Newborn Baby Pacifier Use
If, Why, When, and How
I'm a big fan of newborn baby pacifier use. My children, however, have not all followed my desires on this.
Perhaps my affinity with pacifiers extends back to my own infancy. What baby wouldn't love a pacifier dipped in honey? Yes, someone told my mom it would help. Really bad idea. Do not do this as it honey has now been linked to infant botulism. Somehow I survived infancy.
Newborn babies are programmed with a very strong urge to suck. For some, the urge is overwhelming. When this desire is not satisfied they will become extremely fussy and not sleep well.
Baby Pacifier, Binkie, Dummy, Nuk, Paci...Whatever you call that pacifier, it may fast become your newborn baby's best friend...or not. Some babies never take to it despite repeated attempts. My babies who loved their pacifiers have been my best sleepers, and I don't believe that is just a coincidence.
My babies who didn't care much for a pacifier still benefited from having one on occasion, especially when they were hungry and I needed to stretch their feeding time a bit longer, for whatever reason.
Baby pacifier use is intended to help calm a crying newborn by satisfying his natural urge to suck between feedings (called non-nutritive sucking). Just don't get into the bad habit of constantly replacing a pacifier that your baby can't seem to keep in his mouth. That is establishing a pattern that will end up down the road in wakeful nights for both of you. Getting a newborn to sleep and then getting him to stay asleep are the first steps to establishing good early sleep habits, which which will pay off big time later in more ZZZZZZZs for both you and your baby.
Believe it or not, you can help your baby learn to keep that paci in his mouth for a longer time by teaching him how to hold on to it. When he is awake and sucking away, try pushing down on it (toward his chin) or pulling it out lightly. As he feels it slipping away, give him a chance to "retrieve" it. Do this regularly for as long as it takes to give him the idea, and he will own his pacifier use...eventually.
Pacifiers and SIDS PreventionYes, multiple studies have shown that a baby who regularly uses a pacifier will have a lower risk of SIDS.22 No one knows exactly why this connection exists, but no one denies it.
Breastfeeding and PacifiersWhile it is recommended that you do not introduce a pacifier to your newborn baby before breastfeeding is established (sometime between two weeks and six weeks), I personally have not found pacifier use to cause a problem to start offering one after the first couple of days. Yes, I ignored the experts recommendations, and still lived to tell about it!
Here's why:In those beginning days when you are waiting for your milk to come in and you know that your baby is starting to get impatient with the delay, pacifier use may may stand in the gap between enduring the fussiness until the deluge comes and giving in to that freebie formula that snuck its way home in your hospital bag.
If you, in a weak moment, do give in a few times to giving your baby formula, you start yourself down a slippery slope that may sabotage your successful breastfeeding. The speed in which your milk arrives as well as its future supply is dependent on regular and vigorous nursing in those first days. Before you stick a bottle in his mouth, you might as well stick a pacifier in there and see if it can't carry you through.
But first, a word of caution...
The reason you may want to delay newborn baby pacifier use is because you don't want your newborn baby to become confused about the proper latch for breastfeeding versus the ease of sucking on a silicone nipple. "Nipple confusion" could also become a real threat to successful breastfeeding if you have struggled at all with a good latch, or if this is your first baby and you are not sure how things are going. In those circumstances, I would recommend that you hold off for at least a couple of weeks until there is no question as to your breastfeeding success.
For those who have champion nursers, you might try to offer a pacifier if you thought it would be beneficial. Just be sure to watch closely to see if anything relating to your baby's latch changes. This would include not completely emptying the breast, a decrease in wet diapers, or a change in nipple soreness.
Of course if you choose to hold off on introducing a pacifier, you may still develop those sore nipples. Not only does that tend to happen while you "toughen up", but if you are not careful, you may just end up being a human pacifier to satisfy your baby's urge to suck. If you are getting really sore, pay attention to your baby's swallowing and sucking motions. If swallowing isn't happening frequently, or if the sucking motions are short and choppy, you are probably being "used" for non-nutritive sucking, or his latch might not be quite right.
Which Pacifiers are Best?Honestly, the best pacifiers have yet to be invented. The best pacifier, in my opinion, would have a homing device that you could trigger when it can't be found. That would really be of benefit when you are digging around the crib at night, looking for what you know must be there somewhere (only to discover that your baby found it first and has it in her mouth...happened to me last night.)
There are some glow in the dark pacifiers, and I have found those to be helpful, but that still doesn't help you find them in broad daylight when you've simply misplaced them. The only remedy I've found to that problem is to scatter 30 of them around the house so that there is always one available. (Not really, but it's tempting.)
I have found that if you will be using a bottle at all for feeding, it is helpful to have a pacifier that is similar in shape to that bottle's nipple. Many of the major bottle brands offer a corresponding pacifier. This results in only two different shapes that your newborn's mouth must adapt to, rather than two, or three if you are breastfeeding.
My Favorite Pacifiers
Another consideration when choosing a pacifier is identification. If your child will eventually be in a nursery or daycare, a paci that is unique and identifiable will be a smart asset to your baby's health. This also opens up a world of creativity and fun. This website does personalized pacifiers, and takes it to a whole new level!
Do pay attention to pacifier size. Some brands are one-size-fits-all, while other have graded sizes to correspond to the size/age of the baby.
Pacifier Clips and Holders
Really cute decorative ribbons are available in fabric and craft stores, and you can buy a spool of your favorite, cut it to length, and replace it when it begins to look soiled. For those of you who are really "craft-challenged" and are terrified to enter a fabric/craft store, a better choice would be the pacifier clips that are sold at a reasonable price.
My other new find (shown below) are these cute little pacifier holders and snuggle toys all in one. Perhaps not so practical once your baby becomes mobile, but totally irresistible for a newborn, and it works with all brands of pacifiers.
Thumb Sucking vs. Pacifier UseParents have mixed opinions on whether allowing their baby to suck her thumb is preferable over encouraging a pacifier. I had three thumb suckers, and each of them started this in earnest at about 8 weeks old. This is the age when a baby has enough control over her limbs to purposefully get that thumb up to her mouth. Up to that point, it's pretty much luck that got it up there.
We did try to discourage the thumb sucking by pulling it out (after we snapped a few pictures because it was soooo cute) and replacing it with a pacifier. Why go to that trouble? Because fast forward a year or two, and the pacifier can be limited in its accessibility. The thumb? Not so much.
Keeping the Pacifier CleanWhen you break out that new pacifier for the first time, you should boil it in water for a minute (or stick it in your dishwasher for a cycle) and then let it cool before offering it to your baby. This will ensure that the factory handling doesn't pass on any germs.
It's up to you whether the famous "Five Second Rule" applies toward pacifiers dropped on the floor. Personally, I am more picky about germs in public than I am about the ones in my own home, and I get pretty strict about all germs when my baby is younger than 4 months old.
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