Can a Baby Sleep With a Pacifier? Know the Pros and Cons

Smiling Baby Sleeping

For many parents, pacifiers are a must-have baby item. They help satisfy a baby's natural urge to suck and can have a calming effect. When your baby is fussy, reaching for a pacifier may be the easiest way to soothe them. If your baby tends to have trouble sleeping, you may wonder— can a baby sleep with a pacifier? Here are the facts on giving your baby a pacifier at night.

Advantages of a Baby Sleeping With a Pacifier

There are many reasons why a parent might choose to give their child a pacifier at bedtime or nap time. Sucking on a pacifier can help soothe and settle babies, which may help them fall asleep, as the Mayo Clinic explains.

Better sleep for babies and their parents isn't the only possible advantage of pacifier use. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) reports that sleeping with a pacifier can help reduce a baby's risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The National Institutes of Health explains that SIDS, also called crib death, is an unexplained, sudden death of a baby. For babies between 1 month and 1 year old, it's the leading cause of death.

Disadvantages of Giving Your Child a Pacifier to Sleep

While there are notable advantages of an infant sleeping with a pacifier, there are also some disadvantages for parents to keep in mind. When babies depend on a pacifier to get to sleep, they may wake up if the pacifier falls out during the night. The AAP advises parents to prepare to be woken up if this happens.

When the time comes to say goodbye to the pacifier, toddlers may struggle to fall asleep without it. The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD) explains that parents may need to offer transitional comfort items to help their children adjust. For example, children may need to start sleeping with a stuffed toy.

Children often lose interest in their pacifiers between ages 2 and 4, but some want to use them for longer. However, the AAPD warns that long-term pacifier use can lead to orthodontic problems down the line, such as crooked teeth or upper teeth that tilt outward. It may also interfere with the growth of the jaw and lead to changes in jaw alignment.

Best Practices for Safe Pacifier Use

After carefully considering the advantages and disadvantages of your baby sleeping with a pacifier, you may decide to let your baby use their pacifier at bedtime or nap time. Here are some best practices to keep in mind:

  • Choose a one-piece pacifier. Two-piece pacifiers can break and pose a choking hazard, notes the Mayo Clinic.
  • Avoid pacifiers that are attached to infant clothing, stuffed toys or other objects, as these pose a risk for choking or suffocation, according to the AAP.
  • Inspect the pacifier regularly, and replace it when it starts to show signs of wear.
  • Avoid cleaning the pacifier with your mouth. The American Dental Association (ADA) warns that this can spread cavity-causing bacteria to your baby.
  • Avoid dipping the pacifier in sweet substances, such as sugar or honey, since this can contribute to tooth decay, according to the ADA.

So, can a baby sleep with a pacifier? Yes. But while there are a number of reasons to let your child sleep with a pacifier, you may want to monitor your baby's pacifier use and be mindful of any drawbacks. If you're not sure if sleeping with a pacifier is right for your baby, talk to your pediatrician.

This article is intended to promote understanding of and knowledge about general oral health topics. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your dentist or other qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition or treatment.

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