Pacifiers are one of those things that some parents swear by and others never use. Every baby’s opinion of them is different too. My son loves them, but I have friends whose babies just wouldn’t take them. So how can you decide if you should give your baby a pacifier?
There are a few different factors that you should consider because there are pros and cons (and a few things I wish I would have done differently).
What’s the right age?
You may be wondering how soon is too soon to start using a pacifier. The answer is that it’s never too soon if you’re formula feeding your baby. In fact you may even want to pack one or two in your hospital bag.
If you’re planning on breast-feeding, you may want to wait a month or so.
When it comes to weaning your baby from their pacifier, there is a lot of information about what the appropriate age is. Pacifiers can help reduce the risk of SIDS until your baby is a year old, but once your baby is 6 months pacifiers can increase their risk of ear infections. Despite this, I know many parents who decided to wait until their baby was 2 or 3 years old before getting rid of their pacifiers.
Ultimately you should base your decisions for when to start and stop using a pacifier on your baby’s individual needs.
The Soothing Power
Sucking can be very soothing to babies. This means that pacifiers can come in handy in situations that make your baby uncomfortable like getting shots or taking a plane ride. They can also help sooth general fussiness and may also help your baby get to sleep more easily. This has definitely been the case with my son.
Pacifiers and SIDS
SIDS is something that I’m sure all new parents worry about as much as I do. You hear all of the horror stories, but believe it or not, a pacifier can help. A study showed that the risk of SIDS is reduced by about 90 percent when a pacifier is used during naps and bedtime. There are a few theories as to why pacifiers help, possibly helping in development or just the fact that with the pacifier in the baby can’t cover their nose and mouth with soft bedding, although no one is quite sure.
If you are planning on breastfeeding your baby, you’ll want to wait a little longer before using a pacifier. This is something that I wish I had known when my son was born. Our first day in the hospital after he was born he did a great job latching and we were off to a good start, but he was given a pacifier on day two and after that he wouldn’t latch. Breastfeeding is much different for your baby than sucking on a pacifier is and when they are still learning to breastfeed, they can be easily confused.
Wait until your baby has the hang of breastfeeding and your milk has come in. Once you and your baby have the whole breastfeeding thing down, introducing a pacifier shouldn’t cause a problem. This is usually around one month, but your pediatrician may also make a suggestion at your 2-week check up.
What are the downsides?
- Ear Infections – After six months old, pacifiers may increase your baby’s risk of ear infections. If you start to notice a problem with this, you may want to start weaning your baby off the paci.
- Dental Problems – If your baby uses a pacifier for too long, it has potential to cause dental issues. This shouldn’t be an issue though until your baby is around 3 or 4 years old. Thumb sucking can cause the same types of problems though and is much more difficult to wean.
- Breast-feeding Problems – If a pacifier is introduced too soon it can cause nipple confusion. Even if you wait until after the first month to introduce a pacifier, it could potentially cause your baby to want to stop breastfeeding sooner. This isn’t always true though because I know people whose children successfully breastfed and used a pacifier simultaneously until after their children were a year old.
- Germs – Working in retail, I can’t tell you how many pacifiers I have seen on the floor. Depending on the age of the child, the pacifiers often go from the floor right back in their mouth again. A good solution for this can be pacifier clips. I usually clip it to my son’s clothes or his car seat so if he spits it out it can’t go far.
- Dependence – In my opinion, the biggest potential problem with a pacifier is that your baby could become dependent on it. This means that if you lose it or forget to bring one in the diaper bag it could make for a very unhappy baby. I literally have pacifiers everywhere so I can always gram one easily if I need to.
So what’s the right choice?
Ultimately the decision to use, or not use, a pacifier is up to you and your baby to make. In my opinion, the pros far outweigh the cons and they have been a lifesaver for me and my son. Next time around I plan on waiting longer before getting started, but all of my children will have the option of using a pacifier if they want it.