Pacifiers (or dummies) have been found to be great tools for soothing colicky and crying babies, and are readily available in almost all baby equipment and maternity shops. The standard pacifier is made of a disposable silicone or rubber nipple, a mouth shield, and a handle, and comes in different age-appropriate shapes and sizes. As commonly used as pacifiers are, however, they’ve been surrounded by controversy these past few years as doctors and child professionals debate whether their benefits outweigh their drawbacks. Ultimately, the decision of whether to let your baby use a pacifier or not is up to you, so read on and learn more about the pros and cons as well as the recommended guidelines of pacifier usage to help you make an informed decision.
There are several reasons why pacifiers are so hugely popular with both parents and babies, and the most prominent of these include the following:
• Pacifiers are usually a highly effective method of soothing crying and irritable babies.
• Pacifiers can distract a hungry baby for a few moments while the mother prepares to breastfeed, and can come in handy when distracting a baby during medical checkups or when a shot is being administered.
• Pacifiers have been found to be particularly effective in helping fussy babies settle down and fall asleep at bedtime.
• Recent studies have associated the use of pacifiers during sleep with the reduced risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) in young babies.
As soothing as pacifiers can be, there are certain downsides that parents should be aware of before introducing dummies to their babies, such as:
• Babies tend to grow dependant on pacifiers if used too often, and might not be able to fall asleep when not sucking on a pacifier.
• Introducing the pacifier too early on to your baby might hinder its ability to learn how to nurse properly from the breast.
• Teething children who use pacifiers for long periods of time are at greater risk of developing dental problems.
• Babies who use pacifiers often have been found to be at greater risk of developing ear infections.
Proper Pacifier Use
If you do decide to introduce the pacifier to your baby, try to adopt the following guidelines:
• Introduce the pacifier to your baby after you’ve established a breastfeeding routine, which is usually after your baby is a month old.
• Use the pacifier as a last resort after all methods of soothing your baby have failed, and avoid making its use a habit.
• Avoid using two-piece pacifiers, which can be potential choking hazards, and opt for one-piece pacifiers instead.
• Don’t force the pacifier on your baby; follow your child’s queues instead and only offer the dummy to your child when they actually want it.
• Keep your baby’s pacifiers clean and make sure to wash them with soap and water each time before you offer them to your baby, making sure to dry them properly first.
• Replace your baby’s pacifiers regularly and throw out pacifiers with cracked or worn out teats.
• Never use a pacifier sporting a strap that is long enough to pose a choking hazard for your baby.
• Limit or cancel your baby’s pacifier use if your little one is susceptible to ear infections.
• Opt for orthodontic pacifiers, which are less likely to cause dental problems.
• Never resort to dipping your baby’s pacifier in sweet foods to stop your baby’s crying, as this can lead to tooth decay in teething babies.
• Wean your baby off the pacifier by its first birthday, which will be easier to accomplish than when your baby is older.