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Published on April 17, 2014

Pacifiers: To Use or Not to Use

Parents have been using pacifiers to soothe their crying or fussy babies for decades. When a baby cries, mom or dad typically picks him up, comforts him, and offers a pacifier. It’s a natural and common reaction—but is it best for your baby?

Sure, pacifiers can be lifesavers, especially during times when nothing else has the power to calm your baby down. However, there’s been some debate rising over whether parents should use them or not.  

To understand the dilemma, it’s important to look at both the pros and cons of pacifier use.

“Pacifiers are helpful because they can soothe a baby and may help distract babies from things they may not like, such as when they get a shot at the doctor’s office,” said Laura Caso, a lactation consultant at Abington Memorial Hospital.

Babies are often happiest when they’re sucking on something, and pacifiers help them stay relaxed—that’s why they’re often used to help babies fall asleep. The fact that you can throw them away also can mean that it’ll be easier for them to break the habit when the time comes; it’s a lot more difficult if they’re used to sucking their thumb!

“Some research also suggests pacifiers used during sleep may be associated with a slightly lower risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS),” said Caso. “However, researchers don’t understand exactly why.”

On the other hand, there are also reasons why new parents may want to hold off on resorting to the pacifier.

“Pacifiers can interfere with normal feeding patterns, inhibit “cluster” feeding patterns (which helps stimulate milk production in the mother), and even cause nipple confusion, which means the baby might not adjust well to the mother’s nipple,” said Caso.

Since sucking on their mother’s nipple is different from sucking on a pacifier or bottle, researchers say some babies are sensitive to these differences, causing confusion for many infants. As a result, using a pacifier too early has been linked with decreased exclusive breast-feeding and duration of breast-feeding.

There’s also the concern that your baby might become dependent on the pacifier, especially if he uses it to sleep through the night.

So what should you do if you want to give your baby a pacifier?

“There is a time and a place for pacifiers, but not until latching/breastfeeding is well established,” said Caso. “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommend no pacifiers until one month of age.”

As far as when it’s time to say goodbye to the old reliable binky, Caso says the decision should be discussed with your child’s pediatrician. “Personally, I don’t think two year olds need a pacifier unless it’s nap or bed time. But I think it’s an issue if a three year old is running around the mall with one,” she added.

Yes, parenting is confusing. And when it comes to breastfeeding, it’s important to remember that most of the available information are only recommendations.

“Everybody’s situation and culture is different, and that should be taken into account,” said Caso. “The bottom line is getting as much breast milk into babies as possible for as long as possible, and that the parents enjoy their baby.”

 

 

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