Susannah Birch is a certified birth doula, journalist, and owner of Trimester Talk, a leading pregnancy website.
As a new mother, I heard a lot of horror stories about how hard it is to wean a baby off a dummy. What I didn't hear were the stories about how hard it can be to get a baby to take one!
Babies all like to suck on something. Some parents are happy for their baby to use a thumb, fist, or finger. Other parents prefer to use a dummy because they're worried about the baby's teeth, or they just want to avoid the large amounts of saliva that coat the baby after a good thumb-suck!
However, not all babies are the same (if you haven't discovered this already!). Some take instantly to a dummy, while others have to have a good think about it or just flat-out refuse. Whatever the case, hopefully this guide will give you a helping hand!
A Dummy Is Not Always Required
Please Note: This is NOT a guide recommending that babies have dummies. In fact, babies can do just fine without a dummy. However, in cases where babies have wind or reflux, the comfort of a dummy can give the parents a much-needed break.
When Not to Use a Dummy
When Starting to Breastfeed
If you plan to breastfeed, it's a good idea not to use a dummy until the baby has learnt to feed properly and has correct attachment. Generally, the recommended age for breastfed babies to start using a dummy is 2–3 weeks. If you have problems breastfeeding, check with your midwife or a breastfeeding consultant.
With a Newborn
A young baby can sometimes have trouble differentiating between when they want to suck and when they are hungry, since the sucking reflex is an important part of how their body gets food. For this reason, it's a good idea to hold off at least a few days or weeks to make sure baby is healthy and has a good appetite before introducing a dummy.
Common Pacifier Problems
The following situations are very normal, so don't be surprised if they occur with your baby, too.
Baby Latches Onto the Dummy Incorrectly
Breastfed babies are used to opening their mouths wide to take a breast, so young babies do this automatically when something is put in front of their mouth. Until they learn that they only need to suck the teat, they may try to take the whole dummy into their mouths.
Baby Takes the Dummy for a Few Weeks, Then Stops
Don't be surprised if baby seems to love the dummy then suddenly gives it up again without warning. My baby did this, but don't worry—not all hope is lost.
How to Get Your Baby to Take a Pacifier
- Try a Different Dummy: Often, the baby may prefer a different shape or have a preference between rubber and silicone. Also, make sure that you have the correct size for baby's age. (See the section on different types of pacifiers at the bottom of the article.)
- Try at Different Times: Try using the dummy as soon as baby finishes feeding or at different times of the day.
- Try When Baby Is Sleepy: When baby is sleepy, sucking on something can often help them doze off and is more of a reflex than a conscious action.
- Heat or Cool the Dummy: Try heating the dummy in hot water or cooling it in the fridge.
- Put Milk on It: Express or rub a little milk on the dummy.
- Tap It: Place the dummy in baby's mouth and tap gently to get their attention and help them latch on and continue sucking.
- Stroke Baby's Nose: This doesn't work for all babies, but the distraction of having their nose stroked often helps them suck.
- Stop Trying: If nothing works, try taking a break for a few days or even a few weeks. Babies can change their minds about their likes and dislikes at any time!
Never Use Honey or Sugar!
Don't coat the dummy in honey or sugar. This is bad for several reasons. Honey can cause infant botulism. Also, baby can get used to the sweetness and expect it every time they have a dummy, and your baby has a young digestive system which may not be able to handle all the extra sugar.
Different Types of Pacifiers
Rubber is cheaper and more flexible, but silicone dummies often last longer, especially if you sterilize them by boiling.
Dummies come in different shapes, but these are the two main ones. The orthodontic ones are generally meant to resemble a woman's nipple, and so they may be more suitable for breastfed babies.
Dummies are made in different sizes for different ages. Make sure you get the right size so your baby does not feel like they are choking.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and does not substitute for diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed health professional. Drugs, supplements, and natural remedies may have dangerous side effects. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
sunshine Locklear on December 11, 2018:
Hi to All Mothers its ok if your little one does not take a pacify . mine dies not and i have no promblems with him whatsoever . hes teething at an eary age but i also keep him intertain with many teether soothers . and he loves watching his little programs .so i did not need a pacify for him thank god . but all our childern are differnt in all ways .so i wish you all the best . and god bless you all and your beautiful little ones➕
Debra Allen from West By God on January 21, 2015:
My oldest never liked those things and she never sucked on anything but a bottle and then she was a short time on that too. There is no rule that they have to suck on onything but a bottle or a real honest mother's nipple.
Becki Rizzuti from Indiana, USA on August 27, 2014:
I preferred to use my own (clean) fingers when my children were very small, or to offer a nipple with my youngest (since she's the only one who was exclusively breast-fed).
Turns out, though, that I was one of those children who never wanted a dummy. I also didn't suck my thumb. I've never asked my mother what I did suck on, but I suspect it was probably something cloth, like a stuffed animal.
metalmomma27 from Hornell,New York on October 06, 2011:
For new moms to be or new mother I would say the best pacifier I used for my children was the Orthodontic pacifiers. I didn't breastfeed them they were all formula feed babies. The best formula that I think is really good if not breastfeeding would be Similac Advanced with Iron.