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1 Best Pacifiers: How to Choose the Perfect Pacifier

Best Pacifiers: How to Choose the Perfect Pacifier

Published by 
Jess Miller
Last updated: 
December 15, 2021

The complete guide to baby pacifiers

Are you a new parent looking for a way to comfort your baby? A pacifier may be the very thing you need to keep your baby calm and content. But which ones are the best pacifiers on the market?

But how do you choose the perfect pacifier for your baby? This guide covers everything you need to know.

Use the links below to navigate to the appropriate section of the guide. Otherwise, read from top to bottom, it's all great information.

Okay, with the introduction out of the way, let's jump right into the meat of it.

What is a pacifier?

A pacifier is essentially a nipple on a handle that is designed to comfort and entertain your baby.

While some babies only suckle during feedings, others will want to suck on a nipple or baby bottle even after feeding time is over. This suckling can help pacify (guess what inspired the pacifier's name?) an irritated baby. Managed properly, this sucking habit can help comfort baby's nerves and calm a bored or fussy infant.

the different parts of a baby pacifier, nipple, guard and ring - best pacifiers

The most common type of pacifier is made up of three separate parts.

Nipple

The nipple is placed inside your baby’s mouth and sucked on; Providing a familiar comfort that is associated with feeding time.

Guard

The guard (also known as a shield) prevents your baby from drawing the whole nipple into the mouth, which could result in a potential choking hazard.

Ring

The ring, or handle, provides you with a drool free grip used when you need to remove the pacifier from your baby’s mouth.

Baby pacifier names

Many parents have their own name for their baby’s pacifier.

  • Paci
  • Binky
  • Soothie
  • Soother
  • Nubby
  • Plug
  • Nuk
  • Dummy

And these are just a few of the more commonly used names. Your baby may even give the pacifier his own name as he learns to pronounce words and sounds.

How do I know if my baby wants a pacifier?

Your baby may provide you with clues that the time is right to introduce a pacifier.

If your baby:

  • Happily suckles on a baby bottle, even when empty.
  • Suckles on your breast but does not draw milk and is irritable when pulled away.
  • Sucks on his fingers or thumbs.
  • Sucks on the corner of blankets or toys.

Then your baby may be the perfect candidate for a pacifier.

Unfortunately, not all babies will drop hints that they would like a pacifier. This means that you may not know if a pacifier will calm your baby until you try introducing it.

At what age can a baby start using a pacifier?

The appropriate time to introduce a pacifier will vary depending on whether or not you plan on breastfeeding your child.

If you plan on bottle-feeding

If bottle-feeding is the better option for you then you can give your baby a pacifier straight away. Some experts recommend learning your baby's cues indicating pain, gas, hunger, and a need for sleep before introducing a pacifier. The same experts recommend that you hold off until you have seen weight gain, which can be as early as 10 days old.

If you plan on breastfeeding

If you do decide to breastfeed then many experts recommend that you hold off introducing a pacifier for six weeks; or until you are happy with your newborn's breastfeeding routine.

The reason for the delay is that introducing a pacifier to breastfed babies in the early stages of breastfeeding may result in confused sucking by your child.

Sucking a pacifier is a very different mouth and tongue action than sucking on a breast. Introducing a pacifier too soon, or swapping from one to another, can confuse some breastfed babies. This is known as "nipple confusion." You don't want your baby sucking on your breast incorrectly and going hungry.

With a healthy nursing routine in place for your newborn, you are free to introduce a pacifier at your leisure, depending upon your breastfeeding schedule and milk supply.

How to get your baby to take to a pacifier

The process of introducing a pacifier to your baby is incredibly simple. You just need to remember the three T’s.

Time

Set aside a time to introduce your baby to the pacifier. It should be after your baby has been fed but not too close to the next meal.

Temperament

The next variable you need to overcome is your baby’s mood. Introduce the pacifier when your baby is feeling calm and content. If your infant is upset or crying, hold off until his mood improves.

Touch

With the above two T’s taken care of it is time to introduce your baby to the pacifier. Touch the pacifier to your baby’s cheek, just a little further back from the corner of the mouth. Your baby should instinctively turn towards the pacifier and begin to suckle.

Seems simple, right? Unfortunately, not all babies immediately take to a pacifier. Below are some of the reasons why babies refuse to use a pacifier. To keep the trend going, they also start with T.

