Pacificier, binky, nuk, paci, mute button, dump, schulli (or whatever you want to call it) will be one of the first things you will need to decide for your baby. Ideally, I wanted to go without one. I wholeheartedly wanted to breastfeed and did not want nipple confusion, but didn’t want to make a run to the store those first few days after giving birth if my baby, Orla, was going to need one to help calm and soothe her, so I opted on buying a few different styles just in case. I am one of those Moms that likes to be prepared and knew we were planning on having her at home with our midwife team, so I wouldn't get the free hospital ones. I also knew that I could always return them if she didn't even want one. Well, here is a picture of Orla and the pacifier the hospital gave us. Yeah, our plan to have her at home did not work out like we had thought (that might be a story for a future blog). The pacifier is a Soothie and you can see it just above Orla's head.
Advantages of Using a Pacifier
On one hand, pacifiers can be beneficial. For some families, pacifiers are what keep their sanity. Several parents don't leave the house without their “mute button” and say there is nothing like quieting their screaming toddler in the grocery store or church with a pacifier. For newborns, the American academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that pacifiers can avoid Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) if used the first year of a child’s life. One study says that you child is 20 times less likely to die. Plus, some babies just prefer something to suck on because of their natural, newborn instinct. Orla entered this world with one suckling blister on the top of each one of her pointer fingers because she was sucking on them so much in my womb. My husband, Brendan, and I could also tell this because she latched onto my breast just seconds after birth and could suck hard. However, I did try using a pacifier when I knew she was not hungry and got fussy right before she went to sleep. I thought it was better for her to do this than to desire to use my breast as a pacifier to avoid cracked, sore nipples. I also learned dentists say a pacifier does not interfere with children’s tooth development (i.e. protruding front teeth, improper bite, or prevent their jaw from forming properly) if only used the first year of life. In all, I am glad we had one for Orla at the beginning, but she is demanding it less and less as the weeks pass, so I am hoping to get rid of it soon because we reaped the benefits of it and want to avoid the negative aspects of using one in the future, especially after the age of one.
Disadvantages of Using a Pacifier
Yeah, pacifiers have their advantages, but also have their disadvantages, especially if it isn't even in your baby's mouth, ha! Look at the picture above! On a serious note, breaking the habit of using them can be very stressful for both the parents and children. There are even parenting books on attachment disorders and emotional insecurities pertaining to pacifiers. Parents have also become creative by recruiting the fictational Binky Fairy and have even enlisted the Easter Bunny and Santa Clause for assistance. Sinterklaas comes in Belgium. When Belgian children are ready to give up their pacifiers, parents have their children put them in their shoes at night and leave them out for Sinterklaas (Saint Nick). Sinterklaas comes and takes the pacifiers for safekeeping and replaces them with chocolate for the child the next morning. Fun, huh? Overall, some parents recommend that if child does not demand a pacifier at the beginning, then, do not start using one. It will save you save you a lot of headaches and heartache. Lastly, another disadvantage to using pacifiers according to the La Leche League (LLL) is they can interfere with breastfeeding. The LLL recommends to not introduce a pacifier until 3-4 weeks after you have established a good breastfeeding routine because it can interfere, especially if you have a fussy baby, a baby that has difficulty latching, trouble sucking, or are worried about their milk supply. This was not the case for Orla, but every child is different.
Things to think about ...
Size and Shape: Make sure the pacifier is 1 ½” or larger. There have been stories of babies being able to fit the whole thing in their mouth (especially if it is the incorrect size), so check the age your pacifier was made for and change your pacifiers as the child grows. Also, it can be confusing because the nipples are either round or “orthodontic”. The round ones mostly resemble a mother’s nipple (left picture) and the orthodontic ones are round on top and have a flat bottom (right picture). In general, orthodontic pacifiers mean that they will not misalign a child’s jaw and most pacifiers will not do this. It all comes down to your preference ... or your baby's preference.
Latex-free: It was important to look for a latex-free pacifier for three reasons:
1. They are easier to clean.
2. Do not retain odors.
3. Several babies also have a latex allergy, so choosing a rubber or silicon pacifier may be a good choice to avoid this altogether.
BPA-free: Does your pacifier contain Bisphenol A? Bisphenol A (BPA) is an endocrine disruptor. It interferes with the natural hormones in your body. Most things, now, for children are BPA-free, but it is important to only buy toys, sippy cups, dishes, eating utensils, etc. that clearly states this on the package. If it does not say this on the package, I do not buy it for Orla. I mostly prefer wood toys anyways and I have recently gotten rid of all of our plastic storage containers and converted to glass ones with BPA-free lids just to avoid these toxins altogether.
One Piece: Some children prefer pacifiers their first few years and when they start eating solids and put their pacifier in their mouths little food particles can get trapped and cause bacteria build-up. Hair, dirt, etc. can also get trapped in their or other parts of the pacifier. Pacifiers that contain several pieces can also break and be a choking hazard, too. Pacifiers that are one piece are also easier to clean and avoid all this.
