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A pacifier or binky or piece (North American English), dummy or comforter (British, New Zealand]], and English) or soother (Canadian and [[Irish English), is a [rubber, plastic, or silicone nipple given to an infant or other young child to suck upon. In its standard appearance it has a teat, mouth shield, and handle. The mouth shield and/or the handle is large enough to avoid the danger that the child chokes on it or swallows it.


File:Baby Comforter 1900.jpg

There have always been things which a baby can suck on for comfort.

Pacifiers were settling into their modern form around 1900 when the first teat, shield and handle design was patented in the US as a "baby comforter".[1] Rubber had been used in flexible teethers sold as "elastic gum rings" for British babies in the mid-1800s,[2] and also used for feeding-bottle teats. In 1902 Sears Roebuck advertised a "new style rubber teething ring, with one hard and one soft nipple",[3] and in 1909 someone calling herself "Auntie Pacifier" wrote to the New York Times to warn of the "menace to health" (she meant dental health) of "the persistent, and, among poorer classes, the universal sucking of a rubber nipple sold as a 'pacifier'."[4] In England too, dummies were seen as something the "poorer classes" would use, and associated with poor hygiene. In 1914 a London doctor complained about "the dummy teat": "If it falls on the floor it is rubbed momentarily on the mother's blouse or apron, lipped by the mother and replaced in the baby's mouth."[5]

Early pacifiers were manufactured with a choice of black, maroon or white rubber, though the white rubber of the day contained a certain amount of lead. One of the best-known brands was the Binki, which became a general name for pacifier in the US. Binky (with a y) was first used as a brand name for pacifiers and other baby products in about 1935.[6]

File:Madonna and Siskin detail.jpg

Pacifiers were a development of hard teething rings, but they were also a substitute for the softer sugar tits, sugar-teats or sugar-rags [7]which had been in use in 19th century America. A writer in 1873 described a "sugar-teat" made from "a small piece of old linen" with a "spoonful of rather sandy sugar in the centre of it", "gathered ... up into a little ball" with a thread tied tightly around it. [8] Rags with foodstuffs tied inside were also given to babies in many parts of Northern Europe and elsewhere. In some places a lump of meat or fat was tied in cloth, and sometimes the rag was moistened with brandy. German-speaking areas might use Lutschbeutel: cloth wrapped round sweetened bread, or maybe poppy-seeds. A Madonna and child painted by Dürer in 1506[9] shows one of these tied-cloth "pacifiers" in the baby's hand.[10]

In the 1800s, the expression "born with a silver spoon in his mouth" could be taken almost literally – silver soothers/teethers were often given to babies born to wealth. Other expensive materials were also used, with mother-of-pearl or coral being thought to ward off sickness. Coral was believed to guard against all kinds of evil,[11] and in England in the 17th-19th centuries, a coral meant a teething toy made of coral, ivory or bone, often mounted in silver as the handle of a rattle.[12] A museum curator has suggested that these substances were used as "sympathetic magic"[13] and that the animal bone could symbolise animal strength to help the child cope with pain.

Problems caused by their useEdit

If a pacifier is dipped in a sugary substance like syrup or honey (a practice employed by some, and perhaps related to the outdated sugar tit) it may cause dental caries in emerging teeth. Feeding honey to infants is also dangerous due to the risk of botulism.


Pacifiers have been shown to interfere with breastfeeding, especially if introduced within the first 6 weeks of life.[14][15]

Children who suck pacifiers may be more prone to ear infections (otitis media); the relationship was demonstrated in the journal Pediatrics in September 2000.[How to reference and link to summary or text] See also thumb sucking.

Some older infants may have delayed speech development due to the pacifier's constant presence in their mouths preventing them from practising their speaking skills.[How to reference and link to summary or text]

Problems remedied by their useEdit

Researchers have found that "Use of a pacifier is associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of SIDS". (Sudden infant death syndrome) [16]. A meta-analytic study published by American Pediatric Association in Pediatrics in October 2005 supports this benefit to 1 year of age.[17][18]. However other experts while acknowledging the correlation between SIDS risk reduction and the pacifier use, questioned the causality of the findings.[19][20]

Additionally some parents prefer the use of pacifiers to the child sucking their thumbs, and they are used to treat colic [How to reference and link to summary or text].

Summary of best practice recommendationsEdit

The American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry's 'Policy on Thumb, Finger and Pacifier Habits' says: "For most children there is no reason to worry about a sucking habit until the permanent front teeth are ready to come in."

A study of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) published in Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that "It seems appropriate to stop discouraging the use of pacifiers." The authors recommend the use of pacifiers at nap time and bedtime throughout the first year of life. For breastfeeding mothers, the authors suggest waiting until breastfeeding is well established, typically for several weeks, before introducing the pacifier.[21]

The British Dental Health Foundation's FAQ page recommends: "If you can, avoid using a dummy and discourage thumb sucking. These can both eventually cause problems with how the teeth grow and develop. And this may need treatment with a brace when the child gets older."

In popular cultureEdit

Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, it became a teen fashion trend to wear pacifiers as accessories. This was associated with techno music and the use of the drug MDMA (used due to oral dystonia and the urge to grind or nash teeth while on the drug), leading to a ban on this trend in many places.


  1. Design Patent number D33,212 C.W.Meinecke Sep 18 1900
  2. S. Levin, MB(RAND) VLR.C.P.(EDNN.) DCH, in South African Medical Journal 1971
  3. Sears Roebuck catalog 1902
  4. New York Times June 30 1909
  5. British Journal of Nursing: The Midwife Aug 7 1915
  6. According to trademark registration documents 1948
  7. Oxford English Dictionary
  8. Cecilia Viets Jamieson Ropes of Sand Chapter 2: Top's baby (1873)
  9. Madonna and Siskin
  10. S. Levin
  11. Norfolk Museums
  12. OED'; Examples from the Metropolitan
  13. Victoria & Albert Museum of Childhood
  14. Sanches MTC (2004). Clinical management of oral disorders in breastfeeding. J Pediatr (Rio J) 80 (5 Suppl): S155-62. PMID 15583766.
  15. Marmet C, Shell E, Aldana S (2000). Assessing infant suck dysfunction: case management. Journal of Human Lactation 16 (4): pp. 332–336. PMID 11188682.
  16. Report in Science Daily
  17. [Do Pacifiers Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? A Meta-analysis]
  18. The Changing Concept of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
  19. "Pacifiers and SIDS ?", Dr. Alan Green
  20. "Dr. Jim Sprott On US Cot Death Research"
  21. Mitchell, E.A., Blair P.S., L'Hoir M.P. (2005). Should Pacifiers Be Recommended to Prevent Sudden Infant Death Syndrome?. Pediatrics 117 (5): 1755-1758.

See alsoEdit

The Glot-Up, a combination mouth guard and adult-sized pacifier.

External linksEdit

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