When to Give a Newborn a Pacifier?

Baby Holding Blanket
Baby with pacifier in his mouth (Image: Fuse/Fuse/Getty Images)

Trying to calm a fussy newborn is one of a new parent's greatest challenges. You may feed your baby, burp her, change her diaper and cuddle her -- and find that she still won't stop crying. When nothing else works, offering a pacifier can help calm a distressed baby. If you want to use a pacifier to soothe your newborn, following a few tips can help you choose the right time to introduce it.

Breastfeeding and Pacifiers

If you breastfeed, you should wait at least one month to introduce a pacifier, recommends the American Academy of Pediatrics. This provides enough time to ensure breastfeeding is well-established. In your baby's first days, he needs to nurse frequently to build up your milk supply. If he spends a lot of time sucking on a pacifier, he won't spend that time stimulating your breasts. Pacifier use also can create nipple confusion in babies who are learning how to breastfeed. A baby's mouth and tongue move differently when he sucks on a pacifier than when he nurses. If he attempts to breastfeed with the same sucking method he uses for pacifier, he won't get any milk and may end up frustrated.

Special Circumstances

Introducing a pacifier before a newborn experiences certain stressful events can help soothe her. A pacifier may keep a baby calm during painful procedures, such as shots or blood tests. During a flight, sucking on a pacifier can help a newborn's ears pop, which can reduce ear aches caused by changes in air pressure. Using a pacifier during sleep may reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. By starting a newborn on a pacifier before she turns 1 month, you may help protect her during her second and third months of life, which is the peak risk period for SIDS.

Offering the Pacifier

When you introduce a pacifier to your newborn, look for signs that he really needs it to satisfy his sucking urges. Allow him to decide whether he wants to use the pacifier. Don't force him to take it if he keeps spitting it out. Wait until after he has eaten to ensure he isn't sucking because he is hungry. Use comfort measures, such as holding and rocking, before trying the pacifier.

Pacifier Safety

Once you've decided it's the right time to offer your newborn a pacifier, ensure that her pacifiers are safe. Give your newborn one-piece silicone pacifiers, since two-piece pacifiers become a choking risk if they break. Boil the pacifiers or wash them in the dishwasher frequently to kill germs, since babies under 6 months have a developing immune system. Discard pacifiers if they have loose parts or become worn out. Don't tie pacifiers around your newborn's neck with a string or strap as this poses a strangulation hazard.

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