Factors parents should consider when choosing a pacifier


Parents need to take a little time to consider their options when selecting a pacifier for their child. The choice is unlikely to result in family feuds in the same way as choosing your child’s name or their future schools often do, but it is essential that parents are armed with key information in order not to compromise their child’s safety.

Selecting a pacifier is all the more daunting as a result of the wide variety of types on the market. This invariably leads parents to question which one is best and why. This article explores some of the facts about pacifiers which will assist parents in their decision making process.

Pacifiers vary greatly in shape, size and style. In addition to all these factors, parents also need to consider the material the product is made from, various nipple shapes, orthodontic or non-orthodontic pacifiers and so forth. Of utmost importance is ensuring that the pacifier adheres to specified safety standards namely that it is BPA-free, has ventilation holes and is the correct size according to your child’s age.


Safety specifications

Your child’s safety is obviously non-negotiable. The most important feature to be aware of is the shield which should be firmly attached to the nipple to prevent ingestion of the nipple by the child. Paul Dailey, Director of Research and Development of Children’s Medical Ventures says that -Increasingly, pacifier manufacturers believe that the nipple and mouth guard should be of one material and moulded together so that the two do not have to be fused during the manufacturing process. This is due to the fact that when the pacifier consists of two pieces, there is a greater risk of the pacifier becoming a potential choking hazard.

The South African Bureau of Standards largely follows US regulations in relation to pacifier safety standards. However keep in mind that only a small sample of the pacifiers that end up on our shelves are tested, so it’s vital that parents remain vigilant. Despite rigorous testing in many countries, pacifiers that do not meet safety standards are still found on the shelves. In many cases these are recalled, but some may slip through the cracks which is why parents need to be made aware of the following:

Choose a BPA Free Brand

Parents must be aware of the danger of Bisphenol-A in plastic. Studies have shown that endocrine-disrupting hormones found in some plastics can be harmful to infants. All pacifiers that are BPA-free are labeled as such with most popular brands compliant. However, if the packaging does not state BPA-free, do not purchase it.

Ventilation Holes

Ensure that the base or shield of the pacifier has ventilation holes. This is mainly for safety because if the pacifier gets lodged in the baby’s throat (which is highly unlikely) the ventilation holes will allow oxygen in. Each shield should have a minimum of two ventilation holes but could have more. In total the diameter of the holes on either side of the shield should equal 0.5cm. In addition, the ventilation holes allow air circulation so that a build-up of saliva will not be trapped under the shield and irritate the skin around the mouth.

Correct Size

It is important to ensure that you buy pacifiers for different stages of your baby’s life. It is best not to give a newborn size pacifier to a toddler as it could potentially pose a choking hazard. An important specification to note in this instance is that the shield is at least 2.5cm or wider to adhere to safety standards.


Other factors to consider

Latex versus Silicone

Pacifier nipples are usually made from latex or silicone. Silicone is relatively new in comparison to latex but over the last five years it has been gaining popularity. More pacifiers now are made from silicone.

The first thing to consider in choosing between latex and silicone is largely based on personal preference. In terms of appearance, latex is generally a yellow or dark orange colour, whilst silicone is usually clear or slightly cloudy. The texture differs greatly with silicone being smoother and firmer as opposed to latex which is more flexible. In addition to these factors, latex tends to have a slight taste whilst silicone is tasteless. Your baby may show a preference to the flexible feel of latex, or may prefer the firmness of silicone against their gums.

Secondly, the durability of silicone pacifiers far outweighs that of latex pacifiers. Latex pacifiers should be replaced every two months or as soon as one detects damage/stickiness on the nipple. Dr Alan Greene notes that newborns may initially take to latex pacifiers more easily due to their softness but they can also break more easily when chewed on by older babies with teeth. Consumer reports have found that silicone-nipple pacifiers are also safe to put in dishwashers and microwave sterilisers whilst latex pacifiers are not and deteriorate faster when heated. Furthermore, Silicone pacifiers retain fewer odours and can be easier for parents to keep clean., the online version of the nonprofit magazine refers to a 2009 “American Family Physician” article which showed evidence of pacifiers being contaminated by Candida and bacterial organisms and that latex pacifiers contained the highest level of these contaminants.

Finally experts advise that parents choose silicone over latex to avoid the child’s risk of an allergic reaction or sensitivity to latex. MedlinePlus recommends that parents buy silicone instead of latex to minimise this risk. They also point out that babies can develop a rash or asthma – or even go into shock when exposed to latex.

Orthodontic versus Non-orthodontic

Another important consideration in choosing the right pacifier is the shape of the nipple/teat. Most orthodontic pacifiers generally have a flattened nipple on the bottom and rounded on top. Although shapes may vary, the design of orthodontic nipples ensures that the pacifier flattens in the baby’s mouth when sucked, which is meant to simulate the shape of a mother’s nipple which minimises the potential for orthodontic problems. Julie Barna, a dentist and spokeswoman for the Academy of General Dentistry, says that orthodontic dummies ensure that the position of the pacifier promotes normal jaw growth and development. However, paediatrician Laura Jana, co-author of Heading Home with Your Newborn, says that most studies have found that dental problems occur only with prolonged use (after age 5 years). Medical Doctor Rebecca Hicks affirms this view and suggests that the difference is hard to demonstrate as neither type tends to cause problems unless sucked intensely for years.

Once again preference plays a major role in determining which nipple shape to choose as every baby will have their own preference. Try different shapes until you find the one your baby prefers.

In conclusion, the role of a pacifier is to soothe your baby and provide you as a parent that much-needed moment of tranquility. And if coincidentally your baby just happens to favour the pacifier that says -Mom Rocks so be it. And, of course, the most important factor of all is that the pacifier meets the approval of its most ardent critic – your baby.


– Janet Lamont George


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