Pacifiers - When Is It Appropriate to Start Using Them?

Updated on October 24, 2008
N.D. asks from San Francisco, CA
31 answers

Hi Mamas,

My son is 2 weeks old today, and still in that typical newborn pattern of sleeping all day and being awake a lot at night. We're co-sleeping which works well when he's actually sleeping, but more nights than not he's wide awake much of the time and extremely squirmy (if not outright fussy). He calms immediately if I give him my pinky to suck on, but then resumes his activity as soon as I take it back. So my question is: is it too early to try giving him a pacifier, in case it helps him stay calm during these long waking hours at night? What are the arguments against giving a pacifier so early? He's a very strong nurser (has been since day one), so I don't feel that it would adversly affect his ability to nurse. Looking forward to hearing your thoughts...

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So What Happened?

Thanks everyone, we'll pick up a pacifier today and see what happens. I hope he likes it!

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K.H.

answers from San Francisco on

I don't think that it's ever too early to start using a pacifier. 3 out of my 4 kids took them when they were at the hospital. The other one never wanted the pacifier. I think the pacifier is especially helpful for the first few months of life, when they have that sucking reflex. After about 6 months, I would only let them have it at night or naptime. For 2 of my children, I had to take the pacifier away when they were about 2 and a half. It really wasn't a big deal. My other paci baby just decided when he was 6 months old that he was done with it. That's the best case scenario. Anyway, I think it is worth the comfort it gives them, and you!!!

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E.G.

answers from San Francisco on

I have heard that some people avoid them at first to avoid nipple confusion. However, when my son was in being "snipped" they gave him one. This was when he was 1 day old. He is still being breast fed at 7 months, and we have never had any nipple confusion, even after we gave him a bottle around 4 weeks. So, I think whenever you are ready to give him one, do it. The only other advice I have is to try to only give it to him when it is time for nap or bedtime. Or in those hopeless moments when nothing else works and you need some quiet :-) At least if it stays mostly in bed, when you go to take it away it should not be quite as hard. Congratulations on the new baby!

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K.W.

answers from San Francisco on

both of my children used a pacifier from the moment they were born, I have a 26 mth old and an 8 mth old. The only issue I had with it was I believe I allowed my 26 mth old to use his too long and I believe he is a little delayed in speech because of it, however it's been a little over 3 mths now and he's catching up amazingly. I don't feel like there is anythign wrong with it. I co-slept as well, and I honestly believe a content baby makes for a content night sleep.

Just my opinion.
K.

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D.T.

answers from San Francisco on

Your baby is sooo new to the world. If you are nursing (good for you!) you are his pacifier a well as his source of nourishment. Keep giving him your pinky if your nipples are sore. If you introduce a pacifier he may get his sucking fulfillment there and nurse less often. Try swaddling him for comfort too - and wearing him in a sling around the house. That should settle him so he may not need to suck as often.

R.M.

answers from Sacramento on

The pediatrician who discharged me and my newborn from the hospital recommended a pacifier right away. He said to nurse for about 25-30 minutes and then giving the baby something else to suck on, either a pacifier or her fist. We had asked for a pacifier while in the hospital and recieved a disclaimer from the nurse that pacifiers can interfere with nursing so we were unsure if we should even use it. However, every Dr we've seen has said it's fine. (my baby wants nothing to do with hers though. She doesn't like it at all. The ped has said it's just a different shape than the breast and the sucking reflex is different with a paci so some babies just don't take to it)

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W.H.

answers from Phoenix on

Start already! You need your sleep, he needs his soothing.

Don't worry TOO much about breaking the binky habit (it's much easier to lose or "break" the binky than a thumb!!)

My son gradually used it less and less (I did/do not like seeing a baby plug in a mobile toddler all day long. At "cuddle time" yes (ie, car rides, nap times, etc) but not at play time.) One day around 11-12 months old, I realized he wasn't using his binky much anymore, and I was relieved I wouldn't have to "break" that habit.

At 2 weeks old, let him have it whenever, wherever (except eating of course) but when he's alert and playing, take it out so he can babble. When he's a little older, just keep them in his crib, in the car, etc, and use as needed.

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E.E.

answers from San Francisco on

I was never a fan of pacifiers until I found out they reduce the chance of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) significantly. Now I am trying to get my 5 month old to take one and he thinks its a funny toy. So much for that! So, yeah, go for it.

