What are the Pros and Cons of Pacifier?
What is one of the baby items to purchase? Guess what? For many parents it’s the pacifier. However, buying is different from using and many parents wonder if they should really let their baby use the pacifier. To the older generation, it may seem to be a norm for babies to be given pacifiers; yet, we know there are disadvantages to using one.
What are the pros and cons? When is the best time to introduce pacifier? How can a pacifier be used to minimize the cons of it? We weight it out for you.
Soothing – Sucking can help babies to self-soothe, offering a calming effect for better sleep. When the baby is cranky either from hunger or fatigue but mom/dad is getting ready the milk or for bedtime, a pacifier may provide the needed distraction and calmness for that few minutes.
Protective against SIDS – Although the reason is unclear, studies show an association between use of pacifier and lower incidence of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome).
Easier to kick the habit – Babies who are not given a pacifier may suck on their thumb and thumb-sucking is known to be a harder habit to kick than pacifier. It is much harder for parents to control thumb-sucking because unlike the pacifier, it cannot be thrown away!
Reduce over-feeding for bottle-fed babies – Babies may suck on the bottle nipple for comfort even when full after feeding, leading to overfeeding. Offering a pacifier can fulfill the need for non-nutritive sucking.
Beneficial for pre-term babies – Studies showed weight gain for pre-term babies who use pacifier but others indicate that sucking on a pacifier consumes energy and doctor should be consulted before giving to frail babies.
Breastfeeding complications – Babies who are sucking on pacifier may tend to suck less on the breasts, possibly as they already get comfort from the pacifier. Particularly for the first few weeks, this may have the effect of lowering milk supply which is dependent on the baby’s sucking.
Dependency – The level of dependency is different for every baby; for some babies, once the pacifier falls off during sleep, the baby may wake up and cry. This leads to everyone being preoccupied with keeping the pacifier available at all times and can cause significant inconvenience, especially at night. A baby who is dependent on the pacifier to fall back asleep may take longer time to learn to fall asleep on his own. The more dependent the baby is, the harder it is to quit using the pacifier.
Risk of middle ear infection – Prolonged sucking on the pacifier is associated with higher incidence of middle ear infection (otitis media), possibly due to promotion of fluids in the middle ear. This is not a high risk and more common in older infants, from the age of six months.
Teeth formation – Also due to prolonged sucking on pacifier, the baby’s teeth may slant outward or be misaligned. Cavities and gum recession are also potential problems, particularly if the pacifier is used throughout the day or artificially sweetened.
The use of pacifier in a child’s life
Given that there are both pros and cons, it is up to the parent to decide. Some parents may also try offering the pacifier and if the baby does not like it, not force the baby into using it. It is best not to offer in the first few weeks until the breastfeeding routine and milk supply is established.
Another aspect of timing is to remove the pacifier for an older infant, and the recommendation is not to use beyond the age of one year. This reduces the risk of ear infection and over-dependence. Using the pacifier for shorter duration also reduces dental issues or risk of speech delay.
Pacifier, if offered, should be as it is – without dipping in sweetened solution nor attached to the baby via clip-on tethers or string. Avoid two-piece pacifier that can be a choking hazard if detached. Be sure to choose the right size for the baby’s age and keep the pacifier clean by washing with water and mild soap. New pacifier has to be washed as directed on the packaging. Replace worn out pacifier to prevent bitten parts from being swallowed.
No matter what decision parents make, the baby’s first year is a joyful experience; Holding the baby and being attentive to her needs is important to
establish trust and bond. Don’t let pacifier replace that role of parents as the comforter!