Taste

Your baby may initially reject the pacifier nipple because the taste is new and confusing.

Try dipping the pacifier in breast milk or formula before introducing it. Once your baby associates the pacifier with a familiar and reassuring taste he may just never give it up.

Type

I am sure you are already aware of this but your little baby is a unique individual. Just because one type of pacifier was adored by another baby does not mean your baby will be a take to it.

Experiment with a few different pacifiers before throwing in the towel. You may find that your baby is rejecting the pacifier because of the texture, shape, or even color!

If your baby resists using a pacifier then don’t force it, simply try again at a later date. If your baby still refuses the pacifier after numerous attempts then you may have to respect your baby’s choice and find an alternate remedy to keep your baby calm and content.

How often should a pacifier be replaced?

Pacifier nipples will eventually wear down with continued use. How quickly the pacifier needs to be replaced will depend on how vigorously and how often your baby sucks the pacifier.

Signs that your baby's pacifier needs replacing include

  • Holes or tears in the nipple
  • Discolored areas
  • Stretched nipple
  • Plastic has turned jagged on guard or handle
  • A piece of the pacifier is loose
  • The nipple is sticky, even after thoroughly washing

Look for these warning signs each and every time you offer a pacifier to your baby. Be sure to pull on the nipple from time to time to make sure that it is still firmly attached to the base.

If you do not replace pacifiers as they age then you risk the nipple (or any other part of the pacifier) breaking off when sucked, putting your baby at risk of choking.

Fortunately, most different types of pacifiers are quite cheap to purchase and will not put a dent in your wallet.

How to clean pacifiers

Unless the packaging states otherwise, you can clean the majority of baby pacifiers the same way you clean your baby bottles and sippy cups. The sterilization process is exactly the same as well.

After you have cleaned your pacifier you may notice that there is still water or condensation inside the nipple. This is normal. As long as you have squeezed as much water out of the pacifier as nipple as possible, this will eventually dry out. Simply leave the nipple in a dry, well-ventilated area.

Using multiple pacifiers can be an advantage as you can swap pacifiers over while allowing the pacifiers you have washed adequate time to dry.

Always wash and sanitize a brand new pacifier before introducing it to your baby. This will need to be done each and every time you buy a new pacifier.

Best Pacifiers: Different types you can buy

What are the best pacifiers for newborns? What are the best pacifiers for bottle-fed babies? What are the best pacifiers for breastfed babies? The truth is that baby pacifiers are pretty simple, without many variations, so it's hard to say which are the best pacifiers for a particular situation, whether one is breastfeeding or not. There are basically two different designs of baby pacifiers:

1. Multiple Piece Pacifier


If someone told you to think of a pacifier image in your head, chances are you would think of this. The multiple piece is the most common pacifier on the market.

It is referred to as a multiple piece pacifier as the individual components (nipple, guard, and handle) are all pieces are manufactured individually before being combined into the pacifier you see here.

2. Single Piece Pacifier


Also known as one-piece pacifiers, these pacifiers are made out of a single molded piece of plastic, silicone, or latex (or any combination of the three).

The appeal of single piece pacifiers is that they cannot come apart during pacifier usage, minimizing the risk of your baby choking on his pacifier.

The above pacifiers can come in all manner of creative shapes and designs. Some of the more popular styles of baby pacifier include:

Stuffed Animal Pacifier


How do you make a pacifier even more appealing to your baby? You combine the pacifier with a stuffed animal.

This style of pacifier has only been on market for a few years but is quickly becoming a favorite among parents and babies alike.

Novelty Pacifier


Soothe your baby and entertain onlookers at once with a novelty pacifier.

Available in all kinds of funny and unique designs from mustaches to crooked teeth, these pacifiers will bring a smile to your face every time you glance at your baby.

Novelty pacifiers are a great way to dress your baby up for a costume party or Halloween.

Feeding Pacifier


Once your baby hits six months then he can be fed by pacifier as well.

Perfect for the warmer months, simply freeze pieces of fruit before placing them in the feeding pacifier. Your baby will receive a refreshing, fruity flavor as he sucks away.

Many moms report that using feeding pacifiers not only helps a fussy baby's transition to solid food but results in less mess to be cleaned up during mealtime as well. 

Glow in the dark pacifier


Glow in the dark pacifiers do just what their name suggests, they give off a lovely glow in dark surroundings.