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J.C.

answers from San Francisco on

N.,
Both my girls used a pacifier from birth. They both only use it at nap and bedtime now (they are 26 months and 13 months). It was a real life saver with my oldest because she needed to suck constantly when she was a newborn. Our dentist has seen her and said it has not affected her teeth so I still allow her to have it at nap and bedtime but she is not allowed to have it any other time.
Try the pacifier but don't be surprised if he doesn't want it, some babies just don't like them.
Congratulations on being a new mama!!

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R.S.

answers from Redding on

I tried to get my son to find his thumb early on so he wouldn't need me to play "mommy go fetch" with the binky. He does suck on his thumb sometimes now but he also likes to chew on a binky (he is teething) mostly he uses me to pacify-- for better or worse. I say what ever works for you and your baby is the right thing.

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S.C.

answers from Sacramento on

I waited until 4 weeks and what a mistake. My daughter loved to suck - that was the only thing that soothed her - I thought she was always hungry so I was breast feeding her around the clock - basically I became the human pacifier. But be ready to help hold it in his mouth - their muscles are not so strong. I would also buy a couple different brands as the nipple shapes are all different. I had good luck with the MAM brand. I know you metioned you were co-sleeping - have you tried swaddling him at night so he doesn't squirm and wake himself up.

J.L.

answers from Redding on

We gave my son a pacifier and a bottle of breastmillk at 5 days. He had no problems with breastfeeding (except falling asleep at the boob :)). For a month or so that little piece of plastic was a major sanity saver (we had a colicky baby). So I say go for it.

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D.M.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi N.,
Pacifiers are fine from the word go, so get him one if you think it will help.

My suggestion is to get that boy on a schedule! As long as he sleeps all day he will be up at night. Keep him up during the day and you will both sleep better at night and be happier. It's easier said than done. We have some very funny video of us trying to keep our newborn son awake - he's 19 months now.

I suggest, The New Contented Little Baby Book by Gina Ford for a fantastic routine. We had our little one on her routines from day one and we found the early months ridiculously easy. When all of our other new parent friends were sleep deprived and miserable, our little boy went to bed at 7, we got him up at 10.30 for a feed before we went to bed, I got him up again at 3 for a quick feed and then he'd wake at 7.

My husband and I had dinner together every evening, watched TV and had a normal adult life. Gina Ford can be very prescriptive and a few of my friends found her condescending, but it if you can get past that you will be glad you did. You don't have to follow it all to the letter, but take the basics from it and I promise you will have an easier life.

Good luck. Congratulations on your little boy. Enjoy!
D..x

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A.A.

answers from San Francisco on

Congratulations N. on your baby boy!

I can only speak from my own experience having not done any research per se. Both of my girls used binkies early on (the hospital gave my eldest her first one!) rather than my nipples for comfort. For me the key was making sure they didn't continue using them while their teeth were coming in. There are orthodontic ones by Gerber (or at least there were 11 years ago :) that are supposedly better as they fit their mouth more like a human nipple. Both of my girls quit using them around the same time they started getting their teeth if I remember correctly so it didn't interfere with the teeth coming in properly. I honestly don't know what I would have done without them!!!

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T.M.

answers from Sacramento on

N.,
Congratulations on your new little one. You have certainly received a lot of advice, and I normally wouldn't respond, but just have to get my two cents in. Sucking is a very calming and organizing activity, and is very natural for infants. Other very organizing and calming activities are swaddling, rocking, and nursing itself. Just don't let your little one become hooked on the paci as the only way to soothe himself. It can cause many difficulties later on including perpetuation of an infantile suckle pattern, tongue thrust, open bite, and even language/speech delay. I am a speech-language pathologist with oromyofunctional training and see far too many kiddos who have pacifier-related problems.

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M.E.

answers from San Francisco on

N.,

Using a pacifier is not a bad thing, infact they have done studys that the use of pacifiers reduce the chance of SIDS. My daughter is 18 months old and has used them from the first day she was born (the hospitals use them). She goes to bed every night with one and goes down easily because she has that comfort of sucking. She loves her pacifer but she is also fine if we dont have one around during the day.

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M.E.

answers from San Francisco on

We started at 3 weeks with my son and there haven't been any problems. His teeth are great and so are his verbal skills. Babies need to do a lot of sucking for comfort and development. My son still uses one to go to sleep (he'll be 3 in Dec.), but he knows that the binky is only for bedtime and he's not allowed to walk around with it (we've had this rule for about a year and it has worked well).

