There are lots of different names for pacifiers, and again the common words will depend on your country. The names you will see most often on packaging are pacifier, soother, and dummy. Other words you might hear include paci and binky.
Not all pacifiers are equal, and so when choosing a pacifier it can be difficult to know what to go for. Largely, what kind of pacifier to choose will depend on personal preference and finding the right one may be a case of trial and error. Here, then, is a rough guide of how pacifiers vary, and an in-depth look at some of the more popular brands.
Material - Pacifier nipples are usually made out of latex or silicone. Historically pacifier nipples have been made from latex and silicone is still fairly new, but in the last five years it seems to have been becoming more and more popular, and in the UK more pacifiers are now made of silicone than latex.
Which is "better" really depends on personal preference. Silicone is usually clear, or occasionally cloudy in colour whilst latex is usually a yellow, orange, or brown colour. Silicone usually has a smoother texture than latex, and is also somewhat firmer than latex. Latex does often have a slight but inoffensive taste, whilst silicone seems devoid of any taste. I find silicone is more susceptible to being bitten through, but otherwise it seems to last longer than latex. As latex gets old it will get darker in colour, whilst the appearance of silicone will start to appear ‘cloudy’ over time.
Shape – There are generally three different shapes for pacifier nipples. The first is the "cherry" nipple. These nipples have a trunk which becomes ball shaped. They have no right way up and are not orthodontic. The other two shapes are both usually labeled as "orthodontic." The second is the angled nipple, which will have a trunk with a "bend" in it so that it fits the shape of the mouth. These pacifiers only have one right way up. The third kind of nipple is the flat kind, where the nipple is not angled – sometimes these nipples will look like a squashed cherry nipple. These nipples will have two different positions in which they can be sucked.
Cherry-shaped nipple, flat orthodontic nipple, and angled/bent orthodontic nipple from three different angles.
Other Variations – Some pacifiers are more supple than others. Most latex pacifiers are fairly supple, whilst the suppleness of silicone tends to vary a lot more. Some silicone nipples are very supple, some are quite hard, and there are a few brands where the silicone is solid (not air filled) and not at all flexible.
Most nipples are air-filled, and in addition to the material this will affect the suppleness of the nipple. Most pacifiers have a vent between the nipple and the shield, which allows air to be squeezed in and out of the nipple whilst you suck. However, some pacifiers do not have the vent and as such the air cannot be squeezed out. This will mean the nipple will keep its shape more and may feel more solid. I have also heard of nipples which are filled with a liquid, although I have never seen one of these and don’t believe them to be common.
Finally, some nipples may be textured. They may have little bumps or ridges on them, which are often advertised as "massaging" the mouth/lips or simply as providing an interesting texture.
Most brands offer pacifiers in two or more sizes, with a smaller size, a bigger size, and perhaps sizes in-between. My advice would generally be to choose the largest size pacifier available. The largest size different brands offer will vary, with some brands it may be 6+ months and others may be 18+ months. There are no standard pacifier sizes, and one brand’s 6+ month pacifier may still be larger than another brands 18+ month size, so if possible compare brands before making a decision. Within the same brand the size of the latex and silicone nipples can be different, and if a brand has several different variants of pacifier, the nipple sizes can also vary from one another between variants.
The most obvious difference between pacifiers will the appearance of the shield. Shields come in hundreds of different designs, colours, shapes, and sizes. Some shields have handles, others do not. Some shields are transparent, some are brightly coloured. Shields come in many different shapes – round, butterfly, oval, heart, etc. Some shields curve towards the mouth, other away from it, and others are flat. Some have cute designs, some are plain. Some have large air-holes, some have lots of air-holes, some only have one or two. Some shields have a “soft” edge, some have textured bumps on the inside of the shield, some are made entirely of latex/silicone, some glow in the dark, some are really big, some are really small and some look like some sort of futuristic space pacifier.
Seeing as pacifiers come in so many different shapes and sizes it might seem like choosing one will be almost impossible. My initial advice would be to choose a pacifier that you like the look of and which has a large-sized nipple. If you like it, great! If not, try another brand and go for something a bit different (e.g. if you went for cherry-shaped latex, try an angled silicone next) until you find the type of pacifier you do like. If standard baby-sized pacifiers don’t suit you but you are sure that pacifiers are for you, then you may wish to considering purchasing an adult-sized pacifier. However, these are expensive.
There are so many different brands of pacifier available worldwide and it would be impossible to go through them all in this guide, so I am just going to go through five brands which I believe to be widely available internationally.
Size - Nuk pacifiers can be found in five different sizes, commonly known as sizes 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, where 5 is the largest. Size 1 (0-6 months), size 2 (6-18 months) and size 3 (18+ months) are designed for babies/toddlers and available in latex and silicone. The size of both nipple and shield increases as you move up the size range.
