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The lowdown on pacifiers
A pacifier, which satisfies a baby’s natural impulse to suck, can be very soothing. Many babies like sucking on a pacifier just after a feed, or when they’re being rocked or snuggled.
Some studies have even shown that babies who use pacifiers at naps and bedtime have a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). It’s unclear exactly why, but there's a strong association.
Pacifiers come in a variety of colors, designs, and nipple shapes, with fanciful variations such as one attached to a plush animal. Trial and error will reveal which pacifier your baby prefers, if any.
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What to look for when buying
Style and size: On your first pacifier foray, pick up a couple of different styles – maybe one with the standard round nipple and one of the "orthodontic" shapes, which have a round top and a flat bottom – to see whether your baby has a preference. You'll find pacifiers in various sizes, with some crossover: 0 to 3 months, 0 to 6 months, 6 to 18 months, 18 to 36 months. Some pacifier brands are geared toward a certain age and up – 6-plus months, for example.
Material: Silicone nipples are sturdier than latex; they also clean more easily and don't retain odors. But your baby won't find them as soft or flexible in her mouth as a latex nipple. And you'll want to avoid latex if you have any reason to think your baby might have a latex allergy. (She's at higher risk if she's had frequent medical treatments or operations in which she was exposed to latex products.)
Durability: Be sure the pacifier is sturdily constructed, with a shield that has ventilation holes for air circulation and is 1 1/2 inches or larger, so that your baby can't put the entire pacifier into her mouth.
Once you find the perfect pacifier, buy extras. Binkies inevitably get lost!
Important safety notes
- Pacifiers don’t last forever. Nipples wear down with age and use. Most manufacturers recommend they be replaced anywhere from every 2 weeks to every 2 months, or immediately if the pacifier shows signs of wear. How fast that happens depends on how vigorously and often your child sucks the pacifier, so check before placing it in your baby's mouth.
- Look for discoloration (a sign of deterioration), as well as holes, tears, and weak spots that could cause the nipple to break off when sucked, putting your baby at risk of choking. Some nipples also become sticky with age. Pacifiers aren't expensive, so it's best to replace your baby's as soon as it starts to show signs of wear.
- Don’t “clean” a pacifier that’s fallen on the floor by sticking it in your mouth; learn about how to care for a pacifier here.
- Don’t fasten your baby’s pacifier to his clothing using string or ribbon – it’s a strangulation hazard. Instead, use a pacifier holder. Its short leash that won’t choke him.
- Hundreds of thousands of pacifiers have been recalled in recent years due to improper construction and choking hazards. Check product recalls from the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission.
What it's going to cost you
Standard pacifiers cost $3 to $5 each, but are often sold in multi-packs that are a better deal. Fancier pacifiers are $9 to $15.