A pacifier is an artificial nipple designed for babies to suck on for comfort, in lieu of the mother’s breast or the baby’s thumb. It consists of a nipple made of latex or silicone, a firm plastic shield, and a handle. It comes in different sizes and forms for premature infants, newborn infants, those younger than six months, and those older than six months. It comes in various nipple shapes such as long, short, flattened, ball-shaped, and baby bottle nipple-shaped.
Babies suck their thumbs even before they are born, with some newborns sucking on their thumbs almost immediately. Thumb sucking can be an indication of boredom, tiredness, or need for comfort. Babies who do not suck on their thumbs or fingers rely on a pacifier. Professionals refer to it as a transitional object that helps babies relieve stress and adjust to new situations. It is often used to “pacify” them when they cry, letting them transfer their energy into sucking rather than crying. It is also used for calming frightened babies, soothing them to sleep, keeping them quiet, and helping them go back to sleep when disturbed.
The use of a pacifier is controversial as some professionals and physicians are opposed to it. In fact, the World Health Organization does not recommend it because it is an easy fix that can prevent parents from understanding their babies' real needs. It can also cause babies to be too dependent on it that they do not use their mouths anymore to explore other toys, textures, or tastes. Since it easily gets dirty, it can also contribute to poor hygiene. Some experts believe that thumb sucking is an easier habit to break than sucking on a pacifier.