Pacifiers can be a polarizing purchase for parents. While some parents choose to use a pacifier from day one, others avoid them altogether. We aren’t here to answer the question should you use a pacifier, but rather to find the best pacifier for those who want to use one.
We spent more than 20 hours of research on the topic—compiling a list of 20 popular candidates, interviewing four moms and a lactation counselor, reviewing the American Academy of Pediatrics opinion—before deciding on the Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier as our winner. We like that Avent Soothie pacifiers are made of a durable and easy-to-clean silicone, met all of the American Academy of Pediatrics guidelines for pacifier construction, and are both inexpensive and easy to find either in-store or online.
Who Should buy a pacifier?
Parents choose to use a pacifier because of its power to, well, pacify. Most babies enjoy the sucking motion of bottle feeding and nursing; using a pacifier is an extension of that and can soothe an anxious tot. Unlike many baby items, pacifiers are generally inexpensive, so even if your baby doesn’t love it, you’re not out a bunch of cash.
A common question is whether parents should use pacifiers with babies who are breastfed. We spoke to Certified Lactation Counselor Mandy Flanders about pacifier use. According to Mandy, “Some people argue that it can cause nipple confusion.” What’s nipple confusion, you might ask? It’s an issue that relates to how your child interacts with a bottle versus how they naturally breastfeed. A baby who is offered a bottle may begin to prefer it to the breast, as it takes less sucking power to eat from a bottle versus from the breast. This can happen for a multitude of reasons, but there are some ways to insulate yourself some from this issue. Our expert says, “If there is already an established breastfeeding relationship and a pacifier is introduced several weeks later, it typically won’t cause breastfeeding problems.”
We also asked Dr. Lawrence Duffy, DMD, a dentist with more than 20 years of experience, about pacifier use with infants and toddlers. He indicated that pacifier use is not generally harmful to children’s dental health, as long as the AAP guidelines are followed.
Another reason to buy a pacifier is for SIDS prevention. A recent list of recommendations for SIDS Prevention by the Mayo Clinic says to use one prior to bedtime or naptime. Read more about that here.
What to Look For
Pacifiers come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, colors, materials and styles. While the pacifier with the mustache may be adorable, it’s important to keep in mind that there are more important aspects to consider.
One such aspect is material: Should you choose a latex or a silicone construction? Most current pacifier brands use silicone, though we did test the the NUK Juicy Puller Latex Pacifier, which is made of latex. The main difference between the two materials is that latex is softer, mimicking the breast better for some babies, while silicone is generally much more durable and long-lasting.
Another important element of a pacifier’s construction is how many pieces are used to make it. Pacifiers that are all one piece have been deemed the safest option by the AAP. Our pick, the Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier, uses this one-piece design.
Finally, and perhaps unexpectedly, color is an important consideration. Brightly-colored pacifiers are easier to find when they’ve been dropped underneath the table, and they’re more fun for the baby to focus on.
How we tested
As with most products, we found that the best place to start our research was by reading reviews from other parents on all the different types of pacifiers on the market. From there, we focused our options and talked to four opinionated moms about their pacifier use with their babies. Real-world testing of several pacifiers with real babies helped us narrow down the field from the initial list of 20 potential candidates.
- Material: Medical-grade silicone
- Construction: One-piece design
- Size: Available in 0-3 month and 3 month plus
Our choice for the best pacifier is the Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier. This particular pacifier comes in two sizes, one for 0 to 3 months and one for older infants. We liked that the infant size was made of a softer, more malleable silicone, while the 3 month plus version was harder, for babies who have begun teething. More than 2,000 hospitals, including Winnie Palmer in Orlando, Florida, a level-3 NICU that specializes in high-risk pregnancy, provide parents with the very same pacifiers.
The Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier has a host of great qualities: it’s 100% BPA free, easy to sterilize, dishwasher-safe, and it is one piece, as recommended by the AAP. Parents love them because they are durable, widely available and inexpensive (about $4 for a pack of two).
who else likes it?
There are over 2,000 reviews on Amazon for the Soothie, with shoppers giving it 4.5 stars. Reviewers cite the pacifiers green color as being easy to spot—but even if you lose yours, they’re inexpensive to replace.
As we mentioned before, the Avent Soothie pacifier is given to new parents in more than 2,000 hospitals across the United States. If that’s not a ringing endorsement, we don’t know what is.
