Can Babies Sleep with a Pacifier? 8 Safety Tips 

It's possible to let your baby sleep safe and sound with their pacifer, but know these tips before you start the routine.

Published January 27, 2023
Newborn baby boy sleeping in cozy basket with his pacifier

From the moment your baby is born, they have an innate desire to suck. This is how they feed and soothe themselves when in distress. This makes a pacifier a very enticing tool for helping your little one find relief in the middle of the night. But can babies sleep with a pacifier? They can! We have the details on how and when you can use this staple baby item.

Can Babies Sleep With a Pacifier?

Not only is it safe for a baby to sleep with a pacifier, but health experts actually recommend it! Research shows that there is a 90% reduction in the risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) when a baby sleeps with a pacifier! That is because this little device requires a baby's tongue to sit in a forward facing position, which keeps their airway open.

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to use pacifiers during sleep for up to the first year of life. More specifically, they note it is best to use a pacifier in the first six months and then reduce or cease use in the second six months. Why? While pacifiers promote a safer sleep, they can also increase the risk of middle ear infections, and they can cause an array of dental issues.

When Can My Baby Start Using a Pacifier?

If your baby is bottle fed, pacifier use can start at birth. In contrast, experts recommend that breastfed babies avoid using a pacifier until their third or fourth week of life. This can help to prevent nipple confusion and ensure that they master a proper latch.

However, premature babies, whether breastfed or bottle fed, should use a pacifier beginning at birth. This can help them improve their oral motor skills-aka sucking and swallowing. This will help them gain weight faster and get back on track!

Tips For Safe Sleep With a Pacifier

While a baby sleeping with a pacifier is a good thing, there are some important rules to follow to guarantee that your child gets a safe sleep.

Choose a One-Piece Pacifier

The Philips AVENT Soothie is the premiere one-piece pacifier that is distributed by hospitals across the United States. Because of their simple design, there's no worry about choking, making them the safest option for babies. There's also an array of other brands that make this type of pacifier, and they come in various nipple types to suit your baby's preference.

Tug at Two Piece Pacifiers Before Each Use

If you decide to go with a two-piece pacifier, then it's imperative that you always pull at the nipple in all directions to ensure it's secure. Parents should do this before every use. If you notice any signs of weakness, throw out the pacifier immediately.

Replace Your Pacifier Often

While your baby's pacifier may appear to be in great condition, manufacturers recommend replacing this baby item every one to two months. This is for hygienic and structural reasons. Upon purchase, take two minutes to read the included instructions to find out their specific product guidelines.

Clean Pacifiers Before Each Use

While this can seem tedious, you need to clean your baby's pacifiers with a mild dish soap and hot water before you pop it in their mouth. Otherwise, dangerous bacteria can grow on the surface. If you choose a two-piece pacifier, parents should also check that no soap has become stuck inside the nipple. If it does, you can rinse this area by continuously squeezing the nipple under warm water. This will fill it with water and then release it, flushing out any soap. Finally, for those who choose to sterilize your baby's pacifiers, always allow them to fully cool before giving the binky to your little one.

Never Adhere a Pacifier to Clothing

While a pacifier clip is extremely convenient when you're out in public, when it comes time to put your baby down for some much needed shut eye, parents should always remove these accessories. They can pose a strangulation risk, and sometimes a choking risk, depending on their construction.

Upgrade Your Pacifier as Your Baby Grows

Babies can sleep with a pacifier at night when the pacifier is the correct size. When purchasing these baby accessories, there will be an age designation on the packaging (0+ months, 3+ months, 6+ months, and 6-18 months). This determines the size and durability of the nipple and the size of the nipple shield. Follow these guidelines to guarantee safety.

Do Not Dip the Pacifier in Anything

While your grandmother may tell you to put something sweet at the end of the teat to get your baby to take their pacifier, experts do not recommend this advice. For babies with teeth, this promotes tooth decay. Since baby teeth are the foundation for a person's future dental health, avoid coating the pacifier in anything and brush their teeth before popping in their paci at bedtime. Most importantly, if your baby doesn't want to take their dummy, then don't force it.

Never Use a Baby Bottle Nipple as a Pacifier

When all of your pacifiers have magically vanished into thin air, a baby bottle nipple can seem like a suitable substitute. This is not a safe option. It can actually pose a choking risk. Handing over an empty bottle is also not a viable option. This can cause your baby to swallow air, which can lead to bloating and abdominal pain.

How to Prevent Pacifier Dependence

Cropped Hand Giving Pacifier To Baby Girl

A pacifier is a fantastic tool for facilitating safe sleep, but these baby accessories can turn into a comfort item or transitional object quite quickly. It is important to remember that this is a temporary tool, so your baby needs to learn how to self-soothe prior to its disappearance. If you don't want your baby to become too attached to this item, then limit use to nap times and bedtimes. This can help your baby to learn to comfort themselves in other ways and prevent potential health issues.

Also, when a baby relies on a pacifier to sleep, it can make life extremely difficult for parents. Therefore, consider inserting the pacifier into their mouth after they fall asleep. Simply place the tip of the pacifier nipple in your baby's mouth and allow them to suck the rest of the nipple in on their own. To make certain that they have a good grip, give it a small tug after it is in their mouth. If it falls out of their mouth later in the night, you do not need to reinsert it.

Last, do not use the pacifier every time your baby gets upset. Find alternative solutions for soothing your little one. These can include holding your baby while standing up, gently stroking their back or face, or distracting them with toys and songs.

What to Look For in a Pacifier

Not all pacifiers are created equal. Before stocking up on this baby essential, you must first find the nipple style that best suits your baby. This requires simple trial and error. Once their preference has been determined, choose a pacifier that's made of a safe material like silicone or latex, and is dishwasher safe and BPA free. Another spectacular feature to look for is a pacifier that glows in the dark. While this may seem silly, when searching for their binky in the middle of the night in a dark room, this can be a very beneficial quality!

Finally, always read the fine print. While you may think that pacifiers are self-explanatory, many products have specific usage guidelines. For instance, the WubbaNub brand pacifiers that come with the adorable plush lovie attached to them are only made for "observed napping and awake sucking". They also note that their pacifiers are not to be used by teething babies. This means that while there are age recommendations for this product, if your baby has even one tooth, the pacifier is no longer safe. In other words, the only way it is safe for a baby to sleep with a pacifier is if you do your due diligence!

Can Babies Sleep with a Pacifier? 8 Safety Tips