Admittedly, I was fairly anti-pacifier before the birth of my first child. I would see children walking around with them all day or a tired parent quickly offering one up to her fussy child. Clearly, I only saw the negative when it came to pacifiers.
Then... well... comes baby. And we all know how that goes.
My son soon became enamored with his paci and I did too. I began to see the real benefits of pacifier use and was no longer in the anti-pacifier camp. In fact, you can put me firmly in the pro-pacifier column. However, I do believe intention and moderation are a must.
So, here are my tips for pacifier use: the good, the bad and the great.
- Pacifiers are a great way to soothe your infant's non-nutritive sucking needs. Babies have a strong sucking need and reflex. When not hungry, sucking can help soothe a tired baby to sleep.
- Pacifier use has been shown to be a strong protective factor against SIDS. A definite plus when used for nap and bedtimes for babies in their first year of life.
- When relegated to nap and bedtime, pacifiers are a safe comfort item for many children.
- For children prone to middle ear infections, persistent pacifier use can increase the frequency of these infections.
- Prolonged or overuse of the pacifier could interfere with speech development and potentially cause misalignment of the permanent teeth.
- New study recently released associates pacifier use with exposure to harmful bacteria and fungus — some which are resistant to standard antibiotic regimens.
- If introduced too early in the newborn period (within first few weeks), pacifier use has the potential for interfering with breastfeeding. (Tip: Wait until breastfeeding is well established before introducing the paci).
Dr. Mom's BOttom Line^ The pacifier can actually be a pretty great soother for infants. I advise parents to only use them for nap and bedtimes and for particularly stressful situations (like getting vaccines).
After the age of 2, children can become quite attached to them and weaning can be more difficult. I clearly remember my daughter's own love affair with her pacifier. It was part of her love trio: the paci, blankie and bear. She gave all her pacifiers up to the pacifier fairy at the age of 3. And there went part of her comfort trio — but she was ready.
Looking back now, I'm glad I let her hang on to it for awhile. Goodness knows our children grow up at lightning speed.
So... go ahead and say yes to the pacifier if you're so inclined. Ditch the guilt, embrace the comfort it can provide, and just remember to use it with moderation and good intentions.