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L.G.

answers from Sacramento on

I have two girls. I let them have a pacifier when they were infants (brand new babies) , but honestly, they didnt get totally hooked on them. Sometimes it really did the trick to soothe them however and why not let them be happy. Sucking is natural and good for the baby. I would just not let them depend on a pacifier to soothe them forever. I really can't stand to see a 2 yr. old sucking on a pacifier.

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W.S.

answers from Stockton on

Hi,
I am a mother of two beautiful girls, they are 21 months and 4 months old. My first daughter never needed a pacifier, soothed herself well almost from the beginning and started sucking her thumb at 3 weeks old. However, my second daughter was pretty fussy and wanted me to always hold her, threw a fit in the car seat, and whenever things werent perfect for her. My husband and I were at our wits end (having two babies to take care of), so we decided to try a pacifier at about 3 weeks and see if it helped her soothe herself. It worked wonders! She now enjoys her pacifier when she is tired, in the car, and fussy for no reason we can figure out. She is breastfed and it did not pose a problem for that either.
One more thing- we tried three different types of pacifiers and she has always preferred the NUK brand.

Good luck!

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R.D.

answers from San Francisco on

In my opinion never. It's far too easy to pop in a pacifier instead of figuring out what your baby really needs.

When a baby cries he has a need. Maybe it's just a hug, reassurance (the world is a big and scary place), hunger, a diaper change, or is feeling a little under the weather, or needs something to play with (or something different to play with) or maybe he just needs to hear your voice.

If you just pop a pacifier in the kid's mouth, how does that meet their needs? It doesn't!

Too often I see parents pop one in without even bothering to see what their kid needs.

I will admit I tried it with my daughter, but she didn't like it so I gave up. I then started noticing the difference while at the store between me and other women with their babies. I would check and talk with my little one and others would pop a pacifier in their kid's mouth and move on.

Then, after taking a multitude of Early Childhood Education classes this subject was talked about in class. The major con in pacifiers is that they allow parents to be lazy.

Here are a couple of websites about pacifiers that may be helpful, that lists some of the pros and cons.

http://17yearoldparent.blogspot.com/2008/02/pacifiers-goo...

and

http://blogs.webmd.com/all-ears/2006/03/pacifiers-good-ba...

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D.M.

answers from San Francisco on

There is no reason to wait. It will not interfere with breastfeeding in any way. Some babies will start taking a paci while still in the hospital. Some need a few weeks. Some never take to it. If he seems unsure about it and spits it out, try tugging on it gently when you first give it to him. That might help get him going.

-D.

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L.G.

answers from San Francisco on

My daughter wanted a pacifier from day one! She was very much a "sucker" as the nurses called her. She is also a great eater, and using a pacifier to soothe did not affect that. I say if you want to try giving him a pacifier, go for it! We restricted when she got to use it. As a tiny baby she had it more often, as they sleep so much! But now, she only gets it for falling asleep at it stays in the crib. i am about ready to wean her off of it, as she can easily fall asleep in the car without it. Good luck!

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T.B.

answers from Sacramento on

We gave both of my kids pacifiers the day we got home from the hospital. I breastfed both of them and neither of them had nipple confusion. They both gained weight fine and did not have any issues with breastfeeding. I really think the pacifier issue is a personal preference. For my kids, they had a major oral need to suck, and the pacifier was a lifesaver for us. Plus, they say that pacifier use helps reduce the risk of sids, so that's a bonus too. I say if you think it will help, go ahead and introduce it. If it causes problems, you can always take it away. Good luck. I know some babies don't like the pacifier, but if he enjoys sucking on your finger, chances are the pacifier will be soothing to him as well.

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K.G.

answers from San Francisco on

My son was born 11 weeks early, and the nurses in the NICU gave him a pacifier on day two. He learned to nurse after having had a pacifier (babies that young can't go to the breast right away but can have pumped breastmilk from a tube), and he had no problems learning to nurse. It's definitely not too early for your son. Just be sure to get one for a newborn. Mind you, it will fall out of his mouth and he might wake up then. My son lost interest in the pacifier at about two or three months adjusted age (meaning 2-3 months after he was supposed to be born). The only reason I can think of not to give one is that it can be tough to break the habit down the road. However, my little brother sucked his thumb until he was five -- it was gross! I figured it would be easier to break a paci habit than a thumb sucking one because at least you can take away the pacifier!

Congratulations on your new baby, and I hope you get more sleep soon!

