We’ve all seen babies happily sucking away on pacifiers, but the fact that they seem to be everywhere doesn't mean they're a required piece of baby gear. Instead, try to think of the pacifier like a soothing cup of tea: there are people who can't manage to doze off without their nightly dose of mint medley, but others get by just fine without it, or don't even want it. In the same way, your baby might turn her nose up at a new pacifier or grab it while yelling (in baby-language) “Where have you been all my life?”
A pacifier is designed to comfort a fussy baby in between breastfeedings, especially if the baby can’t quite seem to get enough sucking-time during those nursing sessions. While this isn’t a problem for the majority of babies, it’s still common enough to have kept the pacifier market evolving for centuries. In fact, the original pacifier, invented in England during the 19th Century, was a literal ear of corn!
The benefits of the pacifier go beyond suckling substitution. Several medical studies have suggested that giving your baby a pacifier while she sleeps can lower the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The pacifier can also prevent your baby from developing a tough-to-crack thumb sucking habit, because when she outgrows her pacifier, you can just throw it away. It's a little bit harder to give her a time-out from using part of her hand. Pacifiers can also be helpful for soothing babies in stressful situations, like when she's getting vaccines or other procedures. They can also be a good tool for adjusting inner ear pressure when flying as the altitude changes.
Pacifiers present relatively few risks to babies. Some research has pointed to a link between pacifier use and middle ear infections, but since these infections rarely affect younger babies, a simple measure of defense is curtailing your baby’s pacifier use by her half-birthday. Pacifiers may also affect your baby’s oral health (especially prolonged use), and cause misalignment of her teeth and jaw. And contrary to some old beliefs, it is a bad idea to dip a pacifier in sugar water, particularly once your baby has teeth, as this could lead to tooth decay. Your doctor may suggest allowing your baby to get the hang of breastfeeding before trying a pacifier, since sucking on a pacifier is a slightly different physical action than suckling on a breast. In order for the placebo to work, your baby will have to feel familiar with the real thing.
Pacifiers should be kept clean to reduce the spread of germs, and one-piece pacifiers, instead of pacifier that can be broken into two pieces for cleaning or storage, are considered to be safer, since they do not present a risk of choking.