Table of Contents
- 5 Binky Basics: What You Need to Know About Pacifiers
- 1. Pacifiers May Reduce the Risk of SIDS
- 2. Breastfeeding Newborns Should Never Use a Pacifier
- 3. Pacifiers Typically Cause Dental Problems
- 4. Using a Pacifier May Increase the Risk of Ear Infections
- 5. You Need to Wash Your Child’s Pacis Frequently
- Will Pacifiers Hurt My Baby’s Teeth?
- I’ve Heard Babies Have Choked On Pacifiers
- Can Pacifiers Cause Nipple Confusion?
- Will My Baby Get An Infection From Using Pacifiers?
- Is It Safe To Put My Baby To Bed With A Pacifier?
- Are There Times when a Pacifier Can Really Help?
- When Should I Start, And Stop, Using A Pacifier?
- The Bottom Line
After his daughter was found blue, choking on a Tommee Tippee pacifier that had broken off in her mouth, one father took to Facebook to warn other parents.
When Earl Wilson heard muffled noises coming from his 18-month-old daughter’s room, he quickly investigated. He was just in time — the pacifier’s nipple was stuck in her throat, blocking her airway. The child wasn’t getting any oxygen.
“If it wasn’t for my wife’s quick thinking, I’d hate to think what would have happened,” Wilson posted on Facebook, along with a picture of the broken pacifier. His wife, Sam, removed the nipple from their daughter’s throat and the child resumed breathing.
Wilson said that he’s also concerned about the pacifier’s branding: “My main concern is it’s an owl dummy (associated with night) so people will be using it at bed time,”he wrote. “I don’t think my daughter would be here now if this happened in the middle of the night.”
The comments section of Wilson’s post offers a wealth of parental knowledge — many commenters advised performing a “pull test,” which entails pulling the soft “chewing” part of the pacifier in all directions to test for signs of damage every time you give it to your baby to suck. Many posters claim that the incident has nothing to do with the Tommee Tippee and that, unfortunately, this can happen with any brand of pacifier.
We tapped Rachel Rothman, Chief Technologist at the Good Housekeeping Institute for advice on how to use pacifiers safely. “Pacifiers must meet the latest safety standards set forth by the U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission (CPSC),” she explained. “They include safety requirements like pacifiers needing specific ventilation holes in the case a baby were to swallow one. This is something a parent can double check.”
If you’re worried, Rothman suggests taking the following steps:
- If a pacifier you are using is damaged in any way (cracks, visual wear, rips, etc.), stop using immediately.
- Register your product so you’ll be updated on any recalls.
- If you have a product that you think may be unsafe or have had an incident with one, report it on SaferProducts.gov.
Update, 3/2/17: GoodHousekeeping.com reached out to Tommee Tippee for comment and they provided the following statement:
The safety and wellbeing of babies is at the heart of absolutely everything we do, so we’re taking this extremely seriously. We’re very sorry that Earl and his wife and daughter have had this experience; it must have been very distressing for them. We’re going to investigate this thoroughly, and have already spoken to Earl’s wife, Sam, to arrange to get the pacifier back so we can examine it. We produce and sell over 15 million pacifiers globally every year, and it is extraordinarily rare for customers to have issues with the baglet. However, like all other pacifier manufacturers, we always advise parents to pull the pacifier in all directions and look for bite marks before every single use, and throw away at the first signs of damage or weakness. Anyone with any questions or concerns about our pacifiers can contact us via our Facebook page or via our Careline on 1-877-248-6922.
A change has been made to the above article. We originally reported that the entire Tommee Tippee pacifier lodged in the baby’s mouth. The nipple dislodged from the pacifier, as you can see in Earl Wilson’s photo — it was “chewy” part that caused the choking, not the plastic handle. We sincerely apologize for any inaccuracies.
5 Binky Basics: What You Need to Know About Pacifiers
Fact: Babies can get fussy. Fact: Pacifiers can, well, pacify them. These two pieces of information are unanimously agreed upon, but the rest of the “facts” circulating around the benefits or harm of pacifiers are more fuzzy. That’s why we went to our experts to set the record straight once and for all.
