Pacifier vs Soothie: What Are the Differences, Pros & Cons?

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Young baby with a soothie

Caring for a newborn baby seems simple at first — all they do, after all, is cry, sleep, eat, and poop.

But it’s the crying part that can sometimes be quite challenging to deal with!

Pacifiers and soothies are two of the most popular solutions for soothing a crying baby (when feeding or a diaper change isn’t cutting it), but… what’s the difference between the two, and which one is better?

In this article, I’ll break down the differences between a pacifier vs. a soothie and help you decide which one is right for you.

The main difference between a pacifier and a soothie is basically the name.

A soothie is a brand of pacifier (from Philips Avent) that is known for its one-piece, molded silicon construction, while a pacifier can be made of multiple parts and materials. A pacifier and a soothie both serve the same main purpose, to soothe your baby, and some will work better than others based on your baby’s personal preferences.  

Let’s take a little bit of a closer look at this comparison.


Pacifiers Explained

A pacifier (or binky or dummy) is a popular addition to any baby’s diaper bag.

It’s a small accessory that features a nipple-like bulb that goes into a baby’s mouth, with a larger ring that prevents a baby from swallowing the device.

A baby can suckle on a pacifier as a method to self-soothe since it satisfies their natural instinct to suck.

A pacifier comes in a variety of colors and materials, like rubber, plastic, and silicone, and usually has three basic parts: a nipple, face shield, and handle. 

A pacifier should basically be used by babies up to about 6-months-old.

After this age, using a pacifier can tend to become more of a habit as opposed to having any actual benefit for your baby. Therefore, it is recommended that you start weaning your baby off of his pacifier between 6-months and one-year-old.

(However, many kids take longer — don’t worry too much!)

Your baby can also use a pacifier when he sleeps. A pacifier has been shown to reduce your baby’s risk for SIDs; you don’t need to put it back in his mouth if it falls out while he is sleeping.

The main uses of a pacifier are:

  • To provide a way for your baby to soothe himself
  • To provide assistance to your baby when he is teething

Depending on the actual pacifier, it can even help your baby during the teething process, guiding your baby from sucking to chewing by stimulating his tongue and his lips and developing strong mouth muscles and a strong jaw.

However, prolonged pacifier use can lead to issues with dental development and possible future speech issues.

Look for a pacifier that is durable and of high-quality. If a pacifier seems to be cheaply made or has multiple parts that could easily break off, it could present a choking hazard for your baby.

Also, never tie or place a pacifier around your baby’s neck. Instead, use a pacifier clip.

If you are exclusively breastfeeding your baby, The American Academy of Pediatrics also advises that you not introduce a pacifier until you have established breastfeeding with your baby.


Pros and cons of baby pacifiers

Sleeping baby with pacifier

So what’s the bottom line on pacifiers?

Pros

  • Can help soothe your baby when he is upset: Pacifiers are designed for your baby to suck on, which can help calm your baby when he is upset.
  • Can develop mouth muscles.: When a baby sucks on a pacifier, he strengthens his jaw and mouth muscles, which eventually help him with the act of chewing.
  • May help reduce the risk of SIDS: Although the reasons why are still being studied, it has been shown that sucking on a pacifier has reduced a baby’s risk for SIDs.

Cons

  • Can become a habit: If not weaned off of a pacifier soon enough, using it can become a habit for your baby that is hard to break (though most kids will stop on their own around 2-4 years old)
  • Can potentially lead to dental and speech development issues: This is an issue more so for babies that engage in prolonged pacifier use. Your baby should start to get off of his pacifier at 6-months-old, about the same time he is getting his teeth.
  • Can pose a choking hazard: If the pacifier is cheaply made with multiple parts, there is a possibility of one of these parts coming loose and causing a potential choking hazard. Therefore, look for a well-made, quality pacifier from a brand you know.

Our daughter loved these Philips Avent Ultra Air Pacifiers (Amazon link) with a hard-plastic handle — she could hardly sleep without it until we broke the habit around 2-years-old!


Soothies Explained

A soothie (or gumdrop-style pacifier) is actually a particular brand of pacifier that’s extremely popular and often distributed by hospitals for newborns.

It is designed for the same purpose as a pacifier, to help soothe your baby when he is upset or teething. Like a pacifier, a soothie helps your baby calm down when is upset, and it can also help him soothe his gums when he is teething.

Soothies are often sought out for a couple of reasons — mainly because they feature a nipple designed to replicate the feel and shape of an actual nipple, and also because of single-construction, molded silicone design.

The main uses of a soothie are:

  • To provide away for your baby to self soothe
  • To provide comfort to your baby when he teething

Unlike other pacifiers that usually have a handle, a soothie has a hole where your baby can place his thumb (once he has the proper coordination).

The ability to place his thumb in the hole helps him hold the soothie in place. You can also use this feature to place your finger as a way to help hold the soothie in place while you are holding your baby.

A soothie also features holes in the face shield that allow for more breathability. This is particularly beneficial if your baby is prone to rashes. (A pacifier can have this feature as well).

A soothie comes in a variety of colors and sizes. The size varies by age, so make sure that you purchase one that is the appropriate type for your baby.


Pros and cons of using a soothie

So why do people choose Philips Avent soothies over other brands of pacifiers, and should you?

Pros

Single-Piece construction: The molded-silicone design means that a soothie is one piece. Therefore, there are no small parts that can break off and present a choking hazard.
Great soothing ability: The texture and feel of the soothie are designed to closely replicate an actual nipple, which makes it very attractive to most babies.
Comfortable: The silicone material is super comfortable on your baby’s gums and lips.

Cons

Can be habit-forming & cause dental issues: Remember, a soothie is a type of pacifier, so it carries a few of the same cons. If your baby uses it for too long, it can become a tough habit to crack and could impact dental development.
Can pinch your baby’s thumb: The hole in the soothie, which normally helps your baby hold it in place, can potentially get stuck on your baby’s thumb. However, this is more so if your baby is still using the soothie when he is older. Keep in mind a baby should be weaned off of a soothie between 6-months-old and one-year — and make sure your baby is using a soothie built for his or her age group.

Check out reviews from other parents and why they love the Soothie over on Amazon. Our daughter swore by gumdrop pacifiers for a few months as a newborn before we switched over to regular pacifiers.


Wrapping Up

That about sums it up when it comes to a pacifier vs a soothie.

The biggest differences between the two are basically the name and the design.

A soothie is a specific kind of pacifier made out of a single piece of molded silicone. It’s comfortable, safe, and proven to work well for most babies.

A normal pacifier is usually three parts; a nipple, a face shield, and a handle. You can get these in all kinds of different designs and from tons of different brands.

Both items are great ways to help your baby soothe himself when he is upset; you just have to see which one your baby likes the most based on his own personal preferences!

I hope this helps, parents, and good luck with your search!

And before you go, check out more baby stuff explained like:

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