When Can Baby Hold a Pacifier in Mouth (plus Tips on Keeping It There)

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As parents, we become intimately familiar with the pacifier. For you, maybe it’s a binky or soothie or just simply a paci; for your baby, it’s likely to become one of the most constant companions throughout her day. Knowing this, you may wonder when exactly you should introduce your baby to her soon-to-be favorite soothie, and what you should do if she can’t keep it in her mouth.

If you are nursing at all, you should wait until around 3-4 weeks to introduce the pacifier so that your baby is confident latching on and breastfeeding as starting too early may result in nipple confusion. If, however, you are planning to bottle feed exclusively, you can start with the pacifier as soon as your baby is willing and able to hold it.

Read on to learn tips on helping baby learn to keep the pacifier in their mouth and when you will be able to stop replacing for them.

At what age can baby hold pacifier in mouth?

The pacifier can help a baby get to sleep or calm them when they’re fussy, but it can be a little hard to determine the best time to introduce the pacifier. If you are not nursing at all, you want to wait until your baby is confident nursing and you don’t have any latching issues. Although this may vary based on the specific nursing dynamic, around 3-4 weeks is a good starting point.

It’s pretty common for parents to give baby a pacifier starting from birth, but it’s widely recommended that if you are breastfeeding baby, you wait until baby has established a solid nursing routine, typically between 3-4 weeks of age. However, there may not be a need to wait anymore.

As soon as baby begins to use a pacifier, the focus then becomes helping the baby keep the pacifier in their mouth. Typically, when babies reach three months, they begin to reach for objects and hold small things in their hands.

When is baby ready for a pacifier?

Babies are born with a sucking reflex, so when a nipple (it could be breast, bottle, or pacifier) is put in the baby’s mouth, she will naturally begin to suck. That does not mean, however, that baby will do it with great efficiency or ease at first. Even though it’s a reflex, baby still needs practice to master this skill.

  • If you are breastfeeding baby, it’s recommended that you establish a nursing routine with baby before you introduce a pacifier, typically four to six weeks after birth. This is suggested to try and prevent any kind of nipple confusion, where baby may find it easier to suck on a pacifier nipple and struggle to latch on to mom when nursing.
  • If a baby is exclusively formula- or bottle-fed (for those moms exclusively pumping), then baby can begin using a pacifier immediately.

Not only will baby find comfort from using a pacifier, but parents do too since the use of pacifiers helps to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

How to introduce a pacifier

When you’re ready to start trying to introduce a pacifier into your baby’s routine, you need to make sure everything (and everyone) is ready.

  1. Ensure that your baby is in the right mood. You want to do it when baby is content, not upset. Trying to introduce something new while your baby is frustrated could lead to an ongoing negative association with the pacifier – the last thing you want!
  2. Sanitize the pacifier. Make sure the pacifier has been boiled and is clean since their immune systems are still a work in progress.
  3. Timing is important. Offer the pacifier after a meal or at bedtime, so that the suckling of the pacifier doesn’t replace a meal.
  4. Don’t give up. If baby doesn’t take the pacifier on the first try, that’s okay. Don’t force it. You can try again later.

If you haven’t already picked up a pacifier to try then I highly recommend picking up a pacifier with an orthodontic shape made from natural materials to help prevent any future issues!

Why can’t baby keep the pacifier in her mouth?

Of course, your baby may need a little help learning how to keep the pacifier in and you will likely be replacing it for them for quite a while until they develop the motor skills to put it in their mouth themselves, but there may also be underlying issues with the shape of the pacifier or your baby may have a lip or tongue tie.

If the pacifier doesn’t fit in your baby’s mouth, you may need to try a different one. Pacifiers are sold in various shapes and sizes. And, all babies are different. Some babies’ mouths are very small, while others are quite large. If baby can’t seem to keep the pacifier in her mouth, it could just be a bad fit. It’s best to try a variety of pacifiers to see which one works best for baby.

If baby has a tongue or tie, the inability to move the tongue properly, along with the high palate, makes sucking a challenge. With a lip tie, it’s difficult to suck because it’s difficult to move the upper lip. Just as babies with a tongue or lip tie struggle to breastfeed, they also struggle to keep a pacifier in their mouth. It is recommended that babies with a tongue tie use a pacifier that is one piece; you may also want to look into having your baby’s tie surgically corrected by a pediatric dentist.

