Pacifiers/Soothers- Does my baby need it?

What is Pacifier?

A pacifier is rubber, plastic, or silicone nipple given to an infant to suck upon. In its standard appearance, it has a teat, mouth shield, and handle. The mouth shield and the handle are large enough to avoid the danger of the child choking on it or swallowing it.

Many parents have relied on pacifiers for ages to calm infants. Pacifiers are very useful in pacifying a crying and restless baby.  A pacifier when inserted into the baby’s mouth, stops it from crying by giving her or him a secure feeling and comfort. Pacifiers can also be used as a preventive measure to avoid thumb sucking.

But are they right for your baby?

pacifier, mother kissing her baby

Pacifiers pros:

  • Satisfies the sucking reflex: Newborns have a natural tendency to suck. The bottle or the breast usually meets this need, but the desire lingers even after the stomach is full. So pacifiers can be of great help. Make sure it doesn’t interfere with your child’s meal time.
  • Reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): SIDS is the unexplained death of a healthy baby less than a year old generally during sleep. Though the exact mechanism of how it benefits in SIDS is not known, pacifiers are believed that they may be associated with the correction of abnormality in the portion of infant’s brain which regulates breathing and arousal from sleep.
  • Helps you manage the kid: It calms down your baby, helping it control the feelings, relax and make it feel secure.

Pacifiers Cons:

  • Ear problems: A recent study has shown that the risk of ear infections in babies who use a pacifier is up to three times higher than in those who use a pacifier.
  • Dental problem: A recent study showed significant differences in dental arch and occlusion characteristics in kids who use pacifiers till 24 months and 36 months of age compared with those who had stopped sucking by 12 months of age.
  • Infection: Pacifiers are frequently colonised with microorganisms. A study was conducted in 95 healthy children aged between 1 to 24 months, to investigate the colonisation of the oral cavity with yeast. None developed oral candidiasis, but the one who used a pacifier was almost twice as likely as controls to be colonised with the candida species. In 22% of silicone pacifiers and 75% of latex pacifiers, the cultures from the pacifier were positive for Candida albicans.
  • Breastfeeding: Sucking action while you breastfeed your baby is different from sucking on a pacifier or bottle, and in some cases babies are sensitive to these differences. Many types of research have suggested that early use of artificial nipples is associated with decreased exclusive breastfeeding and duration of breastfeeding.

When to stop?

The risks of using a pacifier over rules its benefits when your baby gets older. You should choose the right technique to wean your baby’s habit of using a pacifier, keeping the age of the child in mind:

  • Infant: Singing, swaddling, rocking, and an infant massage can be effective alternatives to pacifier use
  • Toddlers and older kids: Involving the baby in activities, engaging with toys or other objects of affection, might help distract your child from his or her desire for the pacifier. Encourage your child to trade in his or her pacifier for a special book or toy.

Do’s and Don’ts for using a Pacifier:

  • Wait until the breastfeeding is established: American Academy of Pediatrics recommends for a minimum waiting period of 3-4weeks, which is sufficient enough to maintain an active nursing routine.
  • Do not use pacifiers as the first line of defence: Changing the position of the baby or rocking session can also calm a crying baby.
  • Do not force your child for the pacifier: If the pacifier drops out of your baby’s mouth while he/she is asleep, then don’t pop it back.
  • Do not sugar coat the pacifiers.
  • Use the appropriate size of the pacifier for your baby’s age, and also check for loose parts or signs of deterioration. Never use a string which is long enough to get caught around your baby’s neck.
  • Keep it clean: Until your baby is six months old and his or her immune system matures, frequently sterilise the pacifier.

Pacifiers, Soothers

As long as you keep the pros and cons in mind, it is up to you whether and when you wish to comfort the baby with a pacifier.

However, remember that no scientific evidence suggests that babies have a need to suck independent of the need for food!

Consult a top Pediatrician

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  • S. Moxley and M. Kennedy, Strategies to support breastfeeding. Discarding myths and outdated advice, Can Fam Physician. 1994 Oct; 40: 1775–1781.
  • Recommendations for the use of pacifiers, Paediatr Child Health. 2003 Oct; 8(8): 515–519.
  • Hanafin S1, Griffiths P. Does pacifier use cause ear infections in young children? Br J Community Nurs. 2002 Apr;7(4):206, 208-211

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