A preemie pacifier can go a long way to provide comfort to the tiniest of humans.
About one in 10 babies born in the US are born prematurely (born at 37 weeks or earlier).
Luckily, the medical world is getting so good at providing the right care for preemie babies that even when born before 24 weeks, they have a chance of thriving.
One of the tricks of the trade? The humble pacifier.
Called a “villainous contrivance” shortly after it burst onto the baby scene in the early 1900s, the pacifier has a rather controversial history.
But more than a century on from its debut, the pacifier definitely has its place in the world.
For preemies, this may be especially true.
Let’s take a look.
Premature baby pacifier FAQs
Are pacifiers good for preemies?
Pacifiers can be really comforting for preemies—but the plus points go further than this.
As this study shows, preemie pacifiers have all sorts of benefits, from helping premature babies transition to oral feeding to stabilizing their vital signs.
There’s also a growing body of research that links pacifiers to reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
So what about the downside? Is there one?
Are pacifiers bad for newborns?
This is where things get confusing.
The recommendations from the WHO and UNICEF are pretty clear: children should “be exclusively breastfed for the first 6 months of life” and “(n)o bottles, teats or pacifiers should be used.”
One of the main reasons for this is that pacifiers might lead to what is often called nipple confusion, and as such, might get in the way of breastfeeding.
Basically, the theory goes, your baby’s gotta want your breast and your breast alone.
But recent studies tell a different story, suggesting that there might not actually be a real link between breastfeeding success and pacifier use.
And, as these doctors report, there are specific situations where a pacifier is definitely justifiable—and one of these is if your baby is born prematurely.
The bottom line?
You get to make the choice about what will work for you and your baby.
Some mamas like to wait to get a good feeding routine before giving their newborn a pacifier.
Others start right away, particularly if, as is often the case with preemies, the benefits outweigh the risks.
So how do you choose which one is right for your baby?
Best pacifiers for preemies
There are a bunch of different options on the market, each with its own set of pros and cons.
When making your decision, here’s what to look out for:
- Size. Some brands make small pacifiers for newborns that are specifically for preemies. Premature babies can weigh less than five pounds. You need a pacifier tiny enough for the task.
- Shape. Pacifiers come in several shapes. Finding the perfect one may require a little trial and error. Some are shaped specifically like a newborn’s thumb. Others have what is called an orthodontic nipple which does its part to keep your baby’s dental health up. And then there are some that copy the shape of a human nipple.
- Material. Again, there’s no one way to do this, and different materials offer different benefits. Silicone is a popular material for pacifiers and is pretty easy to clean. Latex can also be a good option because it’s soft and flexible. Both silicone and latex pacifiers are BPA-free.
- Number of pieces. Some pacifiers are made up of multiple separate pieces (the nipple, the handle, the guard) and some are a single piece. Single units help to reduce the risk of choking on smaller parts.
And once you’ve made your choice, what else can you do to give your little one a warm welcome to the world?
How can I soothe my preemie?
Other than using a preemie pacifier, here are some ways you can soothe your preemie:
- Swaddle them.
- Sing to them.
- Rock them.
- Feed them (if this is possible for you).
- Keep the lights low.
The first few months with a preemie can be tough.
Reach out to other mamas who are going through the same thing.
Chat with your healthcare providers if you feel unsure.
And most of all, be gentle with yourself.
You’ve got this.
More from The 411:
What is a Micro Preemie and What Should You Know?
6 Things You Need to Know About Having a Baby in the NICU
Advice About Reflux in Babies
How to Get Rid of Baby Hiccups