Do pacifiers suck? Pros and cons of pacifier use
Sucking is a newborn’s first survival skill, along with crying, and it’s one of her earliest reflexes. Insert a finger, a pacifier, or a nipple in her mouth and she’ll start sucking, and if she’s having a bad time of it, this will calm her down. Heidi Murkoff of What to Expect writes, “Popping a binky into your baby’s mouth can seem like mommy magic: Tears? Add pacifier. Poof! Gone!”
But along with this self-evident magic comes a lot of questions: does the pacifier get in the way of breastfeeding? Will it cause ear infections? Will it make her teeth grow in wrong? Does it have any benefits beyond soothing? We did some research to dig around the pacifier myths and find out some pacifier facts.
Before we get started, though, I really like what Heather from Incredible Infant wrote about it: “Parents often feel guilty about pacifier use. I think you should go over the pros and cons, make your decision and then banish guilt to Mordor.”
We couldn’t agree more: whether you’re pro-pacifier or anti-pacifier, you know your baby and your lifestyle best, so whatever you choose is the correct way to go!
With that said: the ultimate pacifier pro surprised me when I started my research: pacifiers are strongly linked with a decreased risk of SIDS! According to WebMD,
“Pacifier use during nap or nighttime can prevent sudden infant death syndrome. Doctors aren’t sure how it works, but if you give baby a pacifier while she’s asleep, you might lower her risk of SIDS by more than half.”
The simple explanation by researcher De-Kun Li of Kaiser Permanente sounds logical to me: “The bulky handle sticks out. If you have the bulky handle, even if the baby wants to bury [its] face in soft bedding, [it] can’t.” Dr. Fern Hauck of the University of Virginia Health System also writes that “A leading theory is that the pacifier actually helps improve the arousability of infants who are potentially faced with a life-threatening challenge. There are other theories that say that it might have a more direct mechanical effect” – meaning that the effect of pushing the tongue forward may directly keep the baby’s airway open.
Given the possible complexity of dealing with a variety of nipples, there is some worry that pacifier use can get in the way of your baby picking up the skills she needs to breastfeed properly. However, this isn’t difficult to get around, according to WebMD:
“If you’re a breastfeeding mom, hold off on the pacifier for the first few weeks — that gives time for your milk to come in, and for you and your baby to get in a good nursing pattern. That way, the baby doesn’t start to prefer pacifiers over the nipple. After that, studies show no link between pacifier use and breastfeeding troubles.”
As for pacifier cons, the most frequently cited one (and it’s true) is that later pacifier use can interfere with the proper growth and development of the mouth. According to Delta Dental, “Prolonged pacifier use can cause changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth, prevent proper growth of the mouth and create problems with tooth alignment.” The Academy of General Dentistry recommends that kids stop using pacifiers by age two.
However, your paci-loving toddler may strongly disagree with you on this point, and this is where it gets tricky. Claire of The Adventures of Lactating Girl, who has chosen not to use pacifiers with her kids, writes,
“The problem is, have you tried getting something that is adored away from a 1 year old? I can specifically remember a dog that absolutely hated my toddler being chased around the house no matter how much I tried to prevent it. They’re persistent little things. Then what does it do to them mentally if you take away their sole… source of sucking comfort?”
As for ear infections, yes, they are a real risk: a Finnish study suggests that limiting pacifier use can cut the risk of ear infections by up to 29%. Ear infections are seldom dangerous, but they’re definitely painful and unpleasant for all parties involved; the Finnish doctors say that the best way to reduce the risk is to limit baby’s use of her binky to when she’s falling asleep. However, they add that for babies “six months old or younger, continuous use of a pacifier is not harmful.”
There are also babies who simply aren’t into the pacifier, and there’s no real point in trying to convince them to take it: according to the experts at Birth.com.au (who refer to pacifiers the British/Aussie way, as a “dummy”),
“Some babies will happily take a dummy, while others may gag on it (or literally ‘spit the dummy’) and prefer their fingers or thumb. Therefore if your preferences are different from your baby’s, you will need to teach them to accept a dummy, and possibly continually pull their thumb out of their mouth for a while. For some babies, introducing a dummy to stop thumb sucking can be stressful (and possibly unsuccessful), if their preference is for their thumb, and not all babies will accept a dummy.”
Finally, we’re sure you’re thinking: well, what pacifier does Magic Beans specifically recommend? As with most baby products, we offer a variety of pacifiers and other soothing items to suit a variety of babies and a variety of families, because everyone is a little different!
I, personally, have a special place in my heart for the Wubbanub, though, because they come with little stuffed animals attached. And it’s not just cute, it’s also practical: adding a soft little pal adds soothing power to the paci and helps teach baby to keep the pacifier in her own mouth, so it spends less time rolling around on the floor and more time keeping your baby happy! It’s also a surefire baby shower gift, as long as the mom in question hasn’t decided she’s anti-pacifier – ask her first before bringing one.
Need more product recommendations for soothing your baby? That’s what our expert customer service staff is for! Come into any Magic Beans store, or give us a call, drop us an email, or pop onto our handy live chat, and ask us anything about babies. Because whether or not you think pacifiers suck, getting the answers you need when you need them definitely rules!