1. Pacifiers May Reduce the Risk of SIDS
TRUE: Several studies have found a decrease in the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in infants who use a pacifier. “The periodic movement of your baby’s mouth while sucking keeps him in a lighter state of sleep, so there is less of a chance that he will stop breathing,” says Jennifer Shu, M.D., a Parents advisor and coauthor of Heading Home With Your Newborn. “Plus, having a paci in your baby’s mouth helps to keep his airway open,” she adds, which could also help decrease his risk of SIDS. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests offering a pacifier when you put your baby down to sleep for the night. However, this doesn’t mean that you need to offer your baby one if he doesn’t take well to using a pacifier at bedtime. And if your baby does use one to fall asleep, you shouldn’t feel obligated to keep popping the plug back in when it falls out during the night either.
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2. Breastfeeding Newborns Should Never Use a Pacifier
FALSE: The threat of “nipple confusion” often makes new moms shy away from pacifiers, and it’s in part why the AAP has recommended that nursing babies wait to use pacifiers until about one month of age, when breastfeeding is well established. However, more and more experts are questioning this prevailing wisdom, especially now that pacifiers are thought to reduce the risk of SIDS. In fact, a recent study conducted by researchers at Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, in Portland, found that the percentage of babies who exclusively breastfed actually dropped after pacifiers were banned from the Mother-Baby Unit, and more moms ended up supplementing with formula. “Some babies can’t meet their sucking needs by feeding alone,” explains Freda Rosenfeld, a lactation consultant in Brooklyn, New York. So there’s nothing necessarily wrong with a newborn using a pacifier, if she is gaining weight well and has recently been fed. Just take care to not offer a paci to your baby instead of your breast when she might be hungry.
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3. Pacifiers Typically Cause Dental Problems
FALSE: For most babies, there’s no harm done in the first two years. Your child’s mouth is so malleable that whatever change a pacifier may cause in the palate and teeth could correct itself. If your child continues to use the paci into toddlerhood, it can lead to malocclusion (when the teeth don’t align properly), such as an open bite in the front or a cross bite in the back. However, it’s not just the age at which your child gives up the paci that’s important, but how vigorously he sucks, cautions Dr. Shu. Gentle suckers put less pressure on their front teeth and may be able to hold on to the paci longer, even until age 3. On the other hand, babies who have a more energetic suck can develop visible problems with their bite around 18 months.
4. Using a Pacifier May Increase the Risk of Ear Infections
TRUE: Older babies who regularly use pacifiers have a third more ear infections than those who stopped using them at 6 months, according to a study published in Pediatrics. Some doctors speculate that it’s because sucking changes the pressure in the ears. This pressure difference may prevent fluid from draining through the tube that connects the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. When fluid collects there, it can lead to infections. Still, the research isn’t persuasive enough to make a case against pacifiers in general. And they’re only a concern if a baby already suffers from frequent and recurrent ear infections, says Dr. Shu.
5. You Need to Wash Your Child’s Pacis Frequently
TRUE: It’s not news that they get germy–but just how dirty may come as a surprise. When examined under a microscope, used pacifiers were found to have fungi plus bacteria similar to E. coli on and within the nipple, according to recent studies by Richard Thomas Glass, D.D.S., Ph.D., professor of forensic sciences, pathology, and dental medicine at Oklahoma State University Center for Health Sciences. To eliminate some of the bacteria, experts recommend running your baby’s pacis through the dishwater or hand-washing with hot, soapy water daily or whenever they’re dropped. Store the clean, dry pacifiers in plastic zip-top bags for extra germ protection and during transport, suggests Dr. Glass. Plus, it’s also a good idea to replace your pacifiers regularly.
Originally published in the February 2014 issue of Parents magazine.
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.
- By pregnancy symptoms
Are you pregnant and wondering if your baby will be safe while using a pacifier? Do concerns of the older people in your life about pacifier safety have you sweating bullets?
We live in a day and age, where the traditional ways of raising children are being questioned. We now know that some medicines our grandparents used are toxic, and that crib comforters turned out to be a pretty bad idea.
