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The Benefits of Pacifiers and Non-Nutritive Sucking for Infants: A Guide for Parents

A Guide for Parents

Pacifiers and non-nutritive sucking are widely used by parents to soothe their infants. While some parents may be hesitant to use a pacifier, research shows that pacifiers and non-nutritive sucking have numerous benefits for both the child and parent. In this post, we’ll be discussing the benefits of pacifiers and non-nutritive sucking, the importance of non-nutritive sucking for premature babies, the reasons for different sizes and shapes of pacifiers, and the differences between latex and silicone pacifiers. Additionally, we will provide information on safe pacifier use and when best to offer a pacifier to avoid missing feeding cues.

Benefits of Pacifiers and Non-Nutritive Sucking

Pacifiers and non-nutritive sucking can provide comfort and soothe an infant. The sucking motion can be calming and relaxing for a child, especially when they are upset or fussy. This can help to reduce stress and anxiety in both the child and parent.

Furthermore, pacifiers and non-nutritive sucking can help promote good sleep habits. Infants who use pacifiers are less likely to wake up during the night and are more likely to fall asleep quickly, providing relief for parents who are struggling with sleep deprivation.

In addition to these benefits, pacifiers can also help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Studies have shown that the use of pacifiers during sleep can reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 50%. It is believed that the sucking motion helps to keep the airway open and prevents the infant from stopping breathing.

the importance of non-nutritive sucking for premature babies​​

Non-nutritive sucking is essential for premature babies to develop their sucking reflex, which can be challenging for premature infants. Non-nutritive sucking can help them develop the coordination needed to breastfeed or bottle-feed effectively.

The use of pacifiers also helps create the connection to sucking and feeling full when used in conjunction with tube feeds. The specialists over at The Children’s Therapy Centre always recommend that preemies suck on a dummy whilst being tube fed.

Reasons for Different Size Pacifiers and Different Pacifier Shapes

When it comes to pacifier sizes, there are different sizes available to suit different ages and stages of development. Newborns and young infants may require smaller pacifiers to fit their smaller mouths, while older infants may need larger pacifiers to accommodate their growing mouths.

Pacifier nipples also come in different shapes, including round, anatomical, orthodontic and symmetrical. Round pacifiers are the most traditional and have a circular shape that is easy for infants to hold in their mouths. Anatomical and orthodontic pacifiers have similar properties where they are designed to mimic the shape of a mother’s nipple and can be helpful for breastfed babies who may have difficulty latching onto a traditional pacifier. Orthodontic pacifiers are flat on the bottom and round on the top.

Orthodontic pacifiers are specially designed with baby’s developing teeth in mind and help to minimise misalignment caused by pacifiers. The shape of the nipple supports the developing jaw and palate. Traditional round pacifiers may have a higher chance of causing an open bite or overbite than orthodontic pacifiers do. Symmetrical pacifiers have a similar shape to round pacifiers but are designed to be reversible, so the baby can use either end.

Additionally, some pacifiers are designed with special features such as air vents to reduce the risk of skin irritation around the mouth. These specialized pacifiers can be helpful for parents who want to ensure their baby’s pacifier use is as beneficial as possible.

Pacifiers with a heart-shaped dummy shield are preferred by the professionals over at The Children’s Therapy Centre because they are ideal to allow for nasal breathing. This helps reduce the risk of kids becoming mouth breathers whilst the dummy is in.

Why Pacifiers Exist in Different Materials

Pacifiers are available in different materials, including latex and silicone. Latex pacifiers are softer and more flexible than silicone pacifiers, making them more comfortable for some babies. However, latex pacifiers can break down more quickly and may need to be replaced more frequently. Silicone pacifiers are firmer and more durable, making them a good choice for babies who tend to chew on their pacifiers.

It is important to note that some babies may reject a pacifier due to material type. If your baby no longer takes their pacifier, it might be time to try a different material. For example, latex pacifiers can make some babies gag due to their powdery texture.

Safe Pacifier Use

While pacifiers can help to soothe and calm a baby, it is important to be cautious about offering a pacifier too often. If you offer a pacifier too frequently, your baby may miss feeding cues, and this can lead to problems with weight gain and nutrition.

