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Could a Pacifier Save Your Baby’s Life?

By Laura Flynn McCarthy

baby sleeping with pacifierSucking on a pacifier while sleeping reduces a baby’s risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) by as much as 90 percent, according to recent studies. Although exactly how a pacifier helps protect an infant from SIDS is not clear, the evidence is convincing enough that the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), included “Consider offering a pacifier at naptime and bedtime” as one suggestion in their latest recommendations for creating a safe infant sleeping environment.

Related Link: How Safe Is Your Baby’s Crib?

Here, from the AAP, are tips on choosing and using a pacifier properly:

  • Choose a one-piece pacifier with a soft nipple that cannot break into two pieces
  • Use a pacifier with a firm plastic shield that is at least 1 1/2 inches wide so your baby cannot put the entire pacifier in her mouth
  • Buy a dishwasher-safe pacifier and clean it according to directions
  • Never use the nipples from baby bottles as pacifiers
  • Replace the pacifier if the rubber changes color or tears, or if it has reached its expiration date
  • Never tie a pacifier on your baby’s wrist, around her neck, or to her crib, all of which could lead to serious injury
  • Do not attach a pacifier to your baby’s clothes before putting her to sleep for the night
  • Never attach a pacifier to a stuffed animal or other toy that could present a suffocation hazard to a baby
  • For breastfed infants, delay introducing a pacifier until breastfeeding has been firmly established, usually by the time your baby is three to four weeks of age

The AAP and SIDS researchers emphasize that giving your baby a pacifier before putting him down to sleep is one additional strategy for reducing risk of SIDS, but it cannot replace other recommended strategies. The key one is “Back to Sleep”, which remains the key advice in the national Safe to Sleep campaign. Other tips:

  • Your baby’s crib has a snug-fitting, firm mattress covered only by a fitted sheet
  • The crib has no bumpers, blankets, pillows, toys or other potential suffocation hazards
  • Dress your baby in footed pajamas for warmth in a fire-resistant fabric

What about all those fun toys and the cozy comforter that your folks bought as a present for your new baby? Save the toys and blankets for times when you and your baby can get down on the floor and play together—under your careful supervision.

Related Link: Does Pregnancy Permanently Boost Your Foot Size?

Laura Flynn McCarthy is a New Hampshire-based writer who specializes in health and parenting topics.