A pacifier, dummy, or soother 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.
There is a long history of parents giving their children items to suck on in order to comfort them.
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". Rubber had been used in flexible teethers sold as "elastic gum rings" for British babies in the mid-1800s, 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", 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'. 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.
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. Binky (with a y) was first used as a brand name for pacifiers and other baby products in about 1935 and is currently owned by Playtex Products, Inc. as a trademark in the U.S. (and a number of other countries).
Pacifiers were a development of hard teething rings, but they were also a substitute for the softer sugar tits, sugar-teats or sugar-rags 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. 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 shows one of these tied-cloth "pacifiers" in the baby's hand.
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, 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. A museum curator has suggested that these substances were used as "sympathetic magic and that the animal bone could symbolise animal strength to help the child cope with pain.
Pacifiers have been shown to interfere with breastfeeding, especially if introduced within the first 6 weeks of life.
Children who suck pacifiers may be more prone to ear infections (otitis media).
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.
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.
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."
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 gnash teeth while on the drug), leading to a ban on this trend in many places.
Adult-sized pacifiers, consisting of a standard baby pacifier guard but a larger, wider nipple, are used by some members of the Adult Baby community. The nipples are often referred to as NUK5s, after the NUK brand of baby pacifiers manufactured by the German company MAPA Gmbh.
The Glot-Up, a combination mouth guard and adult-sized pacifier.
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