The Nuk "Maxi Trainer," unofficially known as Nuk Size 4, is no longer being made. The Nuk "Medic Pro," unofficially known at the Nuk Size 5 is a pacifier specifically made for adults. It is available in sizes small and large.
Nipple - All Nuk dummies have an orthodontic, angled nipple. The latex nipples tend to be flatter than the silicone ones, with the exception of the "genius" range. Sized 1-3 are available in both latex and silicone, whilst sizes "4" and "5" are available only in latex.
The size of the nipple does vary slightly between the latex and silicone brands, with the latex nipples slightly larger.
L-R: Nuk 1, silicone. Nuk 2, silicone. Nuk 3, latex. Nuk Genius 3, silicone. Nuk ‘5’ L, latex
Design - Nuk pacifiers are rather easy to identify by their distinct shield shape, which is almost a heart shape with a rounded point. Most size 1-3 shields have a handle, but some are available without. Shields may be coloured brightly, or may be decorated with designs. The Nuk "5" is always plain white.
L-R: Nuk Starlight, Nuk with transparent shield, Nuk without handle, Classic Nuk design, Nuk Genius, Nuk medic Pro/"5"
Availability - Nuk is an international brand. Sizes 1 and 2 are readily available from stores across the world. Size 3 may be available from larger stores in your county. Size "4" is no longer being manufactured, but may be available online. In Germany it is possible to buy size "5" in some pharmacies, however, as far as I know they are not currently available to buy in stores in the rest of the world. They are fairly easy to source online, from eBay and many AB stores, however they do tend to be expensive. Expect one Nuk Size 5 to cost about the same amount as five or six baby pacifiers. Modified Nuk 5s (with a shield from a standard baby pacifier) will cost considerably more.
Size - Mam pacifiers are available in four different sizes, all designed for babies and toddlers: Size 0-2 months, size 2-6 months, sixe 6+ months and size 16+ months.
Difference in size between the Mam 6+ (left) and Mam 16+ (right)
Nipple - All Mam nipples have a fairly flat nipple, and are available in both latex and silicone. The latex nipples seem very slightly shorter than the silicone ones. Many of Mam’s silicone nipples now have a "silk" teat, which is textured so that it is not as smooth and closer resembles the texture of silicone. They also do a range of pacifiers with a textured silicone nipple, known as "mam active" or "mam diamond." One side is covered in raised dots and other lines, and they can be quite interesting.
L-R: Mam 2-6, latex. Mam 6+, latex. Mam 6+, silicone (silk teat). Mam Diamond/Active 6+, silicone. Mam 16+, silicone (silk teat).
Mam "diamond/active" nipple, with raised bumps and dots
Design - Mam’s pacifiers have different shaped shields depending on the size that you are purchasing. No Mam pacifiers have a handle; rather they all have a distinctive button, and the shields curve towards the mouth. Size 0-2 and 2-6 have their own individual shapes, whilst the shields for size 6+ and 16+ do not differ in shape or size. Mam 6+ and 16+ come in three varieties, "soft," "air", and "ulti/classic." The Mam ulti/classic is most common, and comes in a variety of designs and colours, including glow in the dark and transparent. Mam updates its designs every few months.
L-R: Mam classic 2-6, Mam soft, 6+. Mam glow-in-the-dark, 6+. Mam diamond, 6+. Mam Ulti, 6+.
Availability - Mam is an international brand. Sizes 0-2, 2-6 and 6+ are readily available from most stores which carry Mam pacifiers. In the UK its silicone pacifiers are more common than latex.
I have only been able to source the 16+ size online from Austrian and German retailers. I am unsure whether they are readily available in stores in these countries, but they are difficult to find even online.
Size - Avent pacifiers are available in three different sizes, 0-3 months, 3-6 months and 6-18 months. However, as far as I can tell there is no difference in size between the silicone 3-6 month and 6-18 month nipples, the only difference seems to be in the shape and size of the shield. I am not sure whether the same can be said of the latex pacifiers. Their 6-18 months nipples are, compared to other brand’s larger sizes, fairly small.
Nipple - All Avent pacifiers have a flat nipple, and their range of pacifiers are available in both latex and silicone. The latex nipples seem somewhat shorter than the silicone ones. As mentioned above, there is no obvious size difference between size 3-6 months and 6-18 months.
L-R: Avent 0-3 months, latex. Avent 3-6 months, silicone. Avent 6-18 months, silicone. Avent 6-18 months, latex.
Design - Avent’s pacifiers have different shaped shields depending on the size that you are purchasing, with the shield size increasing as you go up the age range. All pacifiers have a handle, which is very loose and free to move. The shields are pretty flat, neither turning towards or away from the mouth. Their range include colourful pacifiers with cartoon designs on the knob, transparent/ clear pacifiers, "free-flow" pacifiers with added air-holes and a glow-in-the-dark range.
L-R: : Avent classic 0-3 months. Avent classic 3-6 months. Avent free-flow 6-18 months. Avent classic 6-18 months (x2).
