Pacifier was one of the most daunting choices I had to make in my early years of motherhood. My baby had trouble sleeping and I knew pacifier would help in comforting my little one, but I was also afraid of its side effects. I believe informed choices are the key to success in life, especially when it comes to our little babies, we have to be sure of what’s best for them. Which is why before making this decision, I tried to gather as much information as I could to remove my doubts. I know you must be struggling with the same question of whether to use a pacifier for your baby or not and what effects can it have on your baby. This post is going to answer all your concerns regarding pacifiers along with their pros and cons. I have also penned down some awesome tips to help you deal with your baby’s need for a pacifier.
Our babies have a strong drive to suck, which is why you will often find them sucking their thumbs or fingers right after birth. For a newborn baby, your focus should be on making his sleep better, because sleep plays a vital role in their growth and development. Pediatricians suggest parents avoid teaching their baby sleep skills, at an age of 6 months or less and offer sleep-aiding materials, like a pacifier to promote sleep quality. For babies, sleep is an essential part of their growth, any disturbance in it would affect their development and will make them more anxious and tired in the future. For babies older than 6 months, you can start to sleep train them without using a pacifier but avoid pushing too hard. Also, make sure to concern your doctor or an experienced sleep consultant before making this change, as they can provide a better insight. Contrary to popular opinion, pacifiers also offer certain health benefits like reducing the risk of SIDS. They can ease your anxious crying baby and help them sleep more comfortably. Most parents fear that the pacifier will affect their baby’s ability to breastfeed, but many pieces of research have proven otherwise. Pacifiers, in fact, have been found to promote breastfeeding within newborns. According to the American Academy of pediatricians, pacifiers promote the production of saliva within babies as well, which is a natural antacid and is extremely beneficial for reflux babies.
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Pros and cons of using a baby pacifier
For breastfeeding mothers, pacifiers can be extremely helpful between feedings. Babies can use a pacifier for years but it is suggested to use it up to a year, to avoid addiction and dental misalignment in your baby. Pacifiers, contrary to the popular belief, are very effective for babies due to their added benefits like:
- Pacifiers are a great way to comfort your fussy baby because most babies love sucking on something to calm their senses.
- Pacifiers along with comfort also offer a distraction to your baby. Babies tend to cry during and after shots, blood tests, or other procedures, but a pacifier can come in handy in such situations.
- Pacifier is also a great tool to help your baby fall asleep. For babies, that struggle sleeping and like sucking onto a thumb or finger, you can use the pacifier to help them fall asleep.
- If you are a family who travels a lot, then a pacifier is going to be your best gadget for the ride. Because unlike adults, babies can’t relieve their ear pain caused by changing pressure during flights. This is where sucking on a pacifier will come in handy.
- Most researches have proven that babies who suck on pacifiers at nap time, tend to have a reduced risk of developing SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome).
- Unlike thumbs and fingers, pacifiers are disposable and can be gotten rid of. But if your baby develops a habit of sucking on his thumb then getting rid of this addiction would become much harder.
Pacifiers, along with benefits also have side effects as well. So do consider them as well before making your decision.
- One of the major con associated with a pacifier is addiction. If your baby depends on a pacifier entirely for his sleep, then he is likely to wake up in the middle of the night if it falls out. This can be a nightmare experience for the parents.
- Sometimes a pacifier can be the cause of a middle ear infection in your baby. But this risk is far less as compared to the risk of SIDS because newborns up to 6 months have the lowest rate of developing ear infections.
- Make sure that you wait for 2-4 weeks before getting your baby a pacifier because it might disrupt the breastfeeding routine of your little one. Develop a nursing routine before getting your baby hooked onto a pacifier so that your baby’s feeding does not get affected. A study found that pacifier had no side effect on the breastfeeding of a full term and healthy baby.
- A pacifier might affect your baby’s teeth if used for a longer period. Babies that use a pacifier during their 1st few years have been found to have no dental problems, however, your baby’s teeth might misalign if used for more than 4 years.
When should you ditch the pacifier?
The perfect time to ditch a pacifier is when your baby is 5-6 months old because he is likely to forget everything that happened during the early months, including his favorite pacifier. Along with pacifier, use other calming techniques like white noise and swaddling, to make the absence go unnoticed.
- Make sure that you do not get rid of the pacifier before 4 months because your baby is at the highest risk of SIDS at that age. This risk reduces greatly by the time he turns 6 months, so timing is crucial.
- Some babies, tend to have shorter naps at night, even with other soothing techniques. So make sure that you do not ditch the pacifier if your baby is sensitive and has a very hard time sleeping.
Apart from these suggestions make sure that you take your pediatrician’s consultation into account as well. Some babies are at greater risk of developing SIDS as compared to others and your pediatrician might advise you to use the pacifier until your baby’s first birthday or so.
How to ditch the pacifier?
Some babies have a greater tendency to get addicted to pacifiers, it all depends on the nature of your baby. Also, babies tend to grow fonder of things that have been part of their lives since the beginning, pacifier being one of them. Which is why they show so much resistance to the change. If you have landed in a situation where ditching pacifier has become impossible, then try the following techniques.
Give your baby a lot of sleeping cues
Some parents fail to give their baby enough sleep cues before ditching the pacifier. Before losing the pacifier make sure that you are giving your baby enough sleeping aids, like white noise, dim light or darkroom, and a bedtime routine, as possible. For babies under 1 year, make sure that you develop a sleeping routine and swaddle them when sleep time approaches.
Avoid using a pacifier during day naps
If you are planning on getting rid of the pacifier then do it slowly and consistently. Ditching the pacifier instantly will not help any of you, so make sure that you ditch it slowly and strategically and make use of other sleeping techniques like a dark room and white noise as a replacement for the pacifier. However, It is okay to use the pacifier when your baby is having a hard time sleeping or is sick and unable to sleep.
Dos and don’ts when using a pacifier
Though pacifiers are a great help to you and your baby, there are some dos and don’ts that you need to keep in mind during their usage.
- Let your baby suck on the pacifier during uptime, for it will satisfy their sucking need.
- If your baby is used to feeding before sleep then a pacifier can be a good substitute for him. This will help them wean from nursing before bedtime.
- Use pacifiers that are easy to put back in and are visible even in the dark.
- If you want to take a break during nursing or want to lengthen the gap until the next feeding then use a pacifier, as it will give them temporary relief.
- If your baby has started ditching or throwing the pacifier out of the crib, this could be a sign to lose it once and for all.
- Do not use a pacifier all the time, use other methods like rocking as well, to calm your baby down, or your baby’s addiction will become stronger.
- Use one-piece pacifiers, to avoid your baby from choking up upon breaking.
- Make sure that you keep the pacifier clean until your baby’s immune system is mature enough. Also, frequently boil the pacifier to avoid infection in your little one.
- Make sure that you replace the pacifier every month and use an appropriate size relative to your baby’s age.
Pacifiers certainly offer more benefits to your baby than risks. It`s the ability to calm your baby’s nerves, is very helpful for his healthy development and growth.
Ditching a pacifier is not so hard if done rightly and with the right approach. Always consult your doctor before ditching the pacifier, as your baby might require it for longer to avoid the risks of SIDS.
Let me know your story of how you helped your baby get off the pacifier, in the comments below!