Many mothers report the soft light given off by the pacifier during pacifier usage actually helps their baby to sleep, similar to a night light.

As an added bonus, glow in the dark pacifiers are super easy to find if your baby drops his pacifier in the dark.

Things to consider when looking for the best pacifiers

You are probably thinking that a pacifier is one of the more simple pieces of baby equipment to buy. You would be correct. There are, however, some important points to consider when deciding on the best pacifier for your baby.

Size

Baby pacifiers are sized by age group. These ages are generally:

  • Six months or younger (Small)
  • Six to 18 months (Medium)
  • 18 months and older (Large)

How pacifier sizing works will vary greatly depending on the brand. I highly recommend sticking to the recommended age when choosing a pacifier.

A pacifier that is too big can cause a choking hazard while one that is too small may be rejected by your baby.

While some pacifiers are suitable for babies of all ages others only cater to a specific age group. Pay attention to the recommended age bracket on each pacifier. A pacifier used outside of this recommendation may not effectively calm your baby or worse, prove to be unsafe to use.

Construction

The construction of anything that enters your baby's mouth is hugely important. As mentioned above, many pacifiers are made up of three separate pieces. Should your baby’s pacifier fall apart, it poses a significant choking hazard.

If your baby’s pacifier is made up of multiple pieces, give the nipple a good tug. If the nipple detaches then your baby will eventually be able to remove it too.

Many pacifiers are now designed in a single piece. The result is a baby pacifier that will not fall apart. Single piece pacifiers are considered to be the safest type of pacifier.

Nipple Material

The nipple of the pacifier can come in numerous different materials.

Silicone

The most commonly used material for pacifier nipples. A silicon pacifier nipple is easy to clean and is less prone to retaining odors.

Silicone pacifiers can generally be cleaned in a dishwasher cycle unless it states otherwise on the packaging.

Latex

Softer and more flexible than silicon. Many babies prefer the satisfying feeling of a latex pacifier nipple to silicon. Due to its soft nature, latex pacifier nipples can wear out faster than other materials.

Latex pacifiers are generally not dishwasher-safe unless it states otherwise on the packaging.

In the event that your infant has a latex allergy, you can still use a natural rubber (non-latex) or silicone pacifier for your child.

Warning

Avoid latex pacifiers if you think your baby may

have a latex allergy.

Hard Plastic

The least common material used to create pacifier nipples. Plastic is long-wearing and easy to clean. The downsides are that many babies will reject a plastic pacifier nipple. An even worse outcome is that the plastic can develop a jagged edge, cutting the inside of your baby's delicate mouth.

Type of guard

The guard or shield should measure at least 1 ½ inches. The guard prevents your baby from drawing the nipple into his mouth and choking during pacifier use. A curved shield is sometimes preferred, though designs can vary and it's not a requirement.

The guard of the pacifier should contain ventilation holes. These holes allow air to circulate between the guard and your baby’s face which helps prevent moisture rash.

Washable

Since a dummy is going to spend a generous amount of time in your baby’s mouth, you are going to want to keep it clean and sterile.

Choosing a pacifier that can be boiled or is dishwasher safe will cut down on cleaning time significantly.

Color

Trust me, you will lose a lot of pacifiers. This could be from your baby spitting out the pacifier and it rolling under the couch or you simply misplacing it.

I recommend avoiding clear pacifiers as these are very easy to lose. A brightly colored pacifier will be much easier to spot at a glance.

Pacifiers are like pens and socks. They will mysteriously disappear and leave you scratching your head as to where on earth it could have gone.

If you find a particular type of pacifier that your baby absolutely loves, do not hesitate to stock up on it.

You don’t need to worry about BPA or phthalates

Ordinarily, you would be told to avoid baby products that don’t proclaim they are BPA or phthalate-free.

Pacifiers buck this trend. Phthalates have not been used in pacifiers sold in the United States since 1999. As for BPA, well, most pacifier nipples are made from latex or silicone. These materials generally don’t contain BPA. Just because a pacifier doesn't proudly proclaim it is free from these nasties does not mean that it contains them.

The best pacifiers that money can buy

While each baby will have a favorite pacifier, there are a variety of highly recommended pacifiers on the market. Below I have listed the top pacifiers around. Each of these pacifiers is used by hospitals across the US. How's that for a recommendation?

