Ah, pacifiers (or as some people like to call them, binkies) – they’re a lifesaver! Once you buy a set and put them to use, you just can’t imagine going back to what life was like before as a parent.
For many of you reading this – and for me as well – pacifiers are an absolute necessity as part of your diaper bag essentials checklist that you take with you wherever you go when baby’s by your side.
This article won’t be discussing all the benefits both you and baby alike will enjoy once you begin incorporating pacifiers into your day to day life, we’ve already covered that in a different article here – this article will be covering everything you need to know about properly sanitizing your baby’s pacifiers to keep them clean at all times.
Why Should I Sterilize My Baby’s Pacifier?
You should make a habit of sterilizing your baby’s pacifier every now and then because with these things falling on the ground and getting touched and handled by different people, they’ll become a safe haven for germs in no time.
Not to mention the fact that if you have two or more naughty little bundles of joy at home, they may be interchanging the same pacifier without you knowing.
All you want to achieve by giving your baby a pacifier to suck on is having them self-soothe and getting some peace and quiet yourself after a long, tiring day – not having your little one get sick because of harmful germs lurking around!
Cleaning VS Sterilizing Baby Pacifiers
Despite the fact that these two terms are often used interchangeably, they’re not the same and they refer to two different processes.
When cleaning your baby’s pacifier, all you’re really doing by using water (and possibly soap) is ridding it from dirt, dust and other pollutants that might have made their way onto its surface.
Sterilizing your baby’s pacifier, on the other hand, is a whole other process that involves way more than just cleaning it with water and soap.
Sterilizing a pacifier by means of extremely high levels of heat ensures that most – if not all – harmful germs on the pacifier are eliminated, something even the most thorough of washes by using water and soap cannot achieve alone.
Will Running Water Be Enough?
No, unfortunately it won’t – if you’re talking about sterilizing your baby’s pacifier, that is.
As far as cleaning your baby’s pacifier and getting rid of any dirt from it – then yes, running it under faucet water is more than enough.
But sterilizing a baby’s binky goes way beyond getting rid of any dirt that might be on it after it fell on the ground, sterilizing it is all about getting rid of the harmful bacteria and germs that might be lurking around at the time – something that running it under faucet water won’t achieve.
So, having water run over your baby’s pacifier is a good first step, but it definitely doesn’t end there – which brings us to our next section.
How Can I Sterilize My Baby’s Pacifiers?
Ever heard of the saying “there’s more than one way to skin a cat”? That’s exactly how it is when it comes to cleaning your baby’s pacifiers – and this section will cover the most popular and effective methods parents have found success with.
And no, don’t worry, you won’t have to spend an endless time doing this – we know your life is already hectic enough as it is and that you have tons of other parenting responsibilities that you have to attend to breathing down your neck.
1) Thoroughly Wash First
So, and as we talked about above, thoroughly washing the pacifiers you plan on sterilizing is the first step you should take before doing anything else.
Get a clean bowl, fill it with hot water, add soap to that water, and give the pacifier(s) you plan on sterilizing a thorough wash first.
Very important note: Before boiling your baby’s pacifiers, make sure they can be boiled (whether that’s clearly stated by the manufacturer on the label, you have to do some digging yourself or even have to give the manufacturer a call to make sure). If the pacifiers your baby currently has are made of plastic, boiling them is a strict no-no because that would result in harmful chemicals making their way out of the pacifier when subjected to high levels of heat during the boiling process.
Just as the case with sterilizing baby bottles, one of the fan-favorite methods that’s stood the test of time is boiling the pacifiers.
First off, fill a pot with water and put it on the stove. Leaving the pacifier(s) there for around 10 minutes is usually enough to kill all the harmful germs and bacteria.
After the boiling process is complete (i.e after around 10 minutes have passed), make sure you leave the pacifier out to air dry and properly cool down before baby puts it in their mouth again.
Make sure you have a pair of tongs readily available next to you, because you will need them to take our the pacifiers after the boiling process is over.
