Do Pacifiers Suck?

If, when, and how to use a pacifier is another one of those decisions you will be forced to make as a new parent. Many mothers decide to use them, some decide against it. The use of pacifiers is one of the modern ways of parenting, but a version of it has been around for a long time. Pacifiers before today and in different areas of the world could be made of different materials than rubber, but all accomplish the same thing: letting the baby suck on an object in order to pacify him or her.

Pacifier Pros

  • Using a pacifier supposedly decreases the risk of SIDS.
  • Obviously, a pacifier helps your baby pacify himself.
  • It satisfies baby’s sucking reflex without making your nipples sore.
  • It’s easier to wean a baby from a binky than from his thumb (one can be cut or thrown away; the other is kind of attached).

Using a pacifier alone is not going to protect your baby from SIDS. I am also suspicious of all that SIDS talk, because of the things I found out about co-sleeping. Co-sleeping supposedly increases the risks of SIDS, too, but numerous other studies have shown that countries where co-sleeping is still the norm have a much lower rate of SIDS. Therefore, I would not choose to use a pacifier for that reason alone.

Babies can become used to the pacifier, although some may never take to it. Some babies are very picky about the kind of pacifier they like and won’t accept just any. Others seem to have less of a need for it.

Weaning your child from the pacifier can be very traumatic if it is done after the first year of life or even after six months. Your child has formed an emotional attachment to it, and you will have a battle on your hands. The good news is that it only lasts two or three days. After that, it’s over as long as you stand firm. You can let your child help you throw it away. You can also cut a hole in it first if necessary (binky is broken), and then comfort her as best as you can in other ways (cuddling, story time etc.). Nap time and night time will be the worst, but after the first two nights, your child should be able to go to sleep without a problem.

Pacifier Cons

  •  According to several studies using a pacifier reduces the duration of breastfeeding.
  • Less sleep for everyone (baby wakes up and can’t find pacifier; baby cries; parent comes and finds the pacifier for him).
  • Your baby can become emotionally dependent on the pacifier.
  • Using a pacifier can increase the risk for ear infections.
  • When used after two years, your child can develop dental problems (misalignment of teeth).

Contrary to popular belief, nipple confusion is not really as big of an issue as people make it out to be. Many babies nurse without problems right away and also receive a pacifier within the first few days of life. However, if you have any problems with breastfeeding, you should not use the pacifier. Any sucking needs your baby has should be satisfied at your breast to establish breastfeeding and build up your milk supply.

When your baby is little and unable to find and grab things, losing the pacifier can result in less sleep for him and consequently you. If your baby needs it to fall asleep, he may wake up more often after losing the pacifier. Dependency on the pacifier is created after the first few months of life when your baby starts to remember what happened yesterday. On the other hand, ear infections are often a result of having a cold. A pacifier alone will probably not be the sole cause.

If your child gets to keep the pacifier after two years, dental problem can result that may be difficult to fix. The pacifier use results in misshapen teeth because the teeth get pushed forward (the front teeth are affected). The same is true for thumb sucking at that age.

Yes or No to Pacifiers?

The bottom line is that there is no right or wrong answer. If you choose not to use a pacifier, that’s fine. If you choose to give your baby a pacifier, that’s okay, too. Be aware that most of the downsides to using pacifier are more important as your baby grows.

The risk of dependency, ear infections, and dental problem all increase after six months of age. However, if your baby likes to suck his thumb, you may have most of the same problems. Your child can be emotionally dependent on thumb sucking and his teeth will suffer as well if it continues past age two. The benefits of pacifier use (helping baby calm down and satisfying his sucking reflex) all occur before six months of age. So maybe the best answer is a compromise of using a pacifier only for a certain period of time.

If you decide to use a pacifier, make sure you use it judiciously. Once your baby is older than six months, he will not need to suck as much. Instead, he will be busy exploring the world as well as learning how to babble and talk. The pacifier should then only be used for nap time and nighttime. I would compare it to judicious use of TV time in older children. They don’t need to watch it all day long, because it deprives them of the chance to do other things. Similarly, your baby needs to use his mouth to explore other objects (yes, there will be some you’d rather he didn’t find) and to learn how to talk.