The Use Of Pacifiers: Can It Do More Harm Than Good?

By in Parenting on 16 November 2008

Sucking is one of the natural reflexes that a baby can learn in the womb. Ultrasound images are able to capture babies sucking their fingers while in utero. Sucking gives babies a sense of comfort and security when they are sleepy, tired or unhappy. Thus parents usually find the use of pacifiers quite convenient. Parenting can be really demanding at times especially when you do not know how to comfort your crying baby. However, some parents feel that the use of pacifiers may do more harm than good.

Babies are never happy when they feel hungry. They are not used to the sensation of hunger and they also have not learned the virtue of patience. A pacifier can temporarily distract a baby while you are preparing his feeding. It can also make your baby feel contented in between feedings. It also helps a baby go to sleep because it makes them feel relaxed. The effect of pacifiers to the teeth is basically the same as compared to thumb sucking or finger sucking. However, it may be easier to wean your child from pacifiers as compared to sucking fingers or thumbs. Aside from soothing the baby, the greatest benefit from using pacifiers is that, it may lessen the risk of sudden infant death syndrome or SIDS.

The use of pacifiers can be really convenient, but it also has some disadvantages. Using pacifiers too early may interfere with breastfeeding. Some babies may have difficulty nursing properly if they are given the pacifier too early. There is also a tendency for babies to become dependent on the pacifier. Some babies may have interrupted sleep and crying spells during the night when their pacifier falls out. The use of pacifiers may also lead to middle ear infections. Although this may occur, the risk of middle ear infection is lowest during birth to six months of a child’s life, which is approximately the same time that the child may be really interested in a pacifier. For most parents, their greatest concern may be the prolonged use of pacifiers, which can cause dental problems. If pacifiers are used persistently, it may cause the front teeth to slant out or it may cause misalignment to the upper and lower jaws.

Pacifiers can be really useful especially when introduced and weaned at the right time. The American Academy of Pediatrics even approves of pacifier use during the first year of a baby’s life. Thus, parents need to exert extra effort in making sure that your child can get the benefits of using a pacifier, without being exposed to certain health risks. The best time to introduce the use of a pacifier is when your baby has turned one month old. This may be the time that your baby has an established nursing routine. This will ensure that the use of pacifiers will not interfere with breastfeeding. If your baby dislikes the use of pacifiers, never force the issue. You can try to introduce it some other time, or you may skip using it entirely.

It is also essential to choose the right kind of pacifier that is safe for your baby. Some two-piece pacifiers can be choking hazards when they are broken. While others may have clips or strings, these should be used cautiously because it may get caught around your baby’s neck. It may also be good to purchase more than one kind of your baby’s favorite pacifier. If it gets dirty, you can just replace it with the extra clean ones because some babies may refuse a different substitute. It is also advisable to check the wear and tear of the pacifier from time to time. Replace the ones that are worn out in order to prevent broken parts from potentially choking your baby. In order to prevent any fungal infections, it should be properly cleaned. Soaking the pacifier with the same amount of water and vinegar for a few minutes each day can prevent the formation of fungus.

Once your child grows older, it may be best to gradually wean your child from using the pacifier. Children generally lose interest on the pacifier between the ages 2 and 4. However, it may be good to start weaning early in order to prevent any health risks. The process may involve some time, but your baby will eventually learn to live without it. The use of pacifiers may be a debatable topic for some parents, but at the end of the day, it really depends on your decision if you want your baby to use it or not.

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