Pacifier. Soother. Dummy. Nubby. Binky. Paci. Wubby. Whichever term you prefer, it is used for the same purpose — to calm and quiet your little one. With so many shapes, sizes, colors, and designs, some may look a little more like a fashion accessory. Lately, there seems to be so much advice on the internet; when to offer one, why to avoid them, what are the benefits of using one. You may be worried that they cause nipple confusion or are a “bad habit”.
In reality, pacifiers do have benefits. The American Academy of Pediatrics shares a meta-analysis by Hauch, MD, MS et al (2005) suggesting that using a pacifier during sleep for the first year of life may decrease the risk of SIDS. Pacifiers also meet your baby’s natural need to suck and are very helpful tools for fussy periods. But is it as easy as placing one in your baby’s mouth and watching them drift off to sleep? Unfortunately, not always. Let’s learn more about introducing a pacifier…
First, let’s talk about the sucking reflex. Your baby Is born with this reflex which allows them to feed at birth. This reflex is elicited by stimulating the roof of your babe’s mouth. Another reflex your baby is born with is the thrusting reflex. This is thought to help decrease choking risks by allowing a baby to push or thrust objects out of their mouth that maybe shouldn’t be there. The thrusting reflex is elicited by touching the tip of your baby’s tongue. This reflex can make it difficult to introduce a pacifier and may even make it look like your little one is rejecting it.
So knowing how these reflexes may work with you or against you, let’s talk about the steps in introducing a pacifier to your baby:
First things first, when you initially introduce a pacifier to your baby you will want to make sure they are calm, ideally after a feed. Trying to introduce something new when they are upset may only end up frustrating you both.
Tip: Cradle your baby as you would when feeding them, nice and close to your body.
Second, you do not want to place the pacifier straight into your baby’s mouth, this may make your babe close their mouth or you may touch the tongue which may elicit the thrusting reflex. So make sure to first gently rub the nipple of the pacifier on your baby’s lips. Wait for them to open their mouth like they would for a bottle or breast.
Next, you will want to angle the pacifier so the nipple is pointing toward the roof of your baby’s mouth. Remember we want to stimulate the sucking reflex and avoid the tongue-thrust reflex. Once your baby has closed their mouth and begun sucking, you will want to hold onto the pacifier for a few more moments. Make sure they have a good grasp of it before letting go. It may fall out a few times at first but this doesn’t mean your baby is rejecting it, they are still learning.
Lastly, give your baby and yourself grace. You are both navigating through these new skills together and you can always reach out to your closest Mama Coach for extra support.