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.
- They can soothe a fussy baby quite easily. And without any more effort than popping a pacifier into the child’s mouth.
- 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.
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.
- 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 your baby 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 your baby 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
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.
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, dishwasher-safe variety. 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 http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pacifiers/pr00067