The short answer is a qualified yes. You aren’t going to do any harm to your baby by providing a pacifier to help your child get to sleep.
However, for the first month of life, your baby should not use a pacifier or any sucking device for soothing. After one month, when your baby is already a champion breastfeeder, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends introducing a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. Studies have shown this practice to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is most common between birth and six months of age. It is believed that babies who suck on pacifiers do not sleep as deeply and can arouse themselves from a deep sleep before they stop breathing. But before deciding to use a pacifier, consider the pros and cons.
The natural sucking action of a pacifier can soothe a fussy baby and help them drift off to sleep.
- The natural sucking action of a pacifier can soothe a fussy baby and help them drift off to sleep.
- If baby takes a trip on an airplane, a pacifier can help them pop ears when the air pressure changes.
- Pacifiers are easier to quit than thumb sucking, which is a ready alternative for babies with a strong drive to suck. This is one of the main reasons that the AAP recommends pacifiers.
- If pacifier use is introduced too early (before one month), it can cause a breastfed baby to become confused between mom’s nipple and the pacifier. This could cause the baby to refuse to breastfeed altogether or reduce the length of breastfeeding.
- A baby can become dependent on a pacifier, so much so that your baby awakens during the night with a crying spell when it falls out of their mouth. Although the pacifier habit is easier to break than the thumb sucking habit, it can still be difficult to wean a child from a pacifier.
- Prolonged pacifier use can lead to dental problems, causing a child’s top front teeth to slant outward or not come in properly. You can reduce this somewhat by using an orthodontic pacifier.
- Pacifier use has the potential to increase middle-ear infections. The continuous sucking causes the Auditory tubes to remain open and allows bacteria from the mouth to get inside the middle ear.
Reviewed by Dr. Sara Connolly, December 2018
- It’s okay to use a pacifier to help your baby sleep, but beware of possible side effects.
- Introduce a pacifier at about 1 month old and during nap and sleep time.
- Pacifiers can help a child calm down during travel and soothe when fussy.
- A baby can become dependent on a pacifier and weaning can become difficult.