Different types of pacifiers

Susan Fernandez November 11 2021

Whether made of latex or silicone, symmetrically or anatomically shaped - parents are spoiled for choice when it comes to pacifiers. To make the decision easier, we explain the differences in various dummy teats types, shapes, and materials and give tips on when it is best to wean your child off the pacifier again.

Use different types of pacifiers

Sucking is an innate behavior. Babies suckle their thumb in the womb and are born with a sucking reflex. The pacifier (also called a dummy teat) satisfies the innate need to suckle and is therefore one of the most important companions for infants and toddlers. In addition, sleeping with a pacifier in the mouth has a protective effect on infants: Their risk of dying from so-called sudden infant death syndrome is lower, according to studies from New Zealand and England.

The pacifier has many advantages, such as:

  • Babies often use the pacifier to calm themselves down. In this way, they learn how to soothe themselves and can thereby develop self-confidence. This is a great help for parents!
  • The transition to table food is easier if children are not used to having their fingers in their mouths. This prevents the child from developing an addiction, which is why many pediatricians recommend giving children a pacifier until they are two years old.

Disadvantages of pacifiers. A pacifier can have a negative effect, for example:

  • If the child is constantly sucking on a pacifier or nipple, it can cause changes in the roof of the mouth. If this happens, the lower jaw may begin to move outward instead of downward. This condition is called open bite and often requires orthodontic treatment to be fixed.

In addition to dental problems, other disadvantages include:

  • In rare cases, the child's tongue gets trapped by the pacifier strap - which can lead to breathing difficulties. The risk of choking or injury is greater if older children use a pacifier because they usually do not keep their lips properly closed when using one.

Types of pacifiers shapes, sizes and materials

Today there are plenty of different types of pacifiers. Depending on your idea of ​​the ideal shape and material, you can decide for yourself what kind of pacifier you want to use.

All pacifiers essentially consist of a teat located in the mouth and a pacifier shield, which prevents the baby from taking the pacifier completely into its mouth and swallowing it. But they are available in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, materials, and designs.  

Shape types: symmetrical and asymmetrical shaped pacifiers

Symmetrically shaped teats (nipple-like shape)

These pacifiers are modeled on the mother's nipple and are therefore considered to be the “most natural” shape. This form is intended to reduce the risk of nipple confusion, especially in breastfed babies. However, the symmetrical shape is not very tooth and jaw-friendly and therefore less suitable for long-term use.

Asymmetrically shaped pacifiers (orthodontic shape)

This type of dummy teat adapts to the anatomy of the palate and jaw and, in contrast to round pacifiers, has the advantage that they offer more space for the tongue. The attachment of the suction section should be as narrow as possible for the mandibular ridge and the lips. This allows the baby to close its mouth well.

Size types: pacifiers for newborns, babies, and toddlers

The size of the teat depends on the age of the child: there are teats for newborns, for babies from three or six months, and for toddlers. However, the pacifier sizes are not standardized and differ from manufacturer to manufacturer.

Those dummy teat types that have been specially developed for newborns have an extra small and light pacifier disc that adapts proportionally to the baby's small face and a particularly small, symmetrical teat part that supports the drinking and sucking behavior in the first few weeks.

Material types: dummy teats made of latex and silicone

Latex is a high-quality natural material from which baby teats have been made for more than 100 years. Latex pacifiers are particularly elastic and bite-resistant and therefore particularly suitable for children who already have teeth. They are honey yellow to light brown in color. Exposure to sunlight can discolor latex and become porous. 

Silicone types are more durable than latex pacifiers but are not as elastic and bite-proof. In return, the transparent plastic is very temperature-resistant and odorless, and tasteless. Silicone pacifiers should be checked regularly for bite marks or damage. 

If the pacifier is damaged, it must be replaced because bacteria can settle in the cracks. The child could also bite off a piece and swallow it.

Our tip: When choosing a pacifier material, pay attention to the label "BPA-free". BPA is the abbreviation for bisphenol A - a plasticizer that is used in the manufacture of plastics. This chemical is suspected of being harmful to health.

What pacifier will fit my baby?

The age recommendation of the pacifier must be observed. The basic rule is that a smaller baby requires a smaller and lighter pacifier, a larger baby requires a larger and heavier pacifier.

In addition to the size, you should also consider your personal taste if you want to choose between different types of teats or other features such as material. This may be an important aspect for those who use the pacifiers from birth as natural nipple substitutes.

Although there are no hard-and-fast rules, following guidelines can help you make a decision: If your child has problems with breastfeeding or sucking, it's worth considering getting an asymmetrical silicone shape that suits its anatomy better. It also has the advantage of being less prone to damage.

If your child finds it difficult to suckle on a latex-types pacifier, you should choose a silicone one. Silicone also has the advantage of being transparent and can be sterilized with steam or boiling water – which makes them hygienic and long-lasting. Latex is heat-sensitive and must be kept away from high temperatures – so it cannot be easily disinfected without melting the material either.

What type of dummy teats is the safest?

One of the great debates for parents is whether or not to use a pacifier. There are pros and cons to both using one and not using one, but what about the actual pacifier itself? Is one type of nipple better than another? Here is a rundown of the different types of nipples available for pacifiers and what the pros and cons are for each.