So, as modern parents, we naturally cast a suspicious eye over everything we are recommended. Is it safe? Or is it somehow unknowingly dangerous?
Pacifiers, unfortunately, are one of those items that are not very clear-cut. They have some serious upsides and some worrisome downsides to them. The science shows that, even though we know they are associated with certain positive and negative outcomes, we don’t always know exactly why. Also, some of the known effects can happen at different ages, so that has to be taken into consideration too.
I can’t tell you what to do in your situation, but I can make sure you have all the facts, so as a parent you can make an informed decision.
Will Pacifiers Hurt My Baby’s Teeth?
Pacifiers are not great for teeth. This much the experts agree on, and it’s actually many parents’ biggest concern about pacifiers. Nevertheless, it appears that more than 40% of babies are using pacifiers by the age of one year (source).
Because of the shape of them, when used for a long period of time, they cause your baby’s teeth to be gently nudged into a new position, a bit like braces do. There is moderate evidence that they can make the upper teeth begin to splay out and the lower teeth to fold in (source). It also appears that they can affect the shape of the roof of the mouth.
There are some tooth-friendly bottles out there, but pacifiers are different. Because a pacifier is in the baby’s mouth for longer periods of time throughout the day, there is constant pressure making a bigger impact on the alignment of the teeth.
Even a naturally-shaped pacifier is going to have some effect. And buck teeth or a severe overbite are not just cosmetic problems — there can be delays in proper speech, effects in swallowing, eating solids, and even jaw development.
Most of these problems do not seem to be an issue when your baby has no teeth or only a few. But for these reasons, you should wean your baby off a pacifier well before they have their full set of baby teeth (1).
I’ve Heard Babies Have Choked On Pacifiers
With anything that goes into a baby’s mouth, there is a real risk of choking that should not be underestimated. Just because a pacifier is made for sucking and is sold in stores does not mean we should automatically trust that it is safe or even good for your baby.
Always buy pacifiers from established manufacturers. Some cheap novelty ones, or old designs, may have loose parts that are choking hazards (source). When you are going to buy a pacifier, check the U.S. government’s website for recalls, www.recalls.gov, to make sure there has been no problem with that particular brand.
Check your pacifier for size, moving parts, and air vents.
- Size: Your baby’s mouth size will determine the right pacifier size. Always choose the one that is age-appropriate, unless your baby is small because of a medical condition such as dwarfism, intrauterine growth restriction (IUGR), or prematurity. A safe pacifier must be at least 1.5 inches across (2) so it cannot be taken fully into the mouth.
- Moving parts: Makes sure to buy a pacifier that is made of one solid piece of silicone. If there are any moving parts other than the handle, you need to throw it out. Check the integrity of the pacifier parts before each use, as sometimes the flexible nipple can crack and parts can loosen with time (an example). Learn how to do the Pull Test and do it every time. Video:
- Air vents: A pacifier must, by federal regulation, have at least two large air vents in the shield. This will allow a baby to breathe even if the pacifier gets sucked into their mouth (source).
Finally, never use a pacifier tie or strap, as these can be a serious hazard for your baby. They can get caught on a stationary object and wrap around your baby’s neck, causing a risk of strangulation.
Can Pacifiers Cause Nipple Confusion?
Pacifiers, when used too early, can make your baby reject the breast and even the bottle. Because the size and shape are so different from a real nipple or bottle nipple, a newborn baby might become confused.
The way babies latch on for nursing can be affected by pacifiers in those early weeks. The latch onto a pacifier tends to be more shallow, and this can cause baby to have difficulty when trying to take enough of the breast in to get a good feeding.
There are some pacifiers, like Hevea and NUK soothers, which try to imitate the shape and squishiness of mom’s natural nipple. These can help your baby suck in a manner most closely resembling the natural way.
Pacifiers can also present other feeding challenges. They can help to satisfy the sucking need of smaller babies, meaning they don’t notice as quickly when they are hungry and might feed less often. This can also affect a mom’s milk supply.
