Please note: This information was current at the time of publication. But medical information is always changing, and some information given here may be out of date. For regularly updated information on a variety of health topics, please visit, the AAFP patient education website.

Information from Your Family Doctor

Pacifiers: Benefits and Risks


Am Fam Physician. 2009 Apr 15;79(8):online.

  See related article on pacifiers.

Why do children use pacifiers?

Sucking is a natural instinct in babies. A pacifier can fulfill this desire. In older children, pacifiers may be a form of security or comfort.

Can a pacifier be good for my child?

Pacifiers may help reduce pain during common procedures, like blood draws and shots. Sucking on the pacifier has been associated with shorter hospital stays and better bottle feedings in babies who were born early (premature). Pacifiers may also lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS, if your baby uses it while sleeping.

Can a pacifier be bad for my child?

It is unclear whether pacifiers cause breastfeeding problems, but some babies may breastfeed less if they use one. It is probably best to use a pacifier only after your baby has learned how to breastfeed well and is at least one month old.

Regular pacifier use after two years of age may cause problems with your child's teeth, but these problems are more likely after four years of age. Although pacifiers usually have germs on them, they haven't been proven to make children sick. Babies who use a pacifier are more likely to get ear infections. It may help to use the pacifier only at bedtime.

What should I know before giving my baby a pacifier?

  • Pacifiers seem to be most helpful in children younger than six months. The risks of pacifier use may get worse after two years of age.

  • Never force your baby to use a pacifier. If it comes out during sleep, don't put it back in.

  • Don't put anything on the pacifier, like sugar, to persuade your child to use it.

  • Pacifiers should be cleaned and replaced often.

  • Your doctor can help you decide when your child should stop using a pacifier, but consider stopping when your baby is six months to one year of age. The pacifier shouldn't be used after four years of age.

Where can I get more information?

American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry

Web site:

American Dental Association

Web site:

American Medical Association

Web site:

U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission

Web sites: and

This handout is provided to you by your family doctor and the American Academy of Family Physicians. Other health-related information is available from the AAFP online at

This information provides a general overview and may not apply to everyone. Talk to your family doctor to find out if this information applies to you and to get more information on this subject.


Copyright © 2009 by the American Academy of Family Physicians.
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