Be it soothing a fussy baby or preventing the child from sucking his/her thumb, baby pacifiers have a number of benefits. If you too are planning to get one of these baby items, then do check out this guide on how to choose a baby pacifier to help you make the right choice.
Never hang the pacifier by a cord around the baby’s neck. It can pose a strangulation risk.
Baby pacifiers, also known as soothers or dummies, are those miracle-like baby items that soothe and calm a fussy baby who is hungry, in discomfort, or just needs a diaper change. Of course, they are not a substitute to feeding and cuddling, but these pacifiers can satisfy a well-fed yet cranky baby with ease. A pacifier is basically a latex or silicone nipple that the child can suck on. It has a teat, a nipple shield, and a handle. It also acts a great alternative to thumb sucking, which can cause jaw misalignment or malformation. Some studies have shown that pacifiers protect against sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). In fact, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends letting the child fall asleep or nap with a pacifier for their first year. It satisfies the suck reflex and also helps in weaning.
However, like any other baby product, you need to take the utmost care while choosing a pacifier. There are hundreds of pacifier brands out there, in a range of shapes, sizes, colors, and nipple shapes. In this article, we provide some simple tips for choosing baby pacifiers.
Check Nipple Material
The nipples of pacifiers are usually made of either silicone or latex. You can identify latex nipples by their color, which is usually yellow or light brown. On the other hand, silicone nipples are clear or slightly cloudy. Unlike silicone which is hard and sturdy, latex is soft and pliable in the baby’s mouth. However, it is also less durable and does not last as long as silicone nipples. Silicone, on the other hand, has a smooth and firm texture with little or no smell and taste. These are also easier to clean as they can be safely put in dishwashers and microwave sterilizers. Latex nipples deteriorate faster when heated.
Choose the Correct Nipple Shape
The nipple shape and design should be such that it helps in healthy oral development. Usually, experts recommend orthodontic nipples which are flattened on the bottom and rounded on top. Some nipples have an angle or bend. This design ensures that the nipple flattens in the baby’s mouth when sucked. This prevents tooth troubles later in life. Some babies, however, prefer the traditional ‘cherry’ nipple which has a ball-shaped top and bottom.
Check Shield Shape and Fit
Shields are available in a range of colors and styles. The right shape and design of the shield ensures better fit and comfort for the child. There are round, butterfly, heart, and oval shields in a range of colors. Usually, the shields that are butterfly-shaped and curved towards the mouth to rest beneath the baby’s nose, provide a good fit. Some innovative shields have fun elements, such as the Billy-Bob Chomp Baby Pacifier, which looks like nasty teeth.
Check for Ventilation Holes
Ensure that the pacifier shield has ventilation holes. A shield should have at least two holes (about 0.5 cm dia) on either side. These ventilation holes allow air circulation and prevent saliva buildup, which can get trapped in and lead to skin irritation.
Choose the Correct Pacifier Size
All the above factors make it vital to choose a pacifier of the right size. Usually, manufacturers, such as tommee tippee, offer three sizes; for babies up to 3 months, 3 to 9 months, and 9 to 18 months. Consider the child’s age and choose the pacifier size accordingly. Do not provide a pacifier appropriate for a newborn to a toddler, as it could potentially pose a choking hazard. The pacifier size should be 2.5 cm or wider to adhere to safety standards.
Look for Safety
There are certain safety features that you need to look for while buying pacifiers.
- While buying, you need to ensure that the material of the pacifier is free of BPA (Bisphenol A), parabens, PVC, and phthalates. There are many manufacturers who use artificial coloring and chemical softeners.
- Choose a one-piece design to prevent ingestion of the nipple, which can lead to a choking risk. The nipple should be firmly attached to the shield so that there is no danger of the child pulling it out.
- Avoid liquid or gel-filled pacifiers. If the baby bites through it and releases the liquid inside, then it could be harmful for the child.
Ensure Cleaning Ease
Pacifiers need to be cleaned and sterilized after every use. It is best to choose a pacifier that is easy to clean and sterilize. You can always wash the pacifier in hot, soapy water to clean it, but using a dishwasher- and microwave-safe pacifier can only make your job easier. Do not allow children to share pacifiers, and never put the pacifier in your mouth as the saliva of an adult can increase the chances of contamination.
Some excellent pacifier choices would be:
- Nûby Natural Touch Orthodontic Pacifier
- Playtex Binky Silicone Pacifier
- The First Years GumDrop Orthodontic Pacifier
- NUK Advanced 100% Silicone Orthodontic Pacifiers
- tommee tippee Closer to Nature C-AIR Pacifiers
Avoid the urge to buy too many pacifiers. Although the cute designs and shapes may just be too tempting, there are many children who do not even like pacifiers or are very particular about the pacifier they want. Even if your child likes a pacifier, do limit the time you allow your child to use it, as the usage of a pacifier can easily become a habit that can be hard to break as the child grows older. Overzealous pacifier suckers can have dental problems later on or battle with problems of delayed speech. Moreover, it can become a bad habit for parents as well, who plunk in the pacifier at the first sign of a squall, when the real reason for the fussiness could be hunger pangs or even a diaper change.