Pacifiers can help soothe a baby’s strong urge to suck when he needs some comforting and it’s not mealtime. According to The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), pacifiers may also help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) if used at nap and bedtime. As your baby grows and develops, his pacifier needs change. At a certain point, his mouth will outgrow the smaller stage one pacifier and you will need to switch him to a bigger size.
All pacifiers are not created equal. As your baby grows, his pacifier needs change. You’ll find three main pacifier stages on the store shelves -- one, two and three. Stage one is for babies up to 6 months of age. Stage two pacifiers are meant for babies 6 to 18 months of age. The nipple on the stage two pacifier is larger and shaped to fit an older baby's growing mouth better than the stage one pacifier will. Stage three pacifiers are designed for children that are older than 18 months.
Since babies start to get their first teeth around the six-month mark, stage two pacifiers are designed with that in mind. Not only are stage one nipples too small for babies over six months, they also have a thinner, more flexible nipple designed for younger babies. Once those teeth pop through and your baby starts gnawing on everything, the thin latex of the stage one pacifier doesn’t stand a chance. Those teeth are a sign it’s time to make the transition to a new pacifier.
Every manufacturer has their own pacifier shape and designs. You may have to try several before you find one that your baby really likes. If your baby has taken a liking to a particular brand during stage one, you may want to stick to that brand when switching to stage two. Whatever brand you choose, the AAP advises you to buy age-appropriate ones that have at least a 1-1/2 inch shield that is made of firm plastic with air holes. This size and style is best because your baby can breathe while sucking on the pacifier, yet still cannot fit the whole pacifier in his mouth. That scenario could pose a choking hazard.
When it comes to your baby, safety and security are vital. According to the AAP, you should never force your baby to use a pacifier if he doesn't want it. Buy a pacifier that is dishwasher-safe so you can clean it regularly to prevent bacteria build-up. Examine the pacifier frequently to make sure it is in good condition with no cracks or damage. A pacifier should not be used to replace or delay meals and you never want to tie the pacifier to your baby or his crib as he can get strangled on the cord. The Ask Dr. Sears website also advises that you wean your baby off of pacifiers by the time he is 2 to 3 years old as prolonged pacifier use may cause the upper teeth to protrude, affecting your child's bite.