A baby's natural reflex is to suckle. Suckling is reflexive and comforting. The world revolves around your baby's mouth and their ability to suckle and root. The use of pacifiers is a controversial topic. The pacifier vs. thumb is an on-going debate between parents and pediatricians – one that is surely not to be resolved anytime soon. A pacifier can calm and soothe your baby unlike anything else.

For something so simple, there is a surprisingly wide variety of pacifiers in all different shapes and sizes. Pacifiers are made of latex or silicone. Latex pacifiers are softer and more flexible. Silicone pacifiers are firmer, hold their shape longer, and are not damaged by heat when boiled, but they do cost more than others.

Standard round nipple pacifiers have a long rounded tip and are comfortable for your baby to suck on. Orthodontic pacifiers have a flat tip, designed to accommodate your baby's developing palate and gums. Orthodontic pacifiers insert further into your baby's mouth and simulate the shape and flexibility of your nipple. This encourages a more natural sucking movement. Your baby sucks on the wide flat part of the pacifier with the flat side resting on the tongue.

Studies indicate that babies who use orthodontic pacifiers have a smaller chance of developing an overbite than those babies who use conventional round pacifiers. Don't worry however; neither type seems to cause problems unless sucked on intensely for years. It is more important to choose the shape your baby enjoys and finds comfortable.

You may have to try a few different pacifiers to find the one that your baby likes best and one that fits your baby's mouth the best. Don't give an infant a pacifier meant for a toddler. They come in different sizes to accommodate your baby's sizes—always choose the size appropriate for your baby's age.

Your baby will ultimately choose the pacifier they like best, but you can help them with the selection. Choose a sturdy pacifier with a shield that is at least 1 1/2 inch wide to prevent your baby from choking. A pacifier without a shield can easily slip into your baby's mouth and choke them, You want to look for vented shields to protect the skin around your baby's mouth and keep it dry. Without vents, saliva can collect behind the shields, irritating your baby's skin and causing a rash.

Check your pacifiers periodically for signs of wear. If they look discolored, thin, cracked, or worn, replace them. With repeated washing and sterilizing, pacifiers tend to crack and leak. New pacifiers smell and taste very rubbery. To lessen the rubbery taste, boil your pacifiers for five minutes before first use. This will also sterilize them.

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry solidly prefers pacifiers over thumbs for meeting your baby's need to suckle. Non-nutritive suckling should never replace feeding, but it definitely can calm and soothe your baby when nothing else will.

My daughter was an addicted suckler as a baby. I didn't introduce a pacifier until she was about three months old when I realized I was becoming a human pacifier and needed a break. I chose the Gerber NUK Silicone Pacifier because its orthodontic shape helps, rather than hinders, a baby's tongue, palate and jaw to develop naturally. My daughter took to it quite well, so we stuck to the same brand. We always had a few on rotation and they would last until she grew into the larger size. Overall, I have been quite happy with the Nuk pacifiers – my daughter is happy too.
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