Bonnie Rochman considers the good, the bad, the ugly:

Pacifiers are among the most aptly named baby paraphernalia, but what if, instead of curing crankiness, they are actually causing babies to be more unruly?
That’s what the latest research suggests: that binkies can be teeming with bacteria, yeast and mold that can actually sicken babies rather than soothe them.

On the other hand, there may be benefits.  It was long-believed that providing a pacifier to a newborn baby interfered with successful initiation of breastfeeding.  However, an Oregon study revealed that denying newborn babies the opportunity to suck on a pacifier actually decreased breastfeeding success.

After analyzing feeding data on 2,249 infants born between June 2010 and August 2011 in the Mother-Baby Unit, the pediatrician-scientists found routine removal of pacifiers during the birth hospitalization was associated with decreased exclusive breastfeeding and increased supplemental formula feeds.

And, a 2005 study published in Pediatrics concluded:

Published case-control studies demonstrate a significant reduced risk of SIDS with pacifier use, particularly when placed for sleep.

Here are some basic pacifier suggestions:

  • If your baby seems to need a pacifier to settle down and become content, then try one.  Or, try to help them discover their thumb.
  • Have ONE pacifier, not ten (one for each hand, each room, each car, etc).
  • Use the pacifier sparingly — when the baby seems to want it or to help them sleep (again, I prefer thumbs — I never met a thumbsucker who was a poor sleeper!).
  • Clean the pacifier regularly (after eating and sleeping) with hot, soapy water, especially when it falls on the floor.
  • Avoid using pacifiers in day-care settings — they really can be magnets for viruses and bacteria.
  • Don’t use your own saliva to clean a fallen pacifier.  Babies can do without a pacifier until you find a sink!
  • Don’t attach a pacifier to your baby’s shirt with a tether device.
  • Try to get rid of pacifiers by the first birthday (or sooner).  It definitely will start to affect dental alignment in toddlers and preschoolers after a year of age, which can affect their facial appearance and developing speech.
  • Your pediatrician can discuss specific strategies to eliminate the pacifier at their scheduled check ups.  By two years of age it has to be gone:  it is simply developmentally inappropriate and potentially harmful to give a preschooler an object made for infants.


Read Bonnie Rochman’s articles for Time.com here and here.

Read study summary from Oregon Health and Sciences University here.

Read abstract for Pediatrics article regarding pacifier use and SIDS here.