How safe is your baby's pacifier? Like many baby products, it must meet federal safety standards, which are particularly rigorous for pacifiers. But pacifiers that don't comply with these standards sometimes fall through the cracks and end up on store shelves. By understanding what makes pacifiers safe and using them properly, you can feel confident your baby is protected. A pacifier can be subject to recall if it fails a number of important tests:
• To prevent choking, the Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) requires that pacifiers be able to pass a "pull test" after being boiled and cooled six times. The pacifier must not come apart if the nipple is pulled away from the guard in any direction with a force of 10 pounds. The handle or ring must pass the same test.
• To verify that the pacifier's shield won't suffocate a child, the CPSC requires that it pass a different pull test. With the pacifier placed in a test fixture, the nipple is pulled at a force of 2 pounds, which is held for 10 seconds. If the shield pulls completely through the test fixture, the pacifier fails.
• The pacifier shield must be large enough so that it can't easily enter an infant's mouth. In the highly unlikely event that a baby sucks her pacifier into her mouth, ventilation holes will admit air. Pacifiers are required to have at least two ventilation holes in the shield, but check just to be sure.
• Pacifiers sold with a ribbon, cord, string, yarn, or similar attachment must be labeled with this warning: "Do Not Tie Pacifier Around Child's Neck as It Presents a Strangulation Danger." Pacifiers have a tendency to gravitate to the floor or disappear when you need them most. Still, no matter how frustrated you get, take that warning seriously. Each year, the CPSC receives reports of infants strangling on pacifier cords or ribbons tied around their necks. A baby can catch a pacifier cord on crib posts, doorknobs, and many other objects when you're not looking. It takes only a second for a serious pacifier accident to occur. Don't buy a pacifier that comes with any kind of cord attached. If you already have one, remove the cord. Carry a spare pacifier with you for those inevitable moments when the one in your baby's mouth ends up on the floor.
Despite these safety requirements, some pacifier brands do fall through the cracks. In January 2008, for example, the CPSC recalled about 45,000 "BabyTown" pacifiers (model #39864), which were sold in dollar stores nationwide from March 2004 through December 2007, because the pacifier's shield was too small and could easily enter the mouth of an infant. The pacifier's ventilation holes were also too small and not placed to allow the insertion of a tool to remove the pacifier should it get lodged in a child's mouth. Consumers are instructed to take these pacifiers away from children immediately and return them to the store they were purchased from for a full refund.
Check in before you shop: Before buying a pacifier or any baby product, check the U.S. government's recall Web site, www.recalls.gov, to see if the items you plan to buy have been recalled. Even better, sign up for free e-mail notices of recalls at CPSC's Web site, www.cpsc.gov/cpsclist.aspx.
For more information, check out features to consider and how pacifiers can help prevent SIDS. And when you're ready to retire the pacifier for good, be sure and read banning the binky for helpful tips.