WebMD says that

Parents have relied on pacifiers for ages to calm crying infants.

However, pretty much every time I fly in an airplane, there is one child screaming (and screaming) a few seats away. I've never heard children starting to scream and stopping (or toning it down) after a minute or two, as if the guardian(s) used a pacifier. Do pacifiers not work on planes? Do the parents just not care (hard to believe)? Do they not know about pacifiers?

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    a pacifier doesn't stop crying if the child is in pain. I hate flying because my ears often are really painful. I can swallow, use earplugs and complain -- those babes can't. I am not saying they all have ear issues -- but pain, change of routine, squashed conditions and so on can all lead up to "I am not happy!" Babies let us know by crying. I just hope no one lowers their seat back so that my already short fuse is not ignited!
    – WRX
    Mar 12, 2017 at 22:04
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    @fkraiem: I'm sorry you saw my genuine question that way. What would be the point of ranting? Would any parents read this post? No. I've asked because if pacifiers worked, I'd gladly carry some and respectfully offer them to parents, as I carry an outlet splitter as an effective solution to outlet scarcity instead of ranting about power outlet hogs. Mar 13, 2017 at 21:44
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    fkraiem - this feels like a valid question. I don't think Dan has worded it as a rant at all. Dan - I upvoted, as I do know this is an issue (as a parent I didn't want to annoy other passengers so was very aware of my children's needs)
    – Rory Alsop
    Mar 13, 2017 at 23:02
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    I've had 3 kids; only one of which took to a pacifier as a newborn. Believe me, I wished the other two had as well, but they didn't. Many kids just don't take to them.
    – afeygin
    Mar 17, 2017 at 14:26

5 Answers 5


Pacifiers aren't magic. If something else is bothering a baby, a pacifier only calms them for a short while. This is useful, for example, if you need a baby to calm down for a few minutes while you fix a bottle, but you have to address the underlying need in short order or the baby just spits the pacifier out and gets madder than ever.

On plane trips, there are a lot of things out of the control of both parent and child. It's loud, it's bright, your schedule is all off, there are lots of new people around, you can't get out of your seat at certain times to change a diaper or whatever, you can't sit or lie in your most comfortable positions, and even with sucking, your ears hurt from the pressurization. Pacifiers only help if all the other conditions happen to be just right.


I fly a lot, and have done for the last 40 years, and while there is the occasional inconsolable baby, most flights are relatively peaceful. Even crying babies are often soothed, but they usually want cuddles rather than a pacifier, and cuddles can be tricky at takeoff and landing.

When my kids were young we found a pacifier or a bottle did help a lot, but if they had sore ears (during descent babies don't know how to equalise pressure) or had their sleep routine thrown off because of many hours of travel what they really wanted was to be held and rocked. So we'd use a pacifier and distraction techniques to get them through the worst bit, so as not to annoy other passengers, and it really did work well. A couple of minutes of loud crying at most, and generally able to be calmed down into mild grumbling.

  • @DanDascalescu I have to say, as a parent if you walked up to me in a plane while I was holding my crying infant and said "here's a pacifier", I'd say "thanks" and immediately throw it in the trash. While your intentions are good, I don't know you from a serial killer and I don't know where that pacifier has been. A better option would be a small stuffed toy, but even then I'd be wary of taking it. It is best to let the parents deal with it, or if it bothers you, ask a flight attendant if you can move forward or have some headphones.
    – Ron Beyer
    Mar 14, 2017 at 14:10
  • @RonBeyer: The pacifier would be sealed, and if they worked, the plane attendants could offer them, instead of random would-be serial killers the TSA hadn't caught. No need to get up in arms about it. Mar 16, 2017 at 13:51
  • @DanDascalescu Sealed or not, I wouldn't accept it. From the flight attendant would be different, maybe. The "sealed" headphones you get are repackaged, not sure I'd trust that the pacifiers didn't get the same treatment. Not "getting up in arms" but I assume you aren't a parent, and no problem with that. There are more issues than malicious intent, my children for example have sensitivities to certain plastics. Some cheap pacifiers made in China have cancer causing chemicals, etc. I'd just rather purchase it myself and know its origin and how it affects my child.
    – Ron Beyer
    Mar 16, 2017 at 14:18

Not every baby takes a pacifier. While they may be magical devices for the little ones who will, some simply refuse them. My son has never liked them - he'd take it for less than ten seconds and then kick it out.

Additionally, some parents avoid them for their own reasons. Some of these reasons are backed in science, others are not. In general, there are some limitations on pacifiers -

  • doctors recommend that breastfeeding mothers not give pacifiers (and other fake nipples) for the first month to avoid nipple confusion while some breastfeeding groups suggest the wait be even longer, 6-8 weeks.
  • If an infant is having weight-gain issues, that would be another time to avoid them.
  • Some studies have linked pacifier use with ear infections.

There is more info on the site linked above if you care to see.

I'm sorry that your flight was unpleasant but, unfortunately, a spare pacifier in your pocket probably isn't a solution. If the baby takes a pacifier, the parent probably already has one and uses it and if they don't take it or their parents don't allow them, the one you have on you is unlikely to convince the baby that they're great or the parent to use it.


No, pacifiers don't always work.

Using the pacifier too many times when the baby clearly doesn't want it and you will actually increase the crying.

It's usually obvious when the baby doesn't want the pacifier. The baby will open his mouth to drop the pacifier. The baby will wriggle his head out of the way of the pacifier when you try to give it to him a second time. The baby will cry like it's about to be murdered when it sees the pacifier (this will usually happen on your third or fourth attempt). And in some cases if the baby has enough dexterity, the baby may even take out the pacifier and throw it on the floor, and then give you an evil stare -- all the while continuing to cry its little lungs out .

Usually, a mother will know what's bothering the baby depending on the actual cry of the baby. If the mother doesn't know, she can just try different things until the baby stops crying, or until the baby cries itself to sleep.

In the case of an airplane, the crying is usually triggered by the change in pressure which causes pain to the baby. And here is the official advice given for that:


But even implementing that advice (which includes using a pacifier and other tips) from the second page doesn't guarantee that it will always work.


To paraphrase the question:

  1. Children have an on/off button that stops crying.
  2. Children crying on airplanes are annoying.
  3. The asker wonders why parents don't use the on off button on airplanes.

The answer:

The assumption 1. is wrong.

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    I'd like to buy your magic on/off button. Feb 26, 2019 at 16:11

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