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How to Use Pacifiers Safely

Before I became a mother, I did not realize how attached an infant can be to their pacifier (soother). Madi loved her pacifier, and we lovingly nicknamed it “soo-soo.” Madi would reach for her “soo-soo,” call out for it, and we always make sure we had it in her diaper bag.

During my pediatrics rotation during medical school I learned that the sucking motion can be very soothing for infants. I also learned that there are benefits to an infant using a soother in their first year of life. There is research to suggest there is some benefit in soother use during painful procedures and helping infants self sooth in term and pre-term infants.  

Medela Baby has created a full range of pacifiers developed in collaboration with dentists, speech therapist, lactation consultants and ergonomists. The pacifiers are made in Switzerland using the softest silicone and were designed in the optimal size, form, weight and characteristics for ideal tongue, lip and jaw movement. Madi is no longer using a pacifier, but I know she would have loved using these pacifiers!

If you plan on using pacifiers for your infant, The Canadian Pediatric Society has some useful suggestions for pacifier use below:

  • It’s best not to start using a pacifier until breastfeeding is going well. Talk to your doctor or lactation specialist if you feel your baby needs to use one at this early stage. One exception is for premature or sick babies in the hospital who can benefit from using one for comfort.
  • Always see if your baby is hungry, tired or bored before giving him a pacifier. Try solving these things first.
  • Sterilize the pacifier by putting it in boiling water for 5 minutes before the first use. Make sure it is completely cooled down before giving it to your baby. Keep  it clean by washing it with hot, soapy water after each use. 
  • Always check for cracks or tears before giving a pacifier to your baby. Don’t give your baby a pacifier right after giving medicine (like a pain reliever, antibiotics or vitamins), because some of these medicines can cause the material in the pacifier to break down. If there are cracks or tears, throw it out.
  • Never dip the pacifier in sugar or honey. This will hurt your baby’s teeth. Honey in infants less than 1 year of age can lead to botulism, which is a type of food poisoning.
  • Never tie a pacifier around your baby’s neck. This can cause strangulation and death. Instead, you can use clips with short ribbons attached to them. They are available where you buy pacifiers and are safe to use.
  • Never make your own pacifier out of bottle nipples, caps or other materials. These can cause choking and death.
  • Use the pacifier only when your child needs comfort. Using it all day long can affect your child’s ability to learn to talk and can cause problems with teeth.

This post was authored by Stephanie Liu, MD, MSc, CCFP, BHSc.

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