by Andrea Stainbrook
There are so many decisions to make regarding caring for your baby. You as the parent truly know what makes the most sense to you and what you are comfortable with. One tool getting a bad rap lately are pacifiers. When parents find themselves using them some don’t want to admit it even! While yes everything has benefits and risks, it seems the benefits of pacifiers aren’t really be talked about anymore. So let’s dive in!
Let’s start out by talking the real negatives of pacifier use. It seems a common belief with those trying to nurse is that you should not introduce a pacifier. Have you heard of “nipple confusion?” Did you know this doesn’t exist?! Babies can develop flow preferences (milk that comes out easily of a bottle nipple but the baby has to work hard at the mother’s breast), but they aren’t confused. In regards to breastfeeding, pacifiers may damage a nursing relationship in instances where the pacifier is being used to replace a feeding or to delay feedings. In these cases you may cause a reduction in the amount of milk being produced because the baby isn’t stimulating the breasts.
Other negatives of pacifier use can include an increased risk of ear infections in babies older than 6 months, and/or orthodontic problems with babies 18 months and older who suck for more than 4-6 hours daily.
So those are the risks. Why would you use a pacifier? Some babies simply have an insatiable need to suck. Many babies want to suck for non-nutritive reasons. It can be soothing to them. But did you ever think about the benefits? That’s right, pacifiers can be good!
The benefits of pacifier use:
Reduced risk of SIDS up to one year of age.
Calms the baby
In premature babies comfort sucking has been linked to shorter NICU stays
Baby’s pulse slows
Strengthens the baby’s sucking ability
Many parents want all the tools to help them soothe their babies. Pacifiers are simply one tool.
Introduce the pacifier during a time when the baby is content. Most of us try to offer the pacifier to our babies when they are upset and inconsolable. If you were upset and someone kept shoving this rubber thing in your mouth you would be like, “what are you doing? Get that away!!!” What if every time you were were upset someone shoved that rubber thing in your mouth? You would associate that rubber object with your frustration.
Instead when your baby seems happy gently introduce the pacifier. First stroke your baby’s cheek with it. Then try rubbing it along its lips. You can even talk upbeat to your baby while you do this. While your baby is still happy barely insert the pacifier into your baby’s mouth. If your baby is in the mood to suck she will likely suck it right into her mouth and give it a go! Keep introducing the pacifier during these content times to get your baby used to it as a tool. The next time she is upset and you offer the pacifier after these introductions, she will likely be happy to use this tool to settle her need to suck!
All tools and items we use to care for our little ones come with pros and cons. Pacifiers can be good and have their own set of benefits.