Pacifiers – Pros and Cons


March 16, 2019

Pacifiers are a seemingly ubiquitous baby item, so frequently seen and used that we don’t stop to think about how they affect our babies. In this article I will discuss some of the reasons both for and against introducing a pacifier, and give some tips as to how to do it if you do decide to use one.
If you are planning to breastfeed, you should be cautious about pacifier use, especially in the early weeks. Sucking on a pacifier is different from sucking on a nipple, no matter how the pacifier is designed. This can cause some babies to experience what is called “nipple confusion”: they have problems learning to suck properly. This can lead to sore nipples and reduced milk supply, thus interfering with your chances of breastfeeding successfully.
Some newborns take readily to a pacifier, and as a result don’t cry to indicate hunger as often. This could lead to decreased milk supply and slower weight gain as your baby feeds less than they would without the plug. For these reasons, it is generally recommended that mothers who are breastfeeding delay introducing a pacifier until breastfeeding is well established, usually when the baby is about four to six weeks old.
One final word about breastfeeding and pacifiers: when a baby breastfeeds exclusively and frequently, mothers often remain in a state of amenorrhea, meaning that they do not have their periods and remain infertile. Introducing a pacifier will interfere with this. As the baby is not nursing as often, women will experience an earlier return to fertility.
Another area of concern is that pacifiers can cause orthodontic problems. Many dentists and orthodontists believe that “excessive” pacifier use can change the shape of the baby’s jaw and palate, setting them up for orthodontic problems later in life. If you are using a pacifier, you probably want to make sure that baby does not have it in his or her mouth for the majority of the day.
Despite these concerns, there are some situations in which pacifier use is actually recommended. Some pediatricians will recommend putting your baby to bed with a pacifier, since there have been studies that shown that babies who slept on their backs in cribs with pacifiers had the lowest incidence of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The reasons why this is the case are unknown, but might include that the sucking keeps baby slightly aroused and in a lighter sleep state (SIDS is associated with deep sleep states), or that the baby wakes more often, since the baby will tend to wake up if it loses the pacifier.
Pacifiers can also be handy in situations where it is otherwise impossible to nurse or comfort your baby, for example, on long car rides.
In conclusion, there are both pros and cons to introducing a pacifier. As a parent, it is a good idea to remain aware of how and when you are using it, and limit its use when possible.

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