It is important to note that while pacifiers can provide numerous benefits, they should be used safely and responsibly. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to offer a pacifier until breastfeeding is well-established, typically around three to four weeks after birth. It is also important to never force a baby to take a pacifier, as they may not be ready or willing to use one.

Parents should be cautious about offering a pacifier too frequently, as it can interfere with a baby’s feeding cues and lead to inadequate nutrition. It is recommended to offer a pacifier only after a baby has finished feeding and is still showing signs of wanting to suckle. Additionally, pacifiers should not be used as a substitute for comforting or bonding with a baby.

Finally, it is important to regularly inspect pacifiers for signs of wear and tear, and replace them as needed. Pacifiers should be washed regularly with soap and water, and never dipped in sweet substances or alcohol as this can be harmful to a baby’s health.

Inspecting a pacifier for signs of damage:

Regularly checking your pacifier is crucial for maintaining the safety and health of your baby. Here’s a detailed write-up on how to spot potential issues and ensure the pacifier is safe for use:

  1. Visual Inspection
    Start with a thorough visual inspection in good lighting. Look for any visible cracks, tears, or holes in the nipple part of the pacifier. These can become a breeding ground for bacteria or pose a choking hazard if pieces were to break off. Also, check the entire pacifier for discoloration, which could indicate material degradation or mold growth.
  2. Feel for Weak Spots After visually inspecting the pacifier, use your fingers to gently squeeze and manipulate the nipple and the base of the pacifier. You’re checking for any weak spots, unusual softness, or changes in the material’s texture. Over time, materials can break down and may not be as resilient, indicating it’s time for a replacement.
  3. Pull Test: Perform a pull test on the nipple by tugging it in all directions. This test checks the nipple’s strength and its attachment to the base. Any signs of loosening or tearing mean the pacifier should be discarded immediately to prevent choking hazards.
  4. Check for Biting Marks: Examine the pacifier for bite marks or signs of chewing. As babies grow, they develop stronger jaws and teeth, which can damage pacifiers more easily. Significant bite marks or pieces becoming loose are clear indicators that the pacifier needs to be replaced.
  5. Smell Test: A quick smell test can help identify any unusual odors that might not be visible, such as mold or bacterial growth. If the pacifier smells off or unlike its usual scent, it’s safer to replace it.


General pacifier guidelines

  1. Sterilizstion and Cleaning: Regular sterilisation and cleaning according to the manufacturer’s instructions can help maintain the pacifier’s condition. However, if you notice any damage after cleaning, or if the pacifier does not seem to come clean, it should be discarded.
  2. Follow Manufacturer Guidelines: Always refer to the manufacturer’s guidelines for the lifespan of a pacifier. Most recommend replacing pacifiers every 1-2 months for safety and hygiene reasons, even if no visible damage is found.
  3. Monitor Usage: Keep track of how long a pacifier has been in use. Over time, the constant exposure to heat, moisture, and cleaning agents can degrade the material, even if there are no visible signs of wear and tear.
  4. Safe Storage: Store pacifiers in a clean, dry place when not in use. Proper storage can prevent damage and contamination from external sources.
  5. Consider Material: Different materials may show wear and tear differently. For instance, latex pacifiers tend to wear out faster than silicone ones. Knowing the material can help you gauge how quickly a pacifier might degrade.


Regular inspection of your baby’s pacifiers is essential to ensure they are safe for use. At the first sign of damage or wear, it’s best to replace the pacifier to avoid any potential risks to your baby’s health and safety. Always have a spare pacifier on hand so that you can replace one if it becomes damaged or los

So, remember – pacifiers and non-nutritive sucking can have many benefits for both infants and parents. When choosing a pacifier, it is important to consider the size, shape, and material to find the best fit for your child. With the right pacifier, you can help to soothe your infant, promote good sleep habits, and reduce the risk of SIDS, all while making life a little easier for both you and your baby. By using pacifiers safely and responsibly, parents can provide comfort and support to their babies while still maintaining a healthy feeding routine.

Giving parents one less thing to stress about.

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