Many parents struggle to decide whether giving their little one a pacifier is a good idea. There are a lot of contradictory reports out there, some claiming pacifiers are a blessing, while others stating they create numerous problems.
There’s also a lot of myths circulating, making it hard to know exactly what to believe. If you’re thinking of using a pacifier, here you’ll discover 10 useful, interesting facts to aid you in your decision.
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1. They’re Perfectly Fine To Use While Breastfeeding
One of the most common myths surrounding the use of pacifiers, is that they shouldn’t be given to babies who are exclusively breastfed. The logic behind this is that the infant will develop what is referred to as “nipple confusion”. After getting used to the sucking sensation of the pacifier, they will begin to refuse drinking from the breast.
This does appear to be a myth. In fact, the Portland based Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, discovered that after pacifiers were banned, the number of babies who exclusively breastfed decreased.
This was thought to be because some babies require a lot more sucking than others. So without a pacifier, instead they preferred the nipple of a bottle.
Now, the only thing to note here is that problems can arise if you give your little one a pacifier when they’re hungry. This can lead to problems feeding so it’s important to establish when your baby is hungry as opposed to when they simply need soothing.
2. Sucking On The Pacifier Yourself Can Protect Your Baby From Asthma And Eczema
Ok, so this one will make some new parents a little squeamish, but it’s actually been proven that parents who clean their little one’s pacifiers by sucking on it themselves, are actually protecting their babies. Bill Hesselmar, a Swedish doctor from the Queen Silvia Children’s Hospital based in Gothenburg, proved this via a study. The results have been published