Availability - Avent is an international brand, and both their silicone and latex pacifiers seem easy to obtain in all sizes from stores which carry their product range.
Size - Nuby are perhaps the most diverse brand in terms of their pacifier product range, and their the sizes available on their different products does vary depending on the product range you are buying from. The vast majority of their range come in two sizes, 0-6 months and 6+. However, some ranges comes in sizes 0-6, 6-12 and 12+ months. To make matters a little confusing their 12+ pacifiers in one design are not necessarily larger than their size 6+ in another.
Nipple - Nuby only makes pacifiers with a silicone nipple. Aside from that, their nipple sizes and shapes between different designs varies a lot. They make pacifiers with cherry shaped nipples, flat nipples, and angled nipple. As mentioned above, the size of their nipple does vary from design to design. Some of their products have small raised bumps at the top of the nipple, designed to massage the lips.
L-R: Nuby Sooth-Air, 6+. Nuby Oval Gel Pacifier, 6+. Nuby Orthodontic Soft Shield, 6+. Nuby Orthodontic Natural Flex, 0-6. Nuby Orthodontic Gel Pacifier, 6+. Nuby Oval Soft Shield, 6+. Nuby Oval Brites, 6+. Nuby Orthodontic Brites, 6+. Nuby Geo, 12+. Nuby Ultra, 6+. Nuby Soft Edge, 12+. Nuby Oval Natural Flex, 6+. Nuby Trenz, 6+. Nuby Cherry Soft Flex, 6+. Nuby Magic Motion, 6+.
As already mentioned, Nuby are probably the most diverse and innovative brand in terms of their shield design. Their pacifiers range from the very normal looking, to completely different from any other pacifier brand. The majority of their shields are brightly coloured, and their range includes those with cartoon designs, those with and without handles and just about every shaped shield you could want.
L-R: Nuby Sooth-Air. Nuby Oval Gel Pacifier. Nuby Orthodontic Soft Shield. Nuby Orthodontic Natural Flex. Nuby Orthodontic Gel Pacifier. Nuby Oval Soft Shield. Nuby Oval Brites. Nuby Geo. Nuby Ultra. Nuby Soft Edge. Nuby Oval Natural Flex. Nuby Trendz. Nuby Cherry Soft Flex. Nuby Magic Motion.
Availability - Nuby is an international brand, and you will likely be able to find some of their product range available in stores near you. However, I don’t think many stores will carry the full range of Nuby products. Which designs are available to you will probably depend on your country and the stores you are able to visit.
Size - Tommee Tippee’s sizing tend to be specific to their individual brand, rather than having a standard nipple size/shape for all of their shields. Their pacifiers come in different sizes depending on the shield design, and they have pacifiers in the following sizes: 0-3, 0-6, 3-9, 6+, 9-12, 9-18. Where in one design the largest size is 6+ and the other 9-18+, the 6+ may still be larger. The Tommee Tippee "closer to nature" pacifiers in size 9+ all have quite large nipples and are comparable to the Nuk "3".
Nipple - Tommee Tippee makes pacifiers with both silicone and latex nipples, but within one shield design nipples will only be available in silicone or latex. They make pacifiers with a cherry, angled, and flat nipple, dependent on shield design and nipple material.
L-R: Tommee Tippee Funky Face 6+, Tommee Tippee Explora 6-18, Tommee Tippee Pure 9-18, Tommee Tippee Soft 9-12, Tommee Tippee C-Air 9-18.
Design - Tommee Tippee have a range of designs, currently known as their "closer to nature" range, their "explora" range and their "essentials" range. The appearance of the pacifiers within these ranges varies greatly, as does the size and shape of the shield. Tommee Tippee makes a range of pacifiers, including pacifiers without a handle, animal shaped shields, shields made of silicone rather than plastic, and pacifiers with extra-large air holes.
L-R: L-R: Tommee Tippee Funky Face, Tommee Tippee Explora, Tommee Tippee Pure, Tommee Tippee Soft, Tommee Tippee C-Air.
Availability - Tommee Tippee is an international brand, and you will likely be able to find some of their product range available in stores near you. Tommee Tippee frequently discontinue their products and update their range with something new. However, often discontinued products will continue to be available in stores for a long time after they stop making them.
The brands above are by no means the only pacifiers available, and nor are they necessarily the best available to you. As stated above, when choosing a pacifier it is best to consider that what feels right in your mouth may not suit another. If you’re not happy after buying a pacifier, try something different. My advice is not to buy anything too small, as usually they’re not so comfortable, but you may feel differently. Finally, bear in mind that price will not always reflect how a pacifier feels to use. Some of my favourite pacifiers have cost less than 50 pence each, and I dislike some of the more expensive pacifiers I’ve tried.
I hope this article was useful, enjoy choosing and using your pacifiers, and try not to let them become an addiction or you may end up with hundreds of the things: