Pacifiers are a lifesaver for many tired parents. They soothe your little one's cries and may help ease him to sleep more quickly. Letting your baby suck on a pacifier might reduce his risk of certain health problems, as well. If you want to use a pacifier with your baby, it's usually a safe way to go, but keep a few tips in mind to ensure that the pacifier you choose for your little one is in proper condition and doesn't pose health or injury risks.
Babies are born with a strong suck reflex. It ensures that they're able to get the food they need, either from the breast or a bottle, but it also soothes them as they adapt to their new environment outside of the womb. If your baby is fussy, a pacifier can help him calm down and stop crying. A pacifier might also help your baby settle down at bedtime, which can help him fall asleep more quickly and stay asleep longer. Letting your baby have a pacifier might also reduce his risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, according to HealthyChildren.org.
There are many brands of pacifiers on the market that are safe options for your baby, but keep a few things in mind when you're making your final choice. Always use new pacifiers for your baby. Used pacifiers can harbor germs from the previous owner, and they might be too worn out to be safe. Choose a pacifier that's made of one molded piece of plastic or silicone, which reduces the risk that the pacifier will come apart and become a choking hazard. Measure the shield between the nipple and the ring, too. It should be at least 1 1/2 inches across so your baby isn't able to put the entire pacifier into his mouth. The shield should have ventilation holes, as well, according to HealthyChildren.org.
Don't use pacifiers that look worn out or are broken in any way. These pose a choking hazard. Skip pacifiers that are made from more than one piece, too, MayoClinic.com recommends. Don't make your own pacifiers with a baby bottle top and nipple, even if the two pieces are taped or glued together. The nipple can come loose from the top of the baby bottle and choke your baby.
Never clip your baby's pacifier to his shirt with a ribbon or piece of string. The ribbon or string can get wrapped around your baby's neck and cause strangulation. Inspect your baby's pacifier regularly. Discard the pacifier if it starts to look worn out or if the nipple cracks or tears. Keep a few of your baby's favorite pacifiers as backup so you have one handy when you do need to replace a lost one or one that has worn out. Pay attention to the age recommendations on pacifiers, as well. Choose one that aligns with your baby's age to reduce the risk of injury. For example, pacifiers made for newborns might pose a choking risk to older babies and toddlers.