Why can’t my baby hold a pacifier?

Once you introduce a pacifier to baby, you will need to help them learn how to keep it in. This is one of those things where practice makes perfect. As long as they have the desire to suck, they will get it over time and be able to keep the pacifier in their mouth.

Putting it back in after it falls out, however, is another challenge. For many babies, they are able to put the pacifier back in their mouth at around 7 months of age. This ability comes coupled with having mastered several gross and fine motor skills such as moving objects between their hands and pulling things toward their mouth.

Why doesn’t baby keep pacifier in mouth?

Sometimes baby just won’t keep the pacifier in her mouth, ranging from the way it feels to just not being in the mood.

  • It doesn’t feel good – The pacifier may not be the right size or fit for your baby. It can take a few tries with various brands to find the perfect one. And once you do, make sure you stock up.
  • It doesn’t taste good – The taste of a pacifier is unfamiliar for baby and they may not like it at first. To get them interested initially, you could coat it in breast milk.
  • It’s food time – If baby is hungry, the pacifier will satisfy the sucking reflex, but not fill her up. So, she may spit the pacifier out.
  • They’re done with it – Sometimes baby may not want the pacifier, which is completely normal.

Baby keeps pulling pacifier out of mouth

If baby keeps pulling the pacifier out of her mouth, she may not want it or need it.

Some babies are able to self soothe and even prefer sucking on their thumb. It could also be an issue with fit or even hunger.

Baby pushes pacifier out with tongue

Your baby may not be able to keep the pacifier in because she is pushing it out with her tongue.

This could be because baby doesn’t want it or it could just be a reflex. The orthodontic type pacifier may help prevent this in babies.

Can a pacifier cause tongue thrust?

Using a pacifier for a long period of time can result in tongue thrust when the tongue protrudes between the front teeth while speaking and swallowing. This is why it is generally recommended to wean baby from the pacifier by two years old.

How to keep a pacifier in baby’s mouth

Baby may need your assistance learning how to keep the pacifier in her mouth.

Sucking is a natural reflex, but, like many things, she will need your help. It’s important to make the experience a calm, positive one when you are teaching baby how to do this. Remember, everyone benefits when baby learns to keep the pacifier in her mouth and sleeps soundly at night. 

Several things can help encourage baby to keep the pacifier in her mouth, including using a little reverse psychology, teaching her to suck on the pacifier to keep it in. But it all starts with finding the goldilocks of pacifiers – the one that is the perfect fit for her.

Find the right pacifier

Making sure baby has the right pacifier is key to getting her to keep it in her mouth.

There are several things to consider when purchasing a pacifier:

  • Nipple shape – Bell-shaped pacifiers are different than orthodontic pacifiers.
  • Mouth shield – Some pacifiers are one single piece with a full circular mouth shield, while others are plastic.
  • Handle – The handle on the pacifier could be a ring or a button.
  • Baby’s age – Pacifiers are often offered in different sizes, for 0-3 months, 0-6 months, and 6-18 months. The 0-3 month and 0-6 month pacifiers are shorter and smaller than the 6-18 month pacifier.

Overall, it’s important to see what works best for your baby. What worked for your friend’s baby may not work for yours.

Coat it in breast milk

If baby doesn’t seem interested in her pacifier, it could be because she doesn’t like the taste.

You could put a little bit of breast milk or formula on it so that the baby likes the taste. While breast milk or formula is okay to use, you should never coat the pacifier in something sweet like honey or syrup.

Make it a game

A great way to help baby learn to keep her pacifier in her mouth is to make it a little game.

Put the pacifier in her mouth and then, gently, try to pull it out. You will immediately notice her sucking harder to try and keep it in her mouth. Baby AND parent win!

What happens if baby never takes a pacifier?

Even if your baby never takes a pacifier, it’s not a big deal. Every baby is different, and some babies just don’t like pacifiers and that’s okay.

In fact, not having to wean baby away from the pacifier doesn’t sound too bad!

Never force a baby to take a pacifier

It’s important to never force baby to take a pacifier. If she continually spits it out, don’t force it. It’s important to remember that the point of the pacifier is to soothe baby and forcing it will only upset her.

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Joshua Bartlett

I'm the dad in charge of Natural Baby life. I have 11 years of parenting experience raising 4 children! I'm passionate about doing whatever it takes to raise a happy and healthy baby! Find out more about me here.

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