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How do I select the right pacifier?
Pacifiers come in a variety of colors, designs, and nipple shapes. If you're just starting out, you'll want to pick up a couple of different styles – maybe one with the standard round nipple and one of the "orthodontic" shapes, which have a round top and a flat bottom – to see whether your baby has any preference. You'll find them in two sizes, one for babies up to 6 months of age and another for those 6 months and older.
Whatever size and style your baby prefers, be sure the model you buy is sturdy and cannot possibly come apart (those molded out of one piece of plastic are best), with a shield that's 1 1/2 inches or larger, so that your baby can't put the entire pacifier into her mouth.
The shield should have ventilation holes to allow air circulation. Without these holes, a baby's saliva can collect behind the base, causing a skin rash or irritation.
You have a choice between latex and silicone nipples. Silicone nipples are the sturdier of the two. They also clean more easily and don't retain odors. But your baby won't find them as soft in her mouth as a latex nipple.
Latex is more flexible, but because it's softer, your baby will probably wear it out faster. You'll want to avoid latex if you have any reason to think your baby might have a latex allergy. (She's at higher risk if she's had frequent medical treatments or operations in which she was exposed to latex products.)
You may come across pacifiers that are labeled BPA-free or phthalate-free, but phthalates haven't been used in pacifiers sold in the United States since 1999, and BPA is not normally contained in latex or silicone, either.
Once you find the perfect pacifier, be sure to buy extras. Binkies are always getting lost!
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When should I replace a pacifier?
That depends on how vigorously and often your child sucks it. Pacifier nipples do wear down with age and use, so check the binky thoroughly before placing it in your baby's mouth.
Look for discoloration as well as holes, tears, and weak spots that could cause the nipple to break off when sucked, putting your baby at risk of choking. Some nipples also become sticky with age.
Pacifiers aren't very expensive, so it's best to replace your baby's as soon as it starts to show signs of deterioration.
How do I clean my baby's pacifiers?
Before the first use, wash the pacifier with soap and water, and rinse it well. Some sources recommend boiling the pacifier for 5 minutes before the first use to get rid of any chemical residue. After that, you can wash it in hot, soapy water (rinse well).
Silicone pacifiers can be run through the dishwasher (use the top rack) regularly, but latex pacifiers usually aren't dishwasher-safe. To prevent fungus, it's a good idea to soak the pacifier in equal parts white vinegar and water for a few minutes once a day. Rinse well and air-dry completely.
If your baby drops her pacifier on the floor, it's fine to simply rinse it off in hot water and return it to her. (Don't "rinse" it in your mouth.) If it falls on the sidewalk, it's best to clean it in hot, soapy water. Carry a spare for just such an occasion!
What else do I need to know?
Here are a few safety tips you'll want to keep in mind:
- Don't try to fashion your own pacifier, even in a pinch. Taping a nipple to a plastic bottle top, for example, is dangerous because it can come apart and the nipple could get caught in your baby's throat.
- Resist the urge to use a string or ribbon to attach a pacifier to your baby's crib or loop it around her neck – this is a strangulation hazard. It's fine to attach the binky to your baby's clothing using a pacifier holder or diaper pin.
- Don't coat your baby's pacifier with anything – especially sweets, which can cause cavities. Honey in particular isn't safe for children younger than a year old, because it can cause botulism, a potentially fatal food poisoning.