Parents have relied on pacifiers for ages to calm crying infants. But whether they are appropriate for your baby, we need to analyze the benefits and risks.
Beyond nutrition, sucking often has a soothing, calming effect. That’s why many parents rank pacifiers as must-haves, right up there with diaper wipes and baby swings.
For some babies, pacifiers are the key to contentment between feedings. Consider the advantages:
- Potential to calm a fussy baby:Some babies are happiest when they’re sucking on something.
- Offers temporary distraction: A pacifier might come in handy during and after blood tests or other procedures.
- Helps your baby fall asleep:If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick.
- Helps ease discomfort during flights:Babies can’t intentionally “pop” their ears by swallowing or yawning to relieve ear pain caused by air pressure changes. Sucking on a pacifier might help.
- Helps reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS): Sucking on a pacifier at nap time and bedtime might reduce the risk of SIDS. If you’re breast-feeding, wait to offer a pacifier until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and you’ve settled into an effective nursing routine.
Of course, pacifiers have negative aspects as well. Consider the drawbacks:
- Early pacifier use might interfere with breast-feeding:Sucking on a breast is different from sucking on a pacifier or bottle, and some babies are sensitive to those differences.
- Your baby might become dependent on the pacifier:If your baby uses a pacifier to sleep, you might face frequent middle-of-the-night crying spells when the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth.
- Prolonged pacifier use might lead to dental problems.Normal pacifier use during the first few years of life doesn’t cause long-term dental problems. However, prolonged pacifier use might cause a child’s teeth to be misaligned or not come in properly.
If you choose to offer your baby a pacifier, keep these tips in mind:
- Sometimes a change of position or a rocking session can calm a crying baby. Offer a pacifier to your baby only after or between feedings.
- Choose the silicone one-piece, dishwasher-safe variety.Pacifiers made of two pieces pose a choking hazard if they break.
- If your baby’s not interested in the pacifier, don’t force it. If the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth while he or she is sleeping, don’t pop it back in.
- Keep it clean.Before you offer your baby a pacifier, clean it thoroughly. Until your baby is 6 months old and his or her immune system matures, frequently boil pacifiers or run them through the dishwasher. After age 6 months, simply wash pacifiers with soap and water.
- Don’t put sweet substances on the pacifier.
- Keep it safe.Replace pacifiers often, use the appropriate size for your baby’s age, and watch for loose parts or signs of deterioration. Also use caution with pacifier clips. Never use a string or strap long enough to get caught around your baby’s neck.
The risks of pacifier use begin to outweigh the benefits as your baby gets older. While most kids stop using pacifiers on their own between ages 2 and 4, others need help breaking the habit.
The decision to use a pacifier or not is up to you. If used, two things must be kept in mind – right measure and appropriate age.