Make sure you never use a pacifier while breastfeeding is being established and before offering the breast or bottle to a baby under one month of age.
The flip side, of course, is that some babies use the breast as a pacifier. If your baby is sucking but not swallowing long after the feed is finished leaving you sore, you might want to use a pacifier then in limited amounts to prevent cracked nipples.
Will My Baby Get An Infection From Using Pacifiers?
Studies have shown that pacifiers carry bacteria and yeast, placing babies at risk for infections. This is because having something touching other objects and then going into the mouth frequently means those organisms may hitch a ride.
Bacteria and other microbes can also breed in tiny pores on pacifiers, especially the longer they are around, so unless you keep a supply and sterilize regularly, some bacteria will be carried around on your pacifiers (3). Wash them frequently with hot, soapy water, and let them air dry. Make sure not to lick them clean or share them among siblings. And throw them away after two to four weeks of use.
Most recent studies have shown a clear risk between pacifier use and otitis media (ear infections) from ages six months to two years. The reason for this, however, is still unclear. It is thought that sucking on the pacifier changes the pressure gradient between the eustachian tube and the middle ear, which might create an environment more conducive to infection. Others have suggested that pacifiers, since they are used more often in babies that have weaned early, may be a marker for babies that are not breastfed and, therefore, are already known to have a greater risk for ear infections (4)(5).
Both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the American Academy of Family Physicians recommend weaning the pacifier by age 6 months in order to help prevent ear infections.
Is It Safe To Put My Baby To Bed With A Pacifier?
Pacifiers can really be a lifesaver for parents with a restless baby. The act of sucking has been found to help babies get to sleep, but if you keep nursing your baby to sleep, you can create a sleep association that will leave you exhausted.
Pacifiers have also been found to reduce the risk of SIDS. It is assumed this is because the motion of sucking keeps babies’ breathing regular.
The big downside to both of these is that pacifiers can create a sleep association, which is basically a habit. This means that you may end up with a baby who cannot fall asleep without the pacifier. Your baby may then have a problem waking to find the pacifier has fallen from their mouth, start crying, and you have to get up throughout the night to keep replacing it. To prevent this, you should wean them off the pacifier between four and twelve months of age.
Are There Times when a Pacifier Can Really Help?
There are situations where giving a pacifier has been shown to really help babies (source). It gives them periods of Non-Nutritive Sucking (NNS), which has benefits for babies in certain contexts.
- Studies have shown that giving a pacifier during or just after a painful procedure, like circumcision, heel prick, or vaccination, can comfort babies and help their heart rates return to normal more quickly. Putting expressed breast milk or formula on the nipple creates an even greater effect on pain control and stress relief. This should only be done when the pacifier is used for pain management, but never on a regular basis as it contributes to tooth decay.
- When babies have to be separated from mom for a period of time, there is a benefit to pacifier use. This might happen if an infant becomes ill, for example, and has to be admitted to the hospital. There may be periods of time with procedures or testing where they are not able to feed. Pacifiers can give them a way to cope by self-soothing NNS and also prevents loss of the sucking reflex.
- Premature babies who are developing the coordination for suck-swallow-breathe may need stimulation to move this process along. NNS gives them the chance to practice and learn to establish a healthy pattern while transitioning to oral feeding. This would take place in the NICU environment with the guidance of medical professionals.
When Should I Start, And Stop, Using A Pacifier?
If you intend to use a pacifier, the starting age depends on you and your baby.
A healthy breastfed baby should only begin when feedings are well established to decrease the risk of nipple confusion. For bottle-fed babies, it is a good idea to wait until they are back to birth weight (6).
Crucial to Know
Weaning off pacifiers can be done in one day or gradually, and should really be completed by six months of age to prevent some of the negative effects that can happen after that time.
Some babies will even wean themselves off their pacifier, or start chewing it instead when they begin teething. This could make the transition very easy, so seize the moment and give them a teething toy instead. Make sure to get rid of all your pacifiers if this happens, and you won’t have to go back.
