Caring for Our Children (CFOC)

Chapter 3: Health Promotion and Protection

3.1 Health Promotion in Child Care

3.1.4 Safe Sleep Pacifier Use

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 12/5/2011. 

Facilities should be informed and follow current recommendations of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) about pacifier use (1-3).

If pacifiers are allowed, facilities should have a written policy that indicates:

  1. Rationale and protocols for use of pacifiers;
  2. Written permission and any instructions or preferences from the child’s parent/guardian;
  3. If desired, parent/guardian should provide at least two new pacifiers (labeled with their child’s name using a waterproof label or non-toxic permanent marker) on a regular basis for their child to use. The extra pacifier should be available in case a replacement is needed;
  4. Staff should inspect each pacifier for tears or cracks (and to see if there is unknown fluid in the nipple) before each use;
  5. Staff should clean each pacifier with soap and water before each use;
  6. Pacifiers with attachments should not be allowed; pacifiers should not be clipped, pinned, or tied to an infant’s clothing, and they should not be tied around an infant’s neck, wrist, or other body part;
  7. If an infant refuses the pacifier, s/he should not be forced to take it;
  8. If the pacifier falls out of the infant’s mouth, it does not need to be reinserted;
  9. Pacifiers should not be coated in any sweet solution;
  10. Pacifiers should be cleaned and stored open to air; separate from the diapering area, diapering items, or other children’s personal items.

Infants should be directly observed by sight and sound at all times, including when they are going to sleep, are sleeping, or are in the process of waking up. The lighting in the room must allow the caregiver/teacher to see each infant’s face, to view the color of the infant’s skin, and to check on the infant’s breathing and placement of the pacifier.

Pacifier use outside of a crib in rooms and programs where there are mobile infants or toddlers is not recommended.

Caregivers/teachers should work with parents/guardians to wean infants from pacifiers as the suck reflex diminishes between three and twelve months of age. Objects which provide comfort should be substituted for pacifiers (6).

Mobile infants or toddlers may try to remove a pacifier from an infant’s mouth, put it in their own mouth, or try to reinsert it in another child’s mouth. These behaviors can increase risks for choking and/or transmission of infectious diseases.

Cleaning pacifiers before and after each use is recommended to ensure that each pacifier is clean before it is inserted into an infant’s mouth (5). This protects against unknown contamination or sharing. Cleaning a pacifier before each use allows the caregiver/teacher to worry less about whether the pacifier was cleaned by another adult who may have cared for the infant before they did. This may be of concern when there are staffing changes or when parents/guardians take the pacifiers home with them and bring them back to the facility.

If a caregiver/teacher observes or suspects that a pacifier has been shared, the pacifier should be cleaned and sanitized. Caregivers/teachers should make sure the nipple is free of fluid after cleaning to ensure the infant does not ingest it. For this reason, submerging a pacifier is not recommended. If the pacifier nipple contains any unknown fluid, or if a caregiver/teacher questions the safety or ownership, the pacifier should be discarded (4).

While using pacifiers to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) seems prudent (especially if the infant is already sleeping with a pacifier at home), pacifier use has been associated with an increased risk of ear infections and oral health issues (7).

To keep current with the AAP’s recommendations on the use of pacifiers, go to
Center, Early Head Start, Large Family Child Care Home, Small Family Child Care Home
RELATED STANDARDS Safe Sleep Practices and Sudden Unexpected Infant Death (SUID)/SIDS Risk Reduction Oral Health Education Cleaning and Sanitizing Objects Intended for the Mouth Strangulation Hazards
  1. American Academy of Pediatrics Task Force on Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics.2016;138(6):e20162938.
  2. Hauck, F. R. 2006. Pacifiers and sudden infant death syndrome: What should we recommend? Pediatrics117:1811-12.
  3. Mitchell, E. A., P. S. Blair, M. P. L’Hoir. 2006. Should pacifiers be recommended to prevent sudden infant death syndrome? Pediatrics 117:1755-58.
  4. Reeves, D. L. 2006. Pacifier use in childcare settings. Healthy Child Care 9:12-13.
  5. Cornelius, A. N., J. P. D’Auria, L. M. Wise. 2008. Pacifier use: A systematic review of selected parenting web sites. J Pediatric Health Care 22:159-65.
  6. American Academy of Pediatrics, Back to Sleep, Healthy Child Care America, First Candle. 2008. Reducing the risk of SIDS in child care.
  7. Mayo Clinic. 2009. Infant and toddler health. Pacifiers: Are they good for your baby?

Content in the STANDARD was modified on 12/5/2011.