A pacifier is a device which is used to soothe a baby. It is an artificial nipple which satisfies the sucking urge of the child. It is very popular with new moms because it is very soothing. Babies can be easily calmed and put to sleep using pacifiers. There is also some evidence that use of pacifiers decreases the risk of SIDS. It provides comfort for the baby and is not too difficult to stop. However, prolonged use of pacifiers may lead to a number of problems like delay in speech and orthodontics related problems.

Every new mom needs a pacifier. It is also known as a soother or a binky. It may be brightly colored. It is a rubber device shaped like a nipple. Infants often experience the sucking urge even after a feeding. This non nutritive suckling impulse may be satisfied with the use of a pacifier. Mothers use it because it provides comfort to the child and it becomes much easier to calm down and put the baby to sleep. However, there are a number of concerns regarding the use of pacifiers. You should be well informed about the pros and cons before getting your baby this device.

Advantages of using pacifiers

  1. The greatest advantage of using pacifiers is that it soothes the baby in a matter of seconds. You can calm down a querulous baby to sleep within no time when you put a pacifier in their mouth.
  2. Babies need to suck because it provides comfort. However, when babies are bottle fed and they suck on the nipple, the milk continues to flow leading to overfeeding. This leads to gas and pain. Pacifiers can satisfy this need to suck for comfort while avoiding overfeeding.
  3. One of the greatest recommendations for the use of pacifiers is that it is seen to reduce the risk of SIDS. 260 SIDS were examined by the Chicago infant mortality study. It was seen that incidence of SIDS was less where a pacifier was used. Similar other studies support this finding.
  4. It is inevitable that babies will be cranky at times or they will be hurt – for example when being vaccinated. At such times, the pacifier can provide much needed comfort.
  5. Finally, some parents advocate thumb sucking instead of pacifiers. While both the methods have their own advantages and disadvantages, it is far more difficult to stop thumb sucking than the use of a pacifier.

Disadvantages of using a pacifier

The various problems associated with the use of pacifier are as follows:

  1. There are some concerns whether pacifiers interfere with breastfeeding. It should not be introduced before one month of age as this causes nipple confusion. For little older infants, while confusion may not occur, the baby just finds it much more satisfying to suck on these soothers instead of the breast. The result is that the flow of nutrition is hampered. As a result, the growth of the baby may be affected.
  2. Studies suggest that increased risk of middle and inner ear infections are associated with the continuous use of pacifiers. The use of pacifiers must be gradually lowered between six to ten months of age to decrease the risk of ear infection.
  3. If the baby continues to use pacifiers after one year of age, this will delay the development of the normal baby babble and it will hamper speech.
  4. Prolonged use of pacifiers leads to dental problems as the shape the gums and the teeth are affected.
  5. Since pacifiers are used as universal solution to all crankiness exhibited by the baby, other problems may get ignored. Perhaps the baby is uncomfortable, sleepy, needs changing or simply wants her mother, but instead she gets a pacifier.

It is recommended that you use pacifiers on a limited time basis only between ages one to six months and then gradually wean your baby off this habit. However, the pacifier must be clean. It is also best to have several identical ones handy so that you can find one even if another gets lost.

How to stop using pacifiers ?

Pacifier must be given only at limited times. This habit should be reduced between six and ten months and should be discontinued fully after ten months. A few ways of stopping use of pacifier are:

  1. Gradually wean the baby off the pacifier by reducing the time and frequency of its use.
  2. Throw away the pacifier in front of him/her and then distract him/her with a toy or a favorite snack.
  3. Poke a hole in the pacifier with a pin. The baby will not find it satisfying to suck on it and will give up the habit. There are bound to be a few tantrums. So, patience is needed to wean the baby off the pacifier.