It doesn’t have to be anything too advanced, fancy or expensive – a pair of household salad tongs would do just fine.
Just make sure they’re clean themselves, since grabbing a sterilized pacifier with a pair of dirty tongs would beat the purpose of what we’re trying to achieve in the first place.
2.2) Machine Sterilizer
Again, just as you can do when it comes to sterilizing a baby bottle, you can make use of a machine sterilizer to do the same for your baby’s pacifiers.
It’s obviously more costly to do since you’ll have to buy a high quality machine that’s effective enough in doing its job, but it’s more than worth every penny you pay because of the time and effort it saves you from having to invest into all of this on a recurring basis.
Different electric sterilizers work on pacifiers in different ways, so make sure you read the manufacturer’s directions first and clearly understand them.
2.3) Sterilizing Tablets
Put your baby’s pacifiers in a cup of cold water along with sterilizing tablets if you don’t want to use some of the other methods discussed – and let them do their magic instead!
Not only are sterilizing tablets excellent for baby pacifiers, they also do an amazing job at sterilizing baby bottles too.
2.4) Sterilizing Cap
Depending on which brand of pacifier you buy, some will come with sterilizing caps upon purchase. If yours came with a sterilizing cap, the process is very simple and straightforward.
Begin by adding water to the sterilizing cap while ensuring you don’t exceed the amount the manufacturer recommends you don’t go over. A fill line will usually be drawn on the cap to make this clear.
After filling the cap with water, place the pacifier inside the cap and let it snap on so it securely closes.
Then place the cap (with the water and pacifier inside) in the microwave, and turn the microwave on for around 2 to 3 minutes on a high setting.
This might differ from one sterilizing cap to another, depending on how the manufacturer designed it, so always look for the manufacturer’s instructions first (if available).
After it’s done, take the cap out of the microwave, un-snap it, let it cool down for a few minutes, take the pacifier out of the water, let it dry and give it back for your baby to suck on.
2.5) Sterilizing Bags
Put all the pacifiers and nipples you want sterilized in a sterilizing bag, put it in the microwave for a few minutes (and follow the instructions laid out by the bag’s manufacturer) – and there you go!
Easy peasy – a lovely method for those of you who don’t want to wait 10 minutes for a pot of water to start boiling.
2.6) Pacifier Wipes
You’ve heard of diaper wipes – but pacifier wipes? Yup!
Another very handy item you’ll want to keep in your purse or diaper bag at all times.
3) Leave To Dry
Regardless of how you choose to sterilize your baby’s pacifiers using any one of the methods mentioned above, drying them out properly afterwards is a crucial part of the process.
Avoid doing anything that could re-contaminate the pacifiers when leaving them out to dry.
For example, many people make the mistake of placing the pacifiers on dirty dish towels or dirty kitchen counters to air dry, not realizing that these dirty dish towels will only contaminate the pacifiers with harmful germs and bacteria again upon first contact.
4) Safely Store
Until your baby need the pacifiers you just finished sterilizing again, put them away someplace sanitary.
You don’t need anything too fancy for this, a clean plastic Ziplock bag will get the job done just fine until your little one needs the pacifier again.
Pacifiers stored in a plastic Ziplock bag will also ensure they stay germ-free when placed in diaper bags for you to take with you on the go, since they won’t come in contact with any of the other items placed in your diaper bag or purse at the time.
What Not To Do
Now that we’ve covered some of the most popular and effective methods to get a pacifier cleaned, let’s go over some bad habits many parents are guilty of – ones you should avoid doing.
1) Cleaning It With Your Own Mouth
If there was ever an equally disgusting and counter-effective method to cleaning a baby’s pacifier, this is it.
Sorry to gross you out with this one, but it needs to be said as it is. Some parents think that by picking up their baby’s pacifier off the ground and “cleaning” it with their own mouth, that’s job done.
Eww! That’s gross, completely unhygienic and should never be done no matter what.
Just because someone doesn’t have access to water next to them at the time is not a valid reason to try to “clean” the pacifier with their own saliva!
