May 15, 2017 — By Wendy Sachs

Caring for a new baby, comforting is one of your highest priorities, and you may find a pacifier very helpful.

Some babies can be soothed with rocking and cuddling and are content to suck only during feedings. Others just can’t seem to suckle enough, even when they’re not hungry. If your baby still wants to suck after having her fill of formula or breast milk, a pacifier may be just the thing.

A pacifier isn’t a substitute for nurturing or feeding, of course, but if your baby is still fussy after you’ve fed, burped, cuddled, rocked, and played with her, you might want to see if a pacifier will satisfy her.

There’s another benefit to using a pacifier: Some studies have shown that babies who use pacifiers at bedtime and nap time have a lower risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). These studies don’t show that the pacifier itself prevents SIDS, just that there’s a strong association between pacifier use and a lower risk of SIDS.

On the other hand, there is a philosophy that excludes the use of a pacifier.  William A. H. Sammons a pediatrician who trained with T. Berry Brazelton, developed a theory of infant self-calming, a technique in which “the baby settles herself down without assistance from anyone.” He wrote the book called The Self Calmed Baby where he offers sound advice for new parents coping with feeding and quieting an infant, encouraging them to observe and communicate with the new baby. He warns parents against overstimulation, often the result of reacting too quickly to a baby’s crying, and describes the different types of crying. He stresses teaching the infant to calm itself by sucking, visual focusing, or positioning, a process that can take weeks, but will result in improved family life.  I practiced the theory with both of my children and neither used a pacifier.

There isn’t a right or wrong approach; it’s what feels most comfortable.