Pacifiers — also known as soothers, dummies, binkies, and, in my house when my youngest brother was a baby, suckies — are a popular tool used by some parents to soothe their babies. A pacifier is a small, nipple-shaped device usually made of silicone or rubber that can be placed in a baby’s mouth to calm them down. While pacifiers have been a popular choice among parents for many years, both pros and cons exist to using them.
In the parenting community, the subject of pacifiers can bring about heated arguments among mothers and fathers. Some parents are all for pacifiers, not seeing any harm in allowing a baby to suck on a rubber or plastic nipple. Other parents are absolutely opposed to pacifiers, citing the many potential harms of artificial nipples. So, what are the advantages and disadvantages of pacifiers? Where do I stand in the debate?
Pros of Pacifiers
- Soothing: One of the biggest advantages of pacifiers is that they can help soothe a fussy or crying baby. Babies have a natural urge to suck, and pacifiers can help fulfill that need, which can help calm them down and promote relaxation.
- Sleep Aid: Pacifiers can also be helpful in promoting better sleep for babies. Sucking on a pacifier can help babies fall asleep faster and stay asleep longer, which can be particularly helpful for parents who are struggling with getting their baby to sleep through the night.
- Comfort: Pacifiers can provide a sense of comfort and security for babies. Many babies enjoy the sensation of sucking on a pacifier, which can help them feel more secure and relaxed.
- Pain Relief: Sucking on a pacifier can also provide pain relief for babies who are teething or experiencing other types of discomfort. The sucking motion can help distract them from the pain and provide some relief.
- Reduced Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): Some research suggests that the use of pacifiers during sleep may help reduce the risk of SIDS. While the exact reason for this risk reduction is not clear, researchers think that pacifiers may help keep a baby’s airway open, which makes breathing easier.
Cons of Pacifiers
- Dependency: One of the biggest concerns with pacifiers is that they can create dependency. If a baby becomes too reliant on a pacifier for soothing, weaning the baby off the pacifier later can be difficult.
- Dental Problems: Prolonged use of pacifiers can lead to dental problems such as misaligned teeth or an overbite. Dental problems can results because the constant sucking motion can cause changes in the shape of the mouth and the alignment of the teeth. Although normal pacifier use during the first year of life has not been linked to dental problems, prolonged use can cause tooth misalignment and oral malformation.
- Speech Delays: Some research suggests that prolonged use of pacifiers can also contribute to speech delays. Speech delays can result because the constant sucking motion can interfere with the development of the muscles in the mouth and tongue that are necessary for speech.
- Increased Risk of Ear Infections: Prolonged use of pacifiers has been linked to an increased risk of ear infections. An increased risk for ear infections can result because the constant sucking motion can cause the Eustachian tubes to become blocked, which can lead to infections.
- Interference with Breastfeeding: The use of pacifiers can also interfere with breastfeeding. If a baby becomes too reliant on a pacifier for soothing, they may be less likely to breastfeed effectively, which can lead to issues with milk supply and bonding. Research has found that babies who use pacifiers tend to breastfeed for shorter durations than babies who do not use pacifiers.
In general, I personally say nay to pacifiers. I am a mother of four whose kiddos currently range in age from 1 to 11. None of my kids ever used a pacifier. My husband and I tried giving a pacifier to our oldest at bedtime when she was a few days over four weeks. As soon as we popped the pacifier in her mouth, she gave us the sourest face and spit the pacifier back out. We did not even attempt giving our second and third babies a pacifier. When our fourth came along and was a few months old, I noticed that she really liked to suck, a lot more than her three older siblings. I bought her a two-pack of pacifiers to try along with a pacifier clip. She preferred to play with the clip more and had zero interest in sucking on the pacifier.
Overall, pacifiers can be a helpful tool for parents in soothing their babies and promoting better sleep. However, pacifiers do come with some potential drawbacks such as dental problems, speech delays, and dependency issues. Parents must weigh the pros and cons of pacifiers and make an informed decision about whether or not to use them with their babies. If you do choose to use a pacifier, monitoring your baby’s use and weaning your baby off gradually when the time is right are of utmost importance.
The Advantages and Disadvantages of Pacifier Use. 2004. Contemporary Nurse 17(1-2). 109-112. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17929742/
Early Childhood Pacifier Use in Relation to Breastfeeding, SIDS, Infection and Dental Malocclusion. 2006. Nursing Standard 20(38). 52-55. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/16764367/
Pacifiers: Are They Good for Your Baby?: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pacifiers/PR00067
Pros and Cons of Pacifiers and Our Decision Not to Use One © 2023 The Parenting Patch
Baby with Pacifier: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:It%60s_just_me!.jpg
Bamboo Pacifiers: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Bamboo_Pacifiers.jpg