Best single piece pacifier

Colors: Blue, Green, Yellow, Pink, Purple Ages: 0-3 months and 3+ months

  • Hospital-grade silicon
  • Single piece construction
  • Durable
  • Easy to clean

The pacifier by Philips is one of the most popular on the market. Constructed from soft medical grade silicon you will find this pacifier incredibly easy to clean, no matter how much your baby tries to gunk it up.

The single-piece design adheres to the American Academy of Pediatrics recommendations. The medical experts of the American Academy are equally expert at matters of pediatric dentistry and oral development.

Best stuffed animal pacifier

Styles: many different animals to choose from Age: Up to 6 months

  • Medical-grade silicon
  • One-piece construction
  • Durable
  • Easy to clean

All the appeal of the Philips pacifier above, with a soft toy attached. The stuffed animal will make it easy for you to spot your baby's pacifier should it fall to the ground during pacifier use.

Despite the added stuffed animal, the pacifier is incredibly easy to clean. Simply throw the pacifier in a mesh bag and place in your washing machine on a gentle cycle.

The only thing that prevented this pacifier from taking our first place was the cost. Compared to some of the others on the market, this brand is rather expensive.

Best multiple-piece pacifier

Styles: many different styles to choose from

  • Medical-grade silicon
  • Durable
  • Easy to clean

A favorite among many mothers, the Nuk baby pacifier is orthodontic to help promote healthy oral development. Like other orthodontic pacifiers, the nipple of the Nuk pacifier is designed to emulate the nipple of a breast, resulting in a natural and familiar fit.

Nuk offers four different sizes of pacifiers, the largest size range of pacifiers listed. The idea behind this is that as your infant grows, there is a pacifier to suit the stage of development.

Best pacifiers: tips and tricks

If your baby drops his pacifier on the floor of your house, it is fine to simply rinse it off with hot water before giving it to your baby. If your baby drops the pacifier outside the house, clean it in hot and soapy water.

Set aside a dedicated spot to store your pacifiers. Like your car keys, pacifiers are easily misplaced. By only storing your baby's pacifiers in one location, you reduce the likelihood of them being lost.

D.I.Y. Popsicle Pacifier for your babies

A great way to keep your baby cool in summer is to turn your baby's pacifier into a popsicle by freezing your pacifier. For this to work you will need a hollow silicon or latex pacifier.

  • Place the nipple between your forefinger and thumb. Squeeze your fingers together, forcing all the air out of the nipple.
  • With your fingers still together, submerse the pacifier in water and release your fingers. The nipple should slowly draw in water.
  • Once your nipple is filled with water, place the pacifier upside down in the freezer. You want all the water to sit in the top of the nipple.
  • Once the water is frozen, give the pacifier to your baby for a refreshing and calming treat.

Pacifier Safety - Dos and Don'ts

Just like with any baby product, pacifiers will require you to take specific precautions.

Don’t attach the pacifier to your baby

Never tie a pacifier to any part of your baby, clothing, crib, car seat, etc. The string can easily get tangled around your baby’s neck, resulting in a strangulation hazard.

Don’t sugar coat it

Never coat your baby's pacifier in any substance, especially sweets such as honey or jam. You will risk cavities forming in your baby’s developing teeth.

Avoid the gimmicks

Avoid buying pacifiers that have unnecessary features attached. Extras such as tassels, beads or glitter can easily become detached during pacifier use and harm your baby.

Do pacifiers cause ear infections?

Medical studies have shown that in some cases, children who use pacifiers were more prone to middle-ear infections. This concern seems to be offset somewhat by research that indicates babies who use pacifiers seem to have a lower incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

Ear infections vs. risk of SIDS; moderation seems to be the key to finding a happy medium. Making sure your child doesn't overuse a pacifier is extremely important.

Do pacifiers cause dental problems?

The jury is still out on this one. Overuse is believed to increase the risk of "pacifier teeth" (posterior crossbite) in a developing child, however, it would literally take years for such a situation to develop. As long as your child isn't sucking on a pacifier 24/7 for years at a time, the actual risk is pretty minimal.

You are not MacGyver

Never try to create your own pacifier, even when in a bind. While taping a nipple to a plastic bottle top may seem like a great way to calm your baby, it could come apart. The loose nipple could easily get caught in your baby's throat, resulting in suffocation.

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