Pacifier Use and Safety

A pacifier is every child's first love. Richard Dowell, Ph.D., a pediatric neuropsychologist at Evangelical Community Hospital in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania, explains that babies have an instinct to suck and use it to soothe themselves, “They can't get a drink; they can't ask for a blanket; they can't use their hands to control things. Sucking provides a way for them to calm themselves." As a result, babies spend the time they aren’t sleeping, sucking. If not on a pacifier, babies suck on their thumb, their hand, a bottle, or most commonly, a breast. Experts agree that a pacifier is one of the most effective ways to soothe a baby. However, a pacifier should only be introduced after a baby is in the habit of being breastfed otherwise babies can begin to develop bad habits.

Other pacifier pros include:

● Health benefits for premature babies: According to a study conducted in 1992, pacifiers help premature babies gain weight. It was also found that pacifiers used shortly after birth help develop early sucking patterns which help reduce medical complications

● Reduced risk of SIDS: Pacifiers have been linked to reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS. Babies who sleep with a pacifier are 20 times less likely to die of SIDS than babies who don’t. Although the exact reason is unknown, experts speculate that the pacifiers prevent babies from rolling onto their front while they sleep and thus, prevent suffocation.

A common concern with parents is that pacifiers are known to cause dental problems in children. However, studies show that they have virtually no effect on children under the age of 2 (that being said, it is recommended that a pacifier is limited after the age of 2 and stopped completely by the age of 4).

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued some guidelines that should be followed when purchasing a pacifier:

● Look for a one-piece model with a soft nipple

● The shield should be made of firm plastic with air holes and should measure about 1 inch across to avoid swallowing

● Choose dishwasher-safe pacifiers and wash them in the dishwasher frequently until the baby is 6 months. Once 6 months, wash regularly with hot water and soap.

● Pacifiers come in a size 0-6 months and 6+ months. For baby's comfort and security, purchase the correct size.

● Use a pacifier clip instead of tying the pacifier to the baby, this prevents suffocation.

● Never use a bottle nipple and ring as an alternative, the nipple can break apart from the ring and pose as a choking hazard.

● Inspect and, if needed, replace pacifiers regularly