The Bottom Line
As I said at the start of the article, pacifiers are not a black or white thing. They have some benefits and some downsides, and nobody but you can make the choice for your baby.
Looking at the available evidence, it appears that starting a pacifier too soon and ending its use too late can clearly cause problems. Also, how frequently it is used plays a role in ear infections, arrangement of the teeth, sleeping patterns, development of speech, learning to self-soothe, and the eventual ability to discontinue use.
The advantages for the prevention of SIDS might mean it would be helpful to use it for sleep only, and only during the first year of life. Beyond that time, the beneficial effects are less, and more of the negative factors begin to weigh in more heavily.
With this guide, you can now make an informed decision about whether pacifiers may be right for you and your child. It may not have to be an all-or-nothing thing. Noting the particular times that a pacifier will be helpful and indicated is key. And then not using it as a crutch and weaning it when recommended will ensure that all goes well for you and your baby.
What do you think about pacifier use? Did your babies love them or hate them? What difficulties did you face when using a pacifier?
We’d love to hear all about your experiences in the comments. If you know of any moms who are wrestling with this decision, send this article their way.
HARTSVILLE, TN (WSMV) – A couple is sharing memories of a child with an unforgettable smile days after his choking death.
The family of seven-month-old Ridge Williams said the young boy choked on a pacifier.
“People in restaurants and grocery stores would pass by and say how beautiful and what a big smile he had,” said Ashley Williams. “I know a lot of people say this about their kids, but he was really a happy baby.”
“That was his character,” added husband Colby Williams. “That was him.”
The couple shuffled through a stack of pictures with their three-year-old daughter Ellie.
“What’s Bubba doing in that picture?” Ashley asked Ellie, showing her a picture of little brother Ridge.
“Eating an apple!” shouted Ellie.
“He did eat an apple, didn’t he?”
From the stack of pictures, one thing is certain. There was a special bond between Ridge and Ellie.
“That’s him and his sister, always together, always holding hands,” said Ashley, picking out another picture from the stack. “He could never get enough of her.”
This was supposed to be Ridge’s first Christmas, a day to be spent with mom, dad and Ellie at home in Trousdale County.
“He was a little angel that was sent here for such a short time,” said Ashley.
Last week, the family said Ridge was staying with a babysitter when he choked on a pacifier.
“We just kept saying, ‘We don’t need anything. We just need prayers. We need prayers,'” said Ashley.
After days at the hospital, Ridge passed away.
Colby said his son’s death is being investigated, and the family can’t talk about it further for right now. He said they only want answers to how this could happen.
While they wait, Colby and Ashley said they’re overwhelmed by the kind words from their community and from people in other states and countries.
“You can never thank those people enough in something this tragic,” said Ashley.
The couple said those kind words could not mean more to them and to a very good big sister.
Donations can be made in the family’s name to Wilson Bank and Trust.
A GoFundMe page has been set up for the family.
Asda has recalled some of its dummies over a choking risk for the second time in just over two years.
The supermarket was alerted to a possible fault in packs of Little Angels 2 Newborn Soothers, after a customer complained on Facebook that the teat had detached from the hard casing of one device.
The baby was unharmed.
In January 2013, Asda asked parents to return packs of the Little Angels Cherry Soother dummies when a fault was identified.
Aspokesperson for the company said: “These are two isolated incidents involving different products. We are yet to conduct our investigation to identify the cause of the problem, but we take any complaints about baby products extremely seriously, which is why we have taken the decision to recall the soothers as a precaution.”
Customers have been asked either to dispose of the products or return them to an Asda store as a precaution for a full refund.
No other Asda Little Angels dummies are said to have been affected.
In a notice to customers, the supermarket said: “These are sold in twin packs, the shield is clear and the plug on the front has a number of different designs.
“We have had one customer complaint that the teat has broken away and detached from the hard casing, so we have taken the precaution of taking the product off sale and recalling from customers due to the possible risk of choking.
“The care and safety of our customers is our top priority, which is why we are recalling the product even though there has been only one complaint and we are yet to conduct our investigation.”
“We are very sorry for any inconvenience caused,” the statement said.