If you are expecting a new baby and you are a new parent, you must be wondering by now about the things that your baby needs once it’s out in the world. From onesies to feeding bottles, from maybe, teethers, and yes, to pacifiers. If you are thinking about giving a pacifier, you might want to know the pros and cons of pacifier for babies.
There’s been a lowkey debate if pacifiers are good or bad for your baby. As most babies have a strong sucking reflex and some babies suck their thumbs even before they’re born, some people think that pacifiers are a must for babies. After all, these things are known for their help in nutrition as well as in pacifying the baby (hence the name). However, are pacifiers really good for your baby?
Let us look at the pros and cons of pacifiers for babies and understand if your baby needs one.
The Pros of Pacifier for Babies
#1: Lessen the risks of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)
To help prevent SIDS, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends using a pacifier as you put the baby down for naps as well as bedtime. There isn’t a clear reason as to why it effectively prevents SIDS, but enough research can back up this claim. Just make sure not to attach the pacifier to your baby’s crib with a strap, as it can be a choking hazard.
#2: Stimulate breastfeeding in mothers with postpartum depression
A recent study suggests that mothers at high risk for postpartum depression did better at breastfeeding if their baby suckled. As pacifiers’ main purpose to most people is to minimize infant crying, they are extremely helpful in minimizing infant crying for fragile mothers who easily get upset. This also helps you buy a bit more time between feedings as your baby learns to soothe itself and makes the early stages of motherhood less stressful.
#3: Serve as a distraction from harsh circumstances
Painful procedures like vaccination or run-of-the-mill bumps are just some of the uncomfortable situations wherein you can use pacifiers to make your baby less upset. It has been proven that pacifiers help in decreasing the baby’s perception of pain, and so it provides more comfort. Just make sure not to coat your baby’s pacifiers with sweets—honey, in particular, is extremely toxic for newborns under the age of one year.
#4: Support thriving preemies
Research discovered that preterm babies who use pacifiers stay in hospitals for shorter periods and succeed in improving their bottle-feeding. The same study also found that sucking on a pacifier during forced feeding (e.g. nasogastric tube feeding) improved digestion in newborns under 32 weeks of pregnancy.
The Cons of Pacifier for Babies
#1: Teeth problems
If your baby uses pacifiers for a long time, especially during toddler years, pacifiers can damage the structure of the teeth and mouth. The jaw and gum tissue is very pliable, so using a pacifier behind the front teeth after the age of two, but especially after the age of four can cause dental problems such as an overbite or crossbite. Although, while it is difficult to decipher what a toddler is saying when trying to communicate with a piece of plastic in their mouth, there is no concrete proof that pacifiers can cause speech delays.
#2: Possible weight gain
You might think this is unlikely, since babies are just sucking into practically nothing as they use the pacifiers. However, a 2017 study found that infants who used pacifiers past four months were 10% more likely to be overweight as they turn one year old, and 20% are more likely to be overweight as they turn two. These are linked to fewer feedings along with the baby’s control during breastfeeding.
#3: Too much dependence
Even for us adults, if something feels good, we keep on doing it. Same thing for babies. This means pacifiers can be addictive to them. Just when you were peacefully sleeping at night, you’ll suddenly hear your baby screaming just because the pacifier fell out of their mouth. You won’t be able to calm your baby down easily when their pacifier falls onto dirt outside and you somehow forgot to bring a spare.
#4: Can be a risk factor for ear infections
When a newborn sucks and swallows, there is change in pressure behind the ears which can cause an infection. This is basically the theory that explains why pacifiers are have been linked to ear infections. One compromise you can do is to allow your baby to use it during naps and bedtime only, and not the entire day.
There are many things that are unclear when it comes to taking care of your baby and clearly, pacifiers are just one of them. Unfortunately, there is no one-size-fits-all solution to this, because each baby is different. With the pros and cons of pacifier for babies, keep in mind that they have different needs, and therefore, what works for another baby may not work for your little one. If you feel like your baby is having a hard time giving up pacifiers, it is best to speak with your child’s doctor.