Ventilation Holes: Do you see holes in the pacifier shield to allow air flow? If this is the case for your baby or toddler, they may get a rash or irritation from the lack of airflow or saliva build-up if there are not ventilation holes. Some kids suck on their pacifiers 24-7 and avoiding a rash is almost inevitable no matter how many time a parent or care giver washes and sanitizes the pacifier, even if it has air holes.
Sterilizing a pacifier: Boil water in a pot until you see the bubbles and try to do this when your little one is sleeping or off playing because this will avoid them wanting to have it if they see it as well as avoid any temper tantrums or burning accidents. Set a timer for 4-5 minutes and carefully place your pacifiers in the water with a spoon without causing splashes that can potentially burn you. Make sure the pacifiers are only in there for no longer than 5 minutes because the boiling water can ruin the pacifiers. This has happened to me ... longer does not mean better. After the time is up, remove them from the pot and let them air dry and cool off completely before giving them to children, so they cannot get burned. After the initial sanitization, you should sanitize them periodically and just wash them with hot soapy water in between trips to the park, after falling on the floor, coming in contact with other kids, etc.
Replacing Them: Inspect your pacifiers time and again. If you see any signs of wear and tear like discoloration, chew marks, tears, holes, small pieces hanging, etc. replace your pacifier immediately to prevent a choking hazard. Some pacifier come with an expiration date, so check this on the package before using them to know how long. Most babies will outgrow them, so be sure to check the age-appropriate size. You should replace pacifiers that are not age-appropriate because some toddlers can fit an entire newborn pacifier in their mouth.
Pacifier Clips: If you can go with using a pacifier alone, this is best! I found it much easier to catch a pacifier that fell out of Orla's mouth if it was attached to a pacifier clip and I liked that I didn't have to worry about it falling down and getting dirty if it was clipped to her shirt. Manufactures make adorable pacifier clips and you can find them to match every outfit and holiday. They come in many different colors and adorable prints. On a serious note, never attach a pacifier to a string and wrap it around a child’s neck, crib, car seat, or stroller. It is safer to use a pacifier clip because the ribbon is short and less likely to cause strangulation, especially if they are sleeping in a crib, Pack 'N Play, or Moses basket. I did use a pacifier clip with Orla's pacifiers when she was a newborn and clipped it to her blanket. This was when she was not rolling or moving when she slept on her back and I stopped using them when she started moving around. It was easier to find in the middle of the night, but many parents avoid this altogether because they do not want to have any potential accidents.
Thumb Sucking: Some parents prefer their child to use a pacifier to their thumb because sucking their thumb causes the bottom jaw to push back and misalign (see pictures below). Children’s hands also get dirty from crawling and touching everything, so if they use their thumbs to soothe them, then, it will introduce more bacteria to their mouthes. Thumb sucking is also hard to break because their thumbs are readily available, unlike a pacifier, and thumb sucking can continue until the child starts school or the child starts to get their permanent teeth.
Quantity: It is up to you. At first, I bought one from a couple different companies. Once I found the one Orla liked best, I bought 3: one for upstairs, one for downstairs, and one for the diaper bag. Of course, we had to buy a few extras along the way because our puppy, Hudson, got ahold of a couple and put holes in them trying to play with them. Having one on each floor saved me for running up and down the steps a bunch of times, especially if she was napping in different spots at the beginning (Moses basket, crib, swing, etc.). I also like to keep her stuff organized and in specific spots, so it is easy to grab her diaper bag and leave the house in a minute. I got in the habit of always stocking up her diaper bag when I get home from outings and clipping her pacifier to her shirt when I put her in her car seat as well as putting a burp cloth in there to make things 10 times easier and faster for me to get out of the house. I have never had to use the pacifier stored in a container in her diaper bag, but know it is always there if one gets lost or my husband forgets to get it when he gets her ready.
Putting Food or Sweets on a Pacifier: I have no idea why anyone would do this in the first place. It can cause bacteria build-up, facial skin rashes, cavities, and botulism.
In conclusion, there are many things to consider if you are thinking about or not thinking about using a pacifier. When it comes to kids, you can do a ton of research to be prepared, but what you decide can be the exact opposite or be a tool in your toolbox. In my case, I thought I would go completely without a pacifier, but Orla preferred one to help her fall asleep and not for any other time. I knew if she wanted a pacifier, then, I was hoping she would go for a latex-free, BPA-free, rubber, one-piece, and environmentally friendly one. This narrowed it down to Natursutten, Ummy, and Hevea. Orla kept spitting out the Ummy and I think it was because the bulb was too big on it. She also did not like the Hevea. I liked it because it was smaller and fit around her nose the best, but when I tried it in my mouth the little crown ventilation holes were a bit uncomfortable and scratchy. Above all, Orla simply preferred the Natursutten Brand. In addition to the other qualities, I love that they are different, won't get water trapped in the bulb when washing, are extremely flexible (great for tummy time), and European. Here is a picture of the one she chose!
Good luck with your little one!