When you were a kid, a pacifier was a pacifier.
There were not many differences between the styles, and from household to household, most babies had the same exact pacifiers.
Well, things have changed!
There are now many different types of pacifiers, and some parents could go on for days about which one is better.
The main different types of pacifiers are:
- Open shield pacifiers
- Closed or vented shield pacifiers
- Soothie pacifiers
- Collapsible pacifiers
- One-piece pacifiers
- Multi-piece pacifiers
- Teething pacifiers
- Orthodontic pacifiers
- Lovey pacifiers
- Feeding pacifiers
Here’s a breakdown of these different varieties of pacifiers, the pros and cons of each, and some basic information to help you choose from the seemingly limitless options out there.
(Note: A pacifier can be more than one kind. For example, an orthodontic pacifier can also be one piece or multi-piece.)
Open shield pacifiers
The guard or shield of a pacifier is the wide part that prevents the pacifier from being completely drawn into a baby’s mouth.
Open shield pacifiers have wide and generous openings within the shield, as opposed to their closed shield counterparts that usually only have small vents.
Open shield pacifiers allow excellent airflow while a child is sucking on the pacifier, and they can greatly reduce irritation around the mouth.
These tend to be very popular for a preemie or newborn babies, though they’re not exclusively designed for them. Sometimes these babies will be so small that a traditional pacifier will be half the size of their face!
Some of the open shield pacifiers work well for medical interventions as well.
If your child is on a feeding tube or spending some time in the NICU, the open shield pacifiers leave room for tubing to be run through the pacifier.
- Better airflow for smaller babies
- Can help to keep the pacifier from rubbing on & irritating baby’s face
- Not always available in the orthodontic or teething models
Closed or vented shield pacifiers
If your baby doesn’t have any trouble breathing while using a pacifier and has no issues with irritation around his mouth, you may want to stick with a standard vented design.
Closed shield or vented pacifiers cover more of baby’s face but include ventilation holes for airflow.
More material and surface area means even more protection for baby — there’s no WAY an infant can fully draw one of these into their mouths by accident.
However, the downsides are that this style of pacifier has more nooks and crannies to clean, and more contact with baby’s face can mean irritation around the mouth.
- Nearly impossible to be fully drawn into baby’s mouth
- Vented for airflow
- Easy to find in lots of different varieties
- Harder to clean
- Can irritate skin around baby’s mouth
A Soothie pacifier is a brand of pacifiers from Philips AVENT.
They are the industry standard used in most hospitals. Most parents come home from delivery with a handful of Soothies, which their baby then gets used to — so these are, by far, the most popular newborn pacifiers.
(They’re so common, in fact, that some people used the term “Soothie” to refer to any newborn pacifier in this style — sort of like the brand Kleenex has become shorthand for any tissue.)
You can get Soothie pacifiers in several different sizes, but they are mostly designed for younger babies.
One great thing about the Soothie is that it is made from BPA-free silicone, and you can put it in the dishwater.
The fact that it is made from one piece also makes it really easy to clean and inspect for imperfections.
The one major downside that some parents mention with the Soothie is that they bounce. If your child tosses one of these on a wood or tile floor, there is no telling where it could end up!
- Great for very young and newborn babies
- BPA-free silicone
- Good for breastfeeding babies
- Can be hard to find when dropped
- Teething children can poke a hole in the silicone
(Read more on the difference between a soothie vs regular pacifier)
Foldable or collapsible pacifiers
If you think that pacifier caps are a bit annoying, the foldable or collapsible pacifier could work great.
The nipple on this pacifier will fold up or collapse into its own pocket. Sometimes it will even do this when it is dropped on the floor!
If you hate the idea of your pacifier rolling around tables, floors, and other surfaces collecting germs, consider a folding or collapsing pacifier instead.
You’ll still need to regularly clean it, but it’ll likely stay a bit cleaner than standard pacifiers.
For newborns, though, these may be too fancy and/or have too many moving parts. You’ll likely want to stick with a more basic, Soothie-style pacifier when baby is first born.
- Stays cleaner
- Has it’s own built-in cover
- Comes in a wide range of colors
- Not ideal for newborns
A one-piece pacifier is precisely how it may sound to you, constructed of one piece of material.
That makes them easy to clean, durable, and safe.
These pacifiers were created to ensure that babies had a much lower chance of choking on the pacifier parts.
The multi-piece pacifiers generally have more than one piece molded together to create a specific design. On a rare occasion that the pacifier was to come apart into several sections, the individual pieces could be a choking hazard.
The one-piece pacifier comes in many different styles and designs, but they are usually molded out of plastic silicone or latex.