Philips Avent BPA Free Contemporary Freeflow Pacifier
While the Philips Avent Soothie Pacifier is our top choice because of its great attributes and time-tested brand accountability, the Philips brand also offers another great choice in pacifier. The Philips Avent BPA Free Contemporary Freeflow Pacifier is another solid choice. This model differs from our pick in that it has a flatter, orthodontic-style nipple and a plastic mouth shield that has strategically-placed holes that allow air to flow through to the baby’s skin thus preventing yucky pacifier rash around the mouth. Like the Soothie, it is easy to clean and dishwasher-safe, and it also has a handle on the front for a parent or baby to grab. However, it’s not our top choice because it is not all one solid piece. We feel more comfortable recommending a pacifier that is all one piece, as that follows the AAP guidelines more closely.
WubbaNub Infant Pacifier
We would be remiss not to mention the Soothie’s adorable, more expensive cousin, the Wubbanub. The Wubbanub is simply a Soothie pacifier that has been sewn onto a small (think the size of an adult’s palm) stuffed animal. They’re available in dozens of different animal models, but we especially like the giraffe, the elephant, and the special edition reindeer. Wubbanubs are advantageous for a couple of reasons. Anyone who has used Soothie pacifiers before can tell you that they bounce! When you drop them, when your baby spits them out, when they fall unceremoniously out of the dishwasher, they will bounce all over the place. And while they are very inexpensive to replace, spending your time searching for a pacifier that bounced off to who knows where is not any fun.
Enter the Wubbanub.
The small animal that is attached keeps the pacifier near where it fell by weighing it down. Moreover, in our experience, babies love to hold and cuddle the animal. One mom we spoke to even said that once her daughter no longer used a pacifier, that she detached the stuffed animal for use as her daughter’s cuddley toy.
That said, cuteness comes at price. Wubbanubs are about 10 times more expensive than a single Soothie pacifier. But if it works for your baby, it’s probably worth it. We’d recommend getting more than one of a particular animal, in case you lose it or forget it. Babies have a tendency to get attached to their favorite animals.
Some other models that we considered, but ultimately ruled out:
MAM Air Silicone Pacifier– Reviewers of the MAM Air pacifier liked it because it stays in the baby’s mouth more easily that some other models. However, many complained that this style of pacifier wasn’t easy to wash, and that water could get into the nipple, causing mold.
Dr. Brown’s PreVent Design Pacifier– Reviewers liked this pacifier because it is endorsed by the ADA. However, this suffers from the same design flaws that allow water to get into the pacifier nipple, causing it to cloud and be more difficult to clean.
NUK Juicy Puller Latex Pacifier– These pacifiers are the only latex option that we found to be popular among reviewers. Parents who use them seem to like them because they can mimic the feel of the breast better than some silicone models. Complaints included that these pacifiers are not widely available, and that the latex can degrade and discolor over time.
Care, use, maintenance and repair
Proper care and safe use of pacifiers will increase your pacifier’s lifespan, and reduce the amount that you need to continually purchase. (However, our choice is inexpensive enough to buy several, which is probably a good idea, anyway.) We recommend thoroughly washing your new pacifier in soap and water prior to use. Once a few pacifiers have been in rotation for a while using the dishwasher is a great way to wash pacifiers in bulk. Follow the manufacturer’s recommendations here! We also highly recommended placing pacifiers in a secure container, like the Boon Clutch. This way, your pacifiers will stay together, and be secure during rinse cycles.
Pacifiers should be replaced whenever they begin to show any signs of wear, including thinning of the silicone or latex, breaking away of the nipple from the rest of the pacifier, any holes in the nipple, or any cracking in the plastic. Using pacifiers that are worn can lead to them becoming an increased choking hazard. According to the AAP, you should place a baby to sleep with his or her pacifier, but not re-insert it into the mouth once they have fallen asleep.
- Pacifiers: In or Out?, WebMD, 2016
- 5 Binky Basics: What you need to know about Pacifiers, Parents Magazine, 02/2014
- Pacifiers: Are they Good for your Baby?, Mayo Clinic, 2014
- Best Pacifiers for Breastfed Babies, Mom Tricks, 2016
- Nonnutritive Sucking, American Academy of Pediatrics, 2016
- Interview: Dr. Lawrence Duffy, 04/2016
- Interview: Mandy Flanders, 04/2016