The pacifier may be the single most important tool in your baby care arsenal. It’s also one of the oldest — the first pacifiers were made of corn cobs and used in England in the 17th century! A pacifier at a crucial moment saved us more times than I can possibly name. Our boys are getting ready to give them up (little do they know), and that will be a sad day.
Call it what you will – a binky, a soother, a paci — this little rubber-and-plastic wonder has helped us ever since our first was born. It can help you, too. Here’s how.
Choosing A Pacifier
There are all kinds of pacifiers out there, different types and sizes and every color imaginable. Here are a few tips on how to choose one.
1. Start with a Soothie. If your baby is born in the hospital, as most are, that’s probably where he or she will get the first pacifier. Hospitals have these amazing pacifiers (if ugly) called Soothies. They’re disc-shaped and usually too unwieldy to be kept in for long, but your newborn will love them. The nurse who taught our baby classes literally told us to take as many as we could get our hands on.
2. The uglier, the better. You know those adorable ones you’ll love unwrapping at the baby shower and capturing in photos. Odds are these will be passed over for an ugly plain-jane pacifier like the aforementioned Soothie. I’m not sure why, but ugly pacifiers always seem to be the favorite with babies.
3. Your baby might be picky. As in most areas of life, your baby will have a preference for one type of pacifier above all. For our boys it was the low-profile Nuk pacifiers. Our niece prefers the Soothie, even though she’s well beyond her newborn months.
Stocking Up on Pacifiers
Pacifiers are like infant formula and diapers in that you never, ever want to run out of them completely. Here are some tips for preventing that catastrophe.
4. Find your baby’s favorite pacifier and stock up. Figure on two for the crib, two for the diaper bag, two for the car, two for the dishwasher, and two to be lost at any given time. That’s ten by my count, and it might just be enough. Be sure to restock when you seem to be running out.
5. Keep extra pacifiers handy. The more you have in reach, the better your chances of finding one when you really need it. We stock them in the diaper bag, glove compartment, on the shelf above the diaper changer, and in the kitchen. In a pinch I’ll even shove one in my pocket as we’re running out the door.
6. Use a pacifier clip. The downside of pacifiers is that they’re small and easy to lose. Nothing’s worse than the sound of a pacifier hitting the floor of a grocery store (or worse, public restroom). A pacifier clip attached to the stroller or your baby’s clothing will keep this from happening. We’ve even used them at night to avoid having to root around in the dark when the baby wakes up.
Pacifiers and Germs
Like anything that goes in your baby’s mouth, pacifiers can be a germophobe’s worst nightmare. Here are some tips for keeping your baby’s pacifiers reasonably sanitary.
7. Ziplocs to travel. Whenever we’re traveling or taking the babies out in public, we bring pacifiers in a snack-sized ziploc bag. This not only make them easier to find, but keeps them relatively clean no matter what bag or pocket they’re shoved into.
8. Pack cleaning wipes. When a pacifier hits the ground, you have a couple of options. Toss it. Ignore it and re-insert. Wipe it off on something, like your shirt. A better option is to keep a little pack of pacifier wipes around. These single-use, disposable wipes do a pretty good job cleaning/sanitizing a pacifier of unknown cleanliness. In a pinch, hand sanitizer and a wet wipe work too.
9. Watch for mold. Pacifiers spend much of their time in a warm, moist place. Watch for condensation inside the rubber part or mold on the outside. Run them through the dishwasher regularly to help keep them clean.
Pacifiers for Teething
Teething often brings out the worst in any baby — they can’t eat, can’t drink, can’t do much more than fuss all of the time. A pacifier could help, or it could be just another thing that they bat away when you come near.
10. If your baby wakes up crying and refuses a pacifier, teething is usually the culprit. One reason this happens so often during the sleep cycle is that teeth grow at night.
11. Run the pacifier under cold water. The cool and wet pacifier soothes your baby’s gums and sometimes will do them enough to get them back to sleep. I find this works best with a new/clean pacifier, not the one they’re currently using.
12. Try a teething pacifier. They make a few pacifier that are specifically designed to help teething babies. The Razbaby Teether, for example, is textured to help massage the gums when your baby has it in his mouth.
Sleep Training with Pacifiers
A pacifier is incredibly useful for baby sleep training — both in helping your baby fall asleep and for soothing your little one after an unexpected wake-up.
13. Make the pacifier part of your bedtime routine. It’s just as important as a clean diaper and soft pajamas, in my book, the very last soothing touch before you leave the room.
14.For older babies, use a pacifier first to wean from nighttime feedings. This is on your pediatrician’s advice, of course, but the pacifier can help soothe your baby back to sleep without eating, a key step in teaching them to sleep through the night. Glow-in-the-dark pacifiers, if you can find them, are much easier to track down in a dark nursery.
15. Hit the snooze button. Countless times we’ve bought ourselves an extra hour of sleep in the morning by offering our early-riser a pacifier instead of getting him up. It doesn’t always work, but when it does, it’s just as good as hitting the snooze button.
Have any pacifier tips of your own that I missed? Please feel free to leave them in the comments below. Other parents will appreciate it!