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H.C.

answers from Sacramento on

First of all congratulations! I started to give my son a binky when he was 2 weeks also. It created no problems for us and it seemed to help him feel a bit more secure. I also read that it's okay to leave babies in their beds at night if they are awake and just talking. Usually, they will talk themselves back to sleep. I remember I would get him up if he started talking even though he wasn't crying. but after I read that if he's just talking, it's a normal thing and it's usually best to let him finish talking and go back to sleep. I started to do that and sure enough he would be just fine and would go back to sleep on his own. I would give him a binky when I put him to bed to help him to relax but I wouldn't try to keep putting it back in his mouth if it pops out and he wasn't crying. He would always tell me if he wanted it again. another tip is to check the binky's first. on most packages of them they have different suggested age's.

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R.B.

answers from San Francisco on

I'm glad to know you bought the pacifier. All babies have a different sucking need. I am for the pacifier over thumb because you can take away the pacifier but the thumb i very hard to break.
I tip from this old veteran(53 years old Mom of 3 sons) I have been taking care of babies since my twin brothers was born when I was 10. my boys where able to enjoy their pacifier as much as they wanted BUT when they began to crawl/walk and play they had to put their paci up they where not allowed to have it unless they got in a chair.couch or went to bed. I used this for the bottle as well. Then between 18 months and 2 years I took it away all together. One way I did this was to have them give their paci/bottle to a new baby.

I hope this is inlightning for you. Feel free to contact me any time.
R. Baiz
[email protected]____.com

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E.P.

answers from San Francisco on

Congrats on your new baby boy. My son wouldn't take a paci for the first few weeks - preferred to suck on my finger! He started using one at maybe 3-4 weeks, when he got the idea of how to use them. Now (at 9 months) he only has it during sleep time. I tried to introduce him to thumb sucking but it doesn't soothe him. He does suck his hands, but prefers the paci.

I know that some people are v. anti pacifer, but if your baby likes to suck, then I think it is a bit mean not to provide that opportunity. But maybe your little boy won't be that interested, you just don't know!

E.

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M.H.

answers from San Francisco on

I gave my daughter a pacifier the second night in the hospital. She just wanted to suck. She took it and had no nipple confusion. I'm breast feeding as well and have not had any problems. She is two months old now and getting more control of her hands she may end up being a thumb sucker or finger but still uses pacifier when tired. Good luck.

M. Hakes

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D.S.

answers from San Francisco on

When my son was circumcized in the hospital, they had given him a pacifier and brought him back to me with one. I was a little worried at first bc we were so new at nursing, but he has never had a problem and he has had his pacifier from day 1, we nursed for 7mos until he lost interest, too busy... So I think if he is nursing well a pacifier may be your sanity... :)

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J.H.

answers from Salinas on

If your son is fussy and wanting to suck he may be hungry. He doesn't know that there is no milk coming out of your finger so he will "ask" for more if you withdraw it. You may want to nurse him before offering the paci...he may not want it if he is full. Keep in mind that this is a time of HUGE growth velocity for him. I know we feel like we are constantly nursing our babies for the first few months but that is when they need the most calories. A lot of babies will gain 50% of their birthweight in the first 8 weeks of life-that's a lot. Since you are co-sleeping (like I am with my 11 week old) it is fairly easy to nurse him first then offer the paci. Ask you pediatrician at his 2 week check up what the weight gain is, you may be suprised. Remember that babies at this age eat on demand and don't have a schedule. You may find that you get more sleep if you nurse him more frequently at night....sounds weird but it works! Good luck and congrats on your new arrival!

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J.S.

answers from San Francisco on

Hi N.,
It seems like you've gotten great advice regarding the paci (go for it!), but I just wanted to chime in on the sleeping all day and awake all at night issue. My younger daughter did that as a newborn. I'd suggest waking your little guy every 3 - 3.5 hours (timed from start of last feeding) during the day. I know it seems crazy to wake a happily sleeping baby, especially when you are so tired yourself, but if you do it he will start sleeping longer periods during the night. It took my daughter about 4 days, but then she began sleeping for two 4 hour stretches during the night with a quick feed (no diaper change) between them, then another 3 hours after that. Heaven! I'm not sure how co-sleeping will affect this as our daughters slept in the next room, but definitely don't let him sleep for long periods without eating during the day if you want him to sleep at night.
Congratulations on your new little guy!

B.H.

answers from San Francisco on

While we were still in the hospital the nurses gave our daughter one. She would want to nurse for over an hour. They said that it wasn't the food she wanted, just the sucking sensation. It was such a relief.

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