postpartum doula, lactation consultant and founder of Chicago Birth & BabyFika Midwifery, and Buffalo Birth & Baby.