Current Scientific Recommendations & Developmental Benefits of Pacifier Usage

Posted by Mimi Phan on

Emphasis on informed decision-making through evidence-based research and best practices.

By: Emma Burns BA, MS

According to evidence-based research and development experts, pacifier use during infancy has shown several benefits. The Journal of Pediatric Nursing (2012) explains the potential benefits of non-nutritive sucking in infancy as it relates to self-soothing, pain control, safe sleep and potential risks. Even so, the impact of “transitional objects” in early childhood for coping with stress and working through developmental milestones.  This article provides a general scope for families interested in implementing pacifiers into their baby’s routine. Every child’s developmental journey is unique and what may work for one child, may not work for the other. Consulting with a pediatrician can help create a plan and answer questions specifically for your little one and their needs.  

Developmental Benefits (Nelson, 2012)

  • Natural reflex of sucking supports an infant’s ability to cope when they are stressed or unsettled.
  • Encourages self-soothing and develops emotional regulation.
  • Eases discomfort during air travel.
  • The use of sucrose with non-nutritive sucking significantly reduces or eliminates procedural pain.
  • Helps eliminate the risk of oropharyngeal obstruction related to SIDS.
  • In later infancy and entrance to toddler-age, studies suggest the support of a pacifier, or “transitional object” may help reduce anxiety and cope with developmental challenges.

Risks (Nelson, 2012)

  • Unfavorable oral health related to anterior open bite, posterior crossbite, and narrow intercuspidal width with extended use, particularly past age five.
  • Potential impact on exclusive breast feeding (EBF) relating to nipple confusion and shortened breast-feeding durations.
  • Increased risk of acute otitis media (AOM) also known as ear infections.

Recommendations (Mayo Clinic, 2022)

  • Use a one-piece, dishwasher safe pacifier.
  • Wash pacifier with soap and water.
  • Don’t add anything to the pacifier to make it sweet.
  • Replace pacifiers when showing signs of deterioration.
  • Remain vigilant when using pacifier clips.
  • Wean from pacifier between ages 2-5.


Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research. (2022). Pros, cons, do's and don'ts of baby's pacifier. Mayo Clinic. 

Nelson, A. M. (2012). A comprehensive review of evidence and current recommendations related to pacifier usage. Journal of Pediatric Nursing, 27(6), 690–699. https://doi-

← Older Post Newer Post →

Leave a comment