Parenting is a joyful journey, but it also has its challenges. When your baby can’t sleep and cries all night, finding a way to soothe them so you both can rest will be your top priority. Or maybe you need to find a way to help your baby relax in stressful environments, like at the doctor’s office or while traveling.
A trusty pacifier can be an invaluable tool to help you soothe your baby. For some infants, a binky works wonders, magically calming them in any scenario. And, for parents of fussy babies, anything that calms down your little one makes your life easier. You deserve a good night’s sleep just as much as your baby!
So, how does this magical tool work? Let’s break down the science of these tiny saviors, how to use them, and their pros and cons. Then, we’ll go over some practical tips and hacks to get the most out of your baby’s binky.
The Science Behind the Binky
Pacifiers might seem simple, but there’s actually a lot that goes on behind the scenes. Soothing techniques are known as the 5 S’s, which pediatrician Harvey Karp outlines: swaddling, side or stomach position, shushing, swinging, and sucking.
The effectiveness of each technique depends on what your little one likes. All kids are unique! For some, rocking and shushing can get your baby to sleep, but they may wake up when you stop. A pacifier comes in handy whenever your little one needs some extra help soothing themselves!
Pacifier Pros and Cons
- Binkies can help soothe a fussy baby: Some children are happiest when sucking on something This can be an invaluable tool to parents who need a little shut-eye or are trying to keep their baby calm in a busy setting.
- Reduce the risk of Sudden Death Syndrome (SIDS): Studies have shown that sucking on a binky while sleeping may lower your little one’s risk of SIDS. Though the reason why is unclear, experts think it may be because babies don’t sleep as deeply with a pacifier. Or, it could be because the pacifier keeps their tongue further forward in their mouth so it can’t block their airway.
- Helps prevent thumb-sucking: Without a binky, a baby might opt for thumb-sucking. This can expose your baby to more germs than a clean pacifier would and can be a more difficult habit to break.
Though there are potential cons, most can be avoided by knowing what ages pacifiers are most effective at, and when your little one should be weaned off.
- Dependency: Some babies become dependent on the binky to sleep. As they get older, young toddlers can also develop an emotional connection to their pacifier. To avoid this, you can start weaning your little one off their pacifier around six months old.
- Increased risk of middle ear infections: Prolonged pacifier usage can increase the risk of ear infections. However, this risk is lowest before six months old, which is also when the risk of SIDS is the highest and your little one might be most interested in a pacifier.
- Dental Problems: Dental problems may occur when using a pacifier when their teeth start coming in. Experts suggest weaning around two years old and completely ending pacifier use by age three.
- Disrupted breastfeeding: Sometimes, pacifiers can disrupt a breastfeeding routine. You can introduce the pacifier around 3 or 4 weeks old, or after a routine is established, to avoid this risk.
Binky Tips, Tricks, & Hacks
Now that we’ve explored why pacifiers work, and some of the benefits and potential drawbacks, let’s delve into how you can get the most out of your baby’s pacifier!
1. When to Use a Binky
The possibilities for when a pacifier can come in handy are endless! Here are a few times you might find yourself reaching for it:
- Naptime or Bedtime: Any time your little one needs to sleep, a pacifier can help they fall asleep and stay asleep while making sure you get some quiet resting time, too!
- As a Distraction: Any time you know your little one will be in a stressful situation, a binky not only helps them soothe but also distracts them. Try using one during diaper changes or when your little one needs to get a shot. Any time your little one needs a helpful distraction, their binky can be a savior!
- On an Airplane: Babies aren’t able to intentionally pop their ears by swallowing or yawning to relieve pain during pressure changes. Sucking on a pacifier can help keep their ears open and ease their pain.
- As a Transition Tool and Weaning Aid: Pacis can help ease the transition from bottle or breast to sippy cup. Loosing the comforting sucking feeling when transitioning can be tough for little ones, so they may find comfort in their binky.
2. Safety & Cleanliness
Your little one’s safety is the most important, and choosing a well-designed binky with easy cleaning is key. Here are some dos and don’ts when choosing a paci!
- Don’t buy a 2-piece pacifier to avoid the risk of choking on separate parts. Always opt for a single-piece type.
- Do choose a pacifier with holes in the guard to allow easier airflow and avoid saliva buildup, which can lead to rashes and irritation.
- Don’t put anything on the pacifier to encourage your little one to use it like sugar or honey.
- Do boil or run the binky through the dishwasher regularly until your baby is six months or older. This sterilizes the binky and protects your infant from disease.
- Do wash the paci with soap and water regularly when your baby is older than six months.
- Don’t use the same binky for too long. Keep an eye on the pacifier for signs of wear and tear and follow manufacturer guidelines on when to replace it.
- Do make sure the binky is age-appropriate. A toddler pacifier will be too big for an infant’s mouth and will hinder airflow, while a baby pacifier will be too small for a toddler and will put them at risk of choking.
3. Hacks for Getting Your Baby to Take a Pacifier
If your baby’s not interested in a pacifier, then you might benefit from some tips! Sometimes though, a baby simply isn’t interested, and if they don’t need it to soothe, then don’t force it.
- Introduce the pacifier before your baby is already upset. When little ones are fussy, they may be less susceptible to something brand new. Introducing it as a fun object can help them get familiar with it and learn to suck on it.
- Pretend you’re breastfeeding. Maybe your baby is just picky! Try popping the paci in their mouth right after a feeding, or introducing it similarly to how you start breastfeeding.
- Try a bunch of varieties! Babies have preferences and they like what they like. Sometimes it’s as simple as changing the nipple shape (round v. anatomical) or material type. Have some patience and help your little one find the right kind for them!
- Be prepared to help. If your infant loses their binky at night, they don’t know how to replace it! Until they develop their fine motor skills and object permanence, you may need to help them recover their beloved binky. If they don’t cry when they lose it, though, don’t force it!
4. Weaning off the Pacifier
When you introduce a binky, you know you’ll someday have to wean your little one off of it. This can be a complicated process with a lot of deciding factors, like when to start and the best approach, which all depends on your baby. If you’re ready to start weaning, check out our Practical Guide to Pacifier Weaning.
Pacifiers: Tiny Silicone Saviors
With all the different ways a pacifier can help, they’ve become an invaluable tool for countless parents. While they’re great for soothing, they can also be used as distractions, for pain relief, and on an airplane.
The binky won’t just be your little one’s beloved companion, but they’ll also become the ultimate parenting pal! You’ll find yourself carrying your infant’s paci everywhere you go, ready to swoop in and help soothe your baby. Get a little extra rest or avoid a headache in social settings!
If you’ve decided that a binky is right for your little one, feel free to check out our collection of some of the best pacifiers on the market.