Not only is this a terrible idea since you’ll be ingesting harmful bacteria and germs your baby left on the pacifier after using it last, you’ll also be leaving harmful bacteria and germs of your own on the pacifier that will make their way into baby’s system when they use it next time – risking getting them very, very ill as a result.
This is especially true if you’re sick at the time you put your baby’s pacifier in your mouth in an attempt to get it cleaned.
You probably won’t be affected as much by ingesting harmful bacteria and germs from your baby, since you’re an adult with a fully developed immune system – it’s your baby that’ll be affected most, since their immune system is still weak and developing.
How Often Should I Clean My Baby’s Pacifiers?
In an ideal scenario, you give your baby’s pacifiers a good wash in between every use.
However, not everything works perfectly like that in life, so let’s be real.
Practically, you should clean your baby’s pacifier whenever it falls out of their mouth onto the ground.
Wherever that may happen, be it around the house or outside in a public place, it’s very easy for a pacifier to catch on to countless contaminants found on the floor upon falling.
Giving it a thorough wash with hot water and – preferably – soap in the nearest bathroom next to you when that happens is much better than doing nothing at all about it.
Either way, inside the house or outside, brace yourself for having to wash a pacifier multiple times a day – because these things will be constantly falling out of your baby’s mouth and hitting the ground, over and over again.
Either that or keep a handful of clean pacifiers with you that you can give your baby from whenever one falls out of their mouth, hits the ground and becomes dirty.
At the end of the day, you can wash all the dirty pacifiers together in one go instead of having to do it individually – saves you loads of time and helps keep you sane!
Always keep in mind that a young and growing baby’s immune system is still fairly weak, especially when they’re still not 6 months of age yet, so cleaning their pacifiers to avoid having them come in contact with harmful germs and bacteria is extremely important.
How Often Should I Sterilize My Baby’s Pacifiers?
First things first: always, always, always sterilize any new pacifier you get for your baby to use for the first time.
Whether it’s been passed on to you from a family member or friend, or you’ve purchased it with your own money yourself, always throw it in a pan of boiling water before your little one uses it for the first time.
Even if you get a brand new one that’s tightly sealed inside a package, just imagine everything the pacifier came in contact with during the production process and before it was actually placed in that packaging.
So, even though it might be brand new and placed in an awesome looking packaging, that doesn’t mean it’s free from harmful germs and contaminants.
After that, you won’t really have to sterilize your baby’s pacifiers all that frequently – unless there’s a valid reason for you to do so, of course.
Throwing it in the dishwasher is usually enough until you know there’s loads of bacteria and harmful germs on it that warrant a good sterilizing session. (Note: Make sure the pacifiers you have are dishwasher-friendly first. Not all pacifiers can be put in the dishwasher, such as latex pacifiers for example).
You should also always sterilize your baby’s pacifiers when they’ve been using them during sickness. When your little one’s ill, they’ll transfer all sorts of harmful germs and bacteria to the pacifiers they used at the time, which need to be eliminated.
When To Call It Quits
You can’t keep sterilizing your baby’s pacifiers forever – there comes a time when you’ll have to give them up and get new ones as replacements.
After a while, even the most thorough of washing with water & soap and sterilization won’t suffice anymore.
The more often a pacifier is used, the faster the “wear and tear” it gets, and the sooner you’ll have to replace it with a brand new one.
Do you notice discoloring? Tears? Pieces falling off (no matter how small)? Holes starting to form? These are all signs that it’s now time to part ways with the old, and bring in the new.
Tears and holes tend to form a safe haven for harmful bacteria and germs to thrive in, and compromised parts pose a serious choking hazard to your little one.
Also inspect the pacifier’s nipple and make sure it’s in good condition too. When you give it a thorough wash and notice that it’s still sticky after letting it dry, that’s a sign that the nipple’s material has degraded and should not be given to baby to suck on anymore.
Besides, you’ll have to buy replacements as your little one gets older anyways. A binkie you bought for them when they were 2 months of age is no longer going to be of use to them at 6 months of age, for example.