The safest type of dummy teat is the one made of silicone. Silicone is a rubbery material that is smooth and flexible. It's also BPA-free, making it a safe choice for babies. Silicone dummy teats are available in a variety of sizes, so you can find one that is the perfect fit for your baby's mouth. The downside to silicone dummy teats is that they can be more expensive than other types of nipples. They also need to be replaced more often because they can become damaged more easily.

Latex-types dummy teats are another option for parents. Latex is a natural material that is soft and pliable. It's also very affordable, which makes it a good choice for parents on a budget. However, latex dummy teats are not as durable as silicone ones and they can also cause allergies in some babies.

How to clean dummy teats?

Pacifiers of any material must be washed regularly with warm water and soap. This removes dirt, particles from food or liquids, saliva residues, and skin oil which can create a breeding ground for bacteria. Once the pacifier is dry again, it can be sterilized by placing it in boiling water for five minutes – or keeping it in a steam sterilizer.

Once a week you should also clean your baby's mouth thoroughly because this prevents mouth infections that can cause white spots to appear on the teeth. The best way to proceed: After breastfeeding or drinking from a bottle without a nipple, your child holds its head over the sink for approximately five seconds so you can rinse its mouth with potable tap water. Then you use dental floss to clean the center of the mouth.

You should avoid using detergents or dishwashing liquid because the scouring agents can irritate your baby's skin or mucous membranes, causing them to become dry and cracked. Bacteria love this type of environment. Never use toothpaste without fluoride because it damages your baby's teeth. If you use the symmetrical types of dummy teat, you can simply put it in your mouth and suck on it to clean it. In this way, your own saliva will remove bacteria from the nipple. However, you should avoid doing this too often because your saliva also contains germs that could potentially make your baby sick.

Do you need to change a pacifier and how often?

You should change a pacifier after every feed or drink because breast milk itself can contain up to 700 different bacteria. This is why the nipple will absorb the dirt and thus become unsuitable for use within an hour.

If you suck your pacifier, saliva gets into the mouth and mixes with other substances like food and dirt particles. The hygiene experts recommend throwing away any dummy that has been chewed on by the child – as well as those that have been left lying around or sucked on by pets.

When it comes to thin latex aspen pacifier types, experts recommend changing them twice as often as thicker natural rubber ones (which can be cleaned more thoroughly). Latex dummies are not only thin but relatively soft which makes them easy to damage.

However, there are other factors to take into account: if you have a baby who sleeps mostly during the day then it's unlikely that its pacifiers will come into contact with sources of dirt or bacteria – which means they can be changed less frequently.

Pediatrician`s recommendations

"If you only use your pacifiers for sleeping, change them every month or so", advised pediatrician Dr. Monika Zimmermann in an interview with DummyTummy. "For children up to one year, I recommend changing the teat twice a day."

If it comes into contact with saliva then bacteria can accumulate that may cause inflammation. However, when children are older than one year and use their pacifiers during the day, you can change them less frequently; perhaps once a week. On the other hand, Dr. Benjamin Ohlrichs of the University Children's Hospital in Cologne also acknowledges that parents need not be too concerned about hygiene: "It's probably more important to look at the pacifier's overall condition rather than how often you change it. If it's chewed, torn, or has any other obvious damage, you should definitely throw it away."

As a last resort: if your baby is particularly attached to its pacifier and simply cannot fall asleep without it, then one alternative is to buy a hygienic disposable dummy – such as the classic Soothie from Philips Avent. They are inexpensive and can save a lot of time because they need not be cleaned – just thrown out after use.

A funny fact: Almost half of all parents hang their dummies on a string around their baby's neck. However, even though this may seem like an effective way to stop them from getting lost in the bedding or being pulled out by curious older siblings, it can also be harmful to their development.

The constant yanking and pulling of the nipple on a string can cause dental problems.

When your child should get rid of a pacifier?

The first tooth usually appears when the child is between six and 13 months old. At this age, the baby should already have gotten rid of any type of its pacifier. The teeth should not rub against the nipple of the pacifier anymore because it can damage them. If your child has stopped breastfeeding or using a bottle, he or she should also get used to no longer using pacifiers at around nine months of age.

Teething is a process that can last up to three years. You will know that your child is teething when he or she drools a lot, has red and swollen gums, and tries to chew on everything. This is the time when you should get rid of the pacifier for good because if you don't, your child may have problems with their teeth later on.

Another issue with teething is that your baby`s pacifier may become a breeding ground for bacteria. This is because the pacifier is constantly in your baby's mouth, and their saliva contains enzymes that break down food and fight off infection. When these enzymes come into contact with the bacteria on the pacifier, they can create a biofilm that protects the bacteria from being removed.

The best way to clean a teething pacifier is to boil it for five minutes or put it in the dishwasher. You should also replace it every two to three months to prevent the buildup of bacteria.

Final thoughts

There are different types of pacifiers, but it is important to change them often. If the baby gets used to a specific pacifier it is worth investing in several of these so that they can be changed more rarely. Only use toothpaste without fluoride because the substance damages your baby's teeth.