Pacifiers: Pros and cons
Most babies have a strong sucking reflex, and some start sucking their thumb or finger even before birth. In addition to helping with nutrition, sucking often has a soothing effect. Therefore, many parents let their babies use a pacifier. But are pacifiers good for your baby?
When considering pacifier use, you should be aware of the benefits, risks and safety tips for using a pacifier:
- For some babies, a pacifier can satisfy them between feedings.
- Using a pacifier may soothe fussy babies, as some babies are happiest when they suck on something.
- A pacifier can be a temporary distraction, especially before or after a shot, blood test, or doctor's appointment.
- If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier may help them fall asleep.
- During the flight, a pacifier may provide relief for babies with ear pain.
- Having a pacifier at nap time and at bedtime at night may help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
- Pacifiers are disposable, and when it's time to stop using a pacifier, they can be thrown away, which may be easier than breaking the habit of thumb or finger sucking.
Of course, pacifiers also come with drawbacks:
- Babies may become dependent on a pacifier.
- Babies who use a pacifier while sleeping may cry when the pacifier falls out of their mouth, disrupting their sleep.
- Pacifier use may increase the risk of middle ear infections.
- Prolonged use of pacifiers may cause problems with tooth development.
- Using a pacifier may interfere with breastfeeding. Wait until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and has adjusted to a breastfeeding routine before using a pacifier.
If you choose to offer your baby a pacifier, keep these tips in mind:
- Don't use a pacifier as your first line of defense for soothing your baby, only use a pacifier after a feeding or between feedings.
- Choose a one-piece, dishwasher-safe variety. If you use a two-piece pacifier, it can be a choking hazard if it breaks.
- Let your baby set the frequency of pacifier use, don't force it on them.
- Until your baby is 6 months old and their immune system matures, regularly boil or run pacifiers through a dishwasher.