How to Use Pacifiers Safely

There are dos and don’ts for pacifier use. Here are some key pointers from experts like the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

• Don’t tie a pacifier around your child’s neck or hand, or fasten it to a crib, no matter how tempted you are to do so for convenience. The danger of strangulation is too great.

• Do sterilize pacifiers frequently in the dishwasher or in boiling water until your baby is 6 months old. After age 6 months, soap-and-water washing is sufficient.

• Do discard pacifiers with discolored or torn nipples. Most pacifiers are made of natural rubber or latex, which saliva eventually will break down. Throw out a pacifier that shows signs of age.

• Do change sizes at the right age. Pacifiers come in two sizes, one for birth through age 6 months and the other for age 6 months and beyond. Experiment with different nipple shapes to find the one your baby prefers. The AAP and the American Academy of Family Physicians do not recommend “orthodontic” pacifiers over the standard nipple shape.

• Don’t use a pacifier as a substitute for food. A pacifier will not calm a hungry baby. In fact, it can cause the opposite effect. A baby who needs to feed may get upset when offered a pacifier. This can disrupt feeding and prevent her from getting enough food. Remember to avoid giving a pacifier close to feeding time. Instead, offer one after or between meals.

• Don’t use a homemade pacifier when you need an alternative. Some parents have used bottle nipples as pacifiers, sometimes stuffing them with cotton. This creates the danger of choking or ingesting air. Try using your pinky finger when the usual pacifier isn’t available.

• Do know that you can wean your child off his pacifier in the future. In fact, most children actually stop their sucking habit on their own. When you’re ready to steer your child away from using his pacifier, remember to praise him each time he doesn’t reach for it.

Online Medical Reviewer: Desrosiers, Florence MD

Date Last Reviewed: 4/2/2010

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