Pacifiers: Sensible Solutions or Delayed Disasters?
Every mother has her own arsenal against temper tantrums, missed nap
crankiness, and the unfortunate boo-boo and nothing in this arsenal is
as powerful or universal as the pacifier. Even the most
terrible outbursts, right in the middle of church service, can be
quelled by this marvelous little contraption of plastic and rubber.
However, pacifiers have the potential to be as addicting as they are
helpful and can exacerbate or even cause teeth alignment
problems. Is it worth soothing your baby temporarily, or are
pacifiers just disasters waiting to happen? Before you decide, weigh
the pros and cons.
The pros of a “paci” are enough to send any
frazzled mother enough a pacifier shopping spree, but it is the cons
that one should consider before making the purchase.
- They can soothe a fussy
baby quite easily.
And without any more effort than popping a pacifier into the
- They can be invaluable
during uncomfortable situations.
Pacifiers make things like a check-up, getting shots, or diaper
changing with a diaper rash much easier for the baby to handle.
- They are replaceable and
disposable; unlike the one
special blanket or toy.
- There are certain types of
pacifiers that can be made to dispense medicine.
This skips the entire eye dropper dribble mess and fuss.
A rush to the nearest “Babies R Us”
doesn’t seem like such a great idea anymore. Personally I can
attest to the dental problems my pacifier caused and the dependency
that nurtured it. My family already has a certain predisposition to
dental misalignment, but at age five I had used pacifiers so doggedly
that I had caused a wreckage of my pearly whites harbor and later went
on to have braces. The problem wasn’t that my mother
didn’t take them away before my teeth were distorted, but
that I had become so, for lack of a better word,
“addicted” to pacifiers that I would steal the from
my little sister’s nursery and suck them on the sly.
- Early pacifier use may
interfere with breast-feeding.
Sucking on a breast is different from sucking on a pacifier or bottle.
Some babies have trouble learning how to nurse properly if they're
given a pacifier too soon.
- Your baby may become
dependent on the pacifier. If
uses a pacifier to sleep, you may face frequent middle-of-the-night
crying spells when the pacifier falls out of your baby's mouth.
- Pacifier use may increase
the risk of middle ear infections.
However, rates of middle ear infections are generally lowest from birth
to age 6 months — when the risk of SIDS is the highest and
may be most interested in a pacifier.
- Prolonged pacifier use may
lead to dental problems. Normal
pacifier use during the first few years of life doesn't cause long-term
dental problems. However, prolonged pacifier use may cause a child's
top front teeth to slant outward or not come in properly. 1
In the end, it is up to you whether or not to use a pacifier, but you
should acquaint yourself with the possible outcome of your
actions. If you choose to offer your baby a pacifier, keep
these tips in mind:
- Wait until breast-feeding
is well established. Be
patient. It may take a few weeks or more to settle into a regular
nursing routine. If you're breast-feeding, the American Academy of
Pediatrics recommends waiting to introduce a pacifier until your baby
is 1 month old.
- Don't use a pacifier as a
first line of defense.
Sometimes a change of position or a rocking session can calm a crying
baby. If your baby seems hungry, offer the breast or a bottle.
- Choose the one-piece,
Pacifiers made of two pieces pose a choking hazard if they break. The
shape and firmness is up to you — or your baby. Once you've
settled on a favorite pacifier, keep a few identical backups on hand.
Many babies refuse a substitute pacifier.
- Let your baby set the pace.
If your baby's not interested in the pacifier, try again later
— or skip it entirely. If the pacifier falls out of your
baby's mouth while he or she is sleeping, don't pop it back in.
- Keep it clean.
Before you offer your baby a pacifier, wash it with soap and water and
allow it to dry thoroughly. Resist the temptation to "rinse" the
pacifier in your own mouth. You'll only spread more germs to your baby.
- Keep it safe.
Replace pacifiers often, and watch for signs of deterioration. A worn
or cracked nipple can tear off and pose a choking hazard. Also use
caution with pacifier clips. Never use a string or strap long enough to
get caught around your baby's neck.
- Know when to pull the plug.
If ear infections are a concern, you might begin to wean your child
from a pacifier at age 6 months. Most kids stop using pacifiers on
their own between ages 2 and 4. If you're concerned about your child's
pacifier use, consult his or her doctor for suggestions.1
These test results are taken directly from a study by the Mayo Clinic
and can be
viewed in full at