A common question new parents are often faced with: should you give your baby a pacifier? Using a pacifier comes with both pros and cons, according to the Academy of Pediatric Dentistry (AAPD).
On the positive side, pacifiers provide a source of comfort to infants and can teach self-soothing. Pacifiers can also assist in reducing the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the AAPD and American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
While the reason why this is true is not completely understood, it is believed that because babies with pacifiers sleep less deeply than those who sleep without pacifiers, they can be aroused from a deep sleep that could result in the stopping of breathing. Also, the bulky handle of the pacifier makes it uncomfortable for babies to accidentally bury their faces into their mattresses and as a result, restricting their airways.
On the other hand, pacifiers can affect and change the growth and development of the mouth, jaw bones, and teeth. Prolonged pacifier use can cause changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth, the width of the upper jaw, prevent proper growth of the mouth and create problems with tooth alignment. If you do choose to give your child a pacifier, these tips can help reduce its harm:
Restrict pacifier use to only when the infant needs to fall asleep.
Look for a pacifier with ventilation holes in the shield, as they permit air passage. This is important if the pacifier accidentally becomes lodged in the child's throat.
Always clean the pacifier before giving it to a child.
Breaking the pacifier habit
The AAPD recommends that children stop using pacifiers by age two. (Up until that age, any alignment problem with the teeth or the developing bone is usually corrected or will relapse to close to the normal position within six months after pacifier use is stopped.)
Breaking the habit is not always easy. Here are a few suggestions for helping a child wean from the pacifier:
Dip the pacifier in white vinegar.
Pierce the top of the pacifier or cut it shorter every fews days to reduce sucking satisfaction.
Eliminate “cold turkey”…choose an appropriate date that works for your family and get rid of the pacifiers in the house and consider replacing with a lovie or other special animal for bed time. Usually after 2-3 nights the child has adapted to their new comfort item.
For older children, the “Binky” or “Paci” Fairy can come and “gather up all the pacifiers to give to the new babies being born.” Make it a fun and special story, even having child go to the store to pick out a special prize that the Fairy leaves in exchange for the pacifiers.
Always throw away a used pacifier; it is not sanitary for another child to use or to save.
The content on this blog is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of qualified health providers with questions you may have regarding medical conditions.