- Constructed with fewer parts
- No chance of the pacifier falling apart
- Easy to clean
- Typically a more simple design with fewer patterns/designs available
A one-piece design is simple and safe for newborns, but as baby gets older you may want to consider switching to a multi-piece pacifier.
A multi-piece pacifier is what you may think of as a classic pacifier.
These are usually made with three parts, and they will have a very traditional look and shape to them.
(This is the type of pacifier that you can get with a little princess or a baseball bat on the front of it — if that’s your style.)
The three main parts of a multi-piece pacifier are the nipple, a guard, and a ring.
The ring, or handle, can be quite handy for older babies and young toddlers. It gives them some control over their own pacifier (taking it in and out).
You can get multi-piece pacifiers in all different sizes so that you can get a proper fit for your child.
- Comes in lots of styles and designs
- Can order in many sizes
- Ring or handle is great for older babies and young toddlers
- Pieces can come apart over time, inspect regularly
You may have noticed that when your child is teething, they are much more interested in their pacifier.
(If you’re not there yet, buckle up… it’s coming!)
Pacifiers can help to soothe the gums of a teething baby. Although most pacifiers will do the trick, there are special teething pacifiers that work even better.
A teething pacifier usually has U shape design or a bumpy node instead of having a traditional nipple.
The special shape allows the baby to have something to chew on in the back areas of their mouth where molars or teeth may be coming in, alleviating sore gums
These specialty pacifiers can do a better job of reaching the painful areas than a teething ring. Teething pacifiers can also get further in the baby’s mouth while still being safe to use.
- Helps to eliminate discomfort while teething
- Special design to reach areas where molars are coming in
- Will feel different than standard pacifier, and some babies won’t take to them
It is never too early to start thinking about those braces you will have to pay for one day!
Orthodontic pacifiers are designed to help make sure that babies’ newly developing teeth are not altered by using a pacifier.
What makes an orthodontic pacifier different is that it has a flat bottom and a rounded top.
When the pacifier is in the baby’s mouth, the nipple will flatten. The flattening puts less stress on the teeth and jawline and will potentially cause fewer teeth issues.
Orthodontic pacifiers are available in several different sizes and design styles as well.
If you can get your child to take to one of these pacifiers, it may save you a few dollars down the road when their teeth come in a little straighter.
- Helps to protect developing teeth
- Can purchase in many sizes
- Helps to provide more natural sucking
- Not all babies like the sensation of the pacifier changing shape while sucking
Babies love loveys. They also love pacifiers.
So why not put them together?!
Lovey-pacifier combos have become increasingly popular over the years.
They’re excellent at soothing and comforting babies — providing natural sucking and warm snuggles at the same time.
(The pacifier on the end is usually a Soothie-style pacifier.)
The lovey pacifier combos are an excellent choice for the child that has a hard time finding a pacifier.
When a baby drops this from their mouth, they will need much less coordination to get it back in. Many parents like the lovey-pacifier combos because it is easier to track where the pacifier is at all times.
The only issue that you may run into with the lovey-pacifier combos is the fact that it can be difficult to wean your child from their lovey and their pacifier at the same time — kids can get VERY attached to these hybrid pacifiers.
- Easy to find the pacifier when needed
- Easier for kids to put in their mouth by themselves
- Extremely good at soothing and comforting
- Can make weaning a bit more difficult
- A bit gimmicky and not necessary for most children
Before your baby is ready for cereal or other solid foods, you may want to try introducing him to some new flavors.
That’s where teething pacifiers come into play.
You can load these specialty binkies up with fruit, vegetables, ice chips, meat, and more.
As babies sucks and chews on the paci, they get a little bit of the flavor and nutrition from the food inside without having to chew anything.
These are specialty pacifiers that aren’t necessary for most babies and aren’t meant for everyday soothing use, but if you feel baby is ready to taste some new things but not quite ready to chew and swallow on his own, give one of these a try!
- Allows baby to explore new flavors
- Baby can try new foods without chewing
- Deliver medicine or breastmilk with ease
- Not necessary for most babies
Not every baby will need (or take to) a pacifier, while others seemingly can’t go a day without it.
Finding the right type of pacifier for your baby takes a bit of trial and error.
Chances are, you’ll want to start with a basic one-piece Soothie or similar style pacifier. You may even come home from the hospital with a few.
Eventually your baby can graduate to a multi-piece pacifier with more contoured designs and a ring or handle they can use themselves. You can always try specialty teething pacifiers if your baby is really struggling with sore gums, but they’re not 100% necessary.
Lovey-pacifiers are great for some kids, but a little gimmicky. Most babies won’t need anything that complicated.
Before you go, check out a few more of my favorite guides for new parents like:
Hope this helps!