Whether you provide your baby with a pacifier is a personal decision. It’s well known that a pacifier can quickly calm your baby and turn off the tears. On the other hand, pacifiers do carry some problems. Let’s take a look at the various pros and cons of pacifiers to help you make the right decision for you and your baby.
+ Soothe your baby
All babies are different. From cuddling to rocking to singing softly, there are plenty of ways to soothe a baby. While some babies are happy with these, others are simply fussier. What’s more, babies also need to learn how to soothe themselves, particularly when you cannot be with them 24/7; like if you’re driving or trying to get some much needed sleep! During such times, sucking can help soothe babies. So if your baby is still too fussy despite all the cuddles and songs, a pacifier may well do the trick!
+ Reduce the risk of SIDS
The use of a pacifier when putting your baby to bed is particularly encouraged. The reason is that studies have found that the use of a pacifier can reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). It’s said that babies that suck on pacifiers sleep less deeply which makes them less susceptible to the stopping of breathing. It’s also said that the sucking may help open up air space, ensuring your baby gets enough oxygen. If you therefore decide to provide your baby with a pacifier, it’s recommended while your baby is sleeping.
+ Provide a distraction
Aside from soothing your baby, pacifiers can help provide a welcome distraction, particularly in stressful situations. Whether your baby is undergoing some sort of procedure such as an injection or blood test, sucking can provide the necessary level of comfort to keep them calm. Even in everyday situations such as between feedings, pacifiers can distract your baby and allow you to get things done. While it shouldn’t be the primary method of distracting your baby, (rocking or feeding should come first) it can be very useful when all else fails!
+ Relieve discomfort on flights
If you’re taking your baby on a flight, a pacifier can ease discomfort. Consider how the altitude and air pressure on a flight makes your ears pop (particularly on take-off as you ascend). As you likely know, it’s not a comfortable feeling! Luckily, you can simply swallow, yawn or suck on a sweet to relieve the pain. A baby can’t do that so sucking on a pacifier may well help.
+ Easier to manage than a thumb
One of the problems of pacifiers is that it can be tricky to wean your baby off them. However it’s clearly much easier to wean your baby off a pacifier than it is a thumb! Of course, it’s not just about weaning your baby. It’s about choosing the appropriate time for baby to suck the pacifier. Whether you’re trying to manage when your baby sucks or simply wean your baby off it, at least you are in control. It’s a lot harder to break the habit if your baby is sucking his or her thumb!
– A bad habit
If you’re not careful, it’s easy for your baby’s pacifier sucking to become something of a bad habit. If your baby has a pacifier at night there is a risk you’ll have to get up when the pacifier inevitably falls out of your baby’s mouth! In fact, many parents don’t introduce pacifiers to avoid the problem later on! You can avoid this by taking your baby’s pacifier away before his or her 1st birthday. What’s more, controlling when your baby has the pacifier (such as nap time and bedtime), can help avoid the problem of your baby becoming too dependent on it.
– Risk of ear infections
One of the biggest disadvantages of pacifiers is that they may increase the risk of ear infections in babies. Thankfully the rates of middle ear infections are actually lowest among young babies. Therefore weaning your baby off the pacifier between the age of 6 months and 1 year will likely avoid such problems. The risk of ear infections from pacifier use is also reduced if your baby is only using it at bedtime, rather than sucking it throughout the day and night.
– Possible dental problems
According to the American Dental Association, children who suck on a pacifier (or even a thumb) beyond the age of 2 are more likely to develop dental problems such as misaligned teeth. It’s worth knowing that the harm to the growth and development of the mouth and teeth only really becomes a problem as your baby becomes a toddler. You can reduce this risk by limiting the use of the pacifier and weaning your baby off it at an appropriate time. Remember to also clean the pacifier each time before giving it to your baby!
– Can interfere with breast feeding
There is some suggestion that very early pacifier use may interfere with breast feeding. One of the reasons for this is that babies can be confused by how to suck due to the different shapes of the pacifier and the breast. Furthermore, excessive pacifier use early on can affect milk supply. A good milk supply can be established by regular feedings and avoiding the use of a pacifier for the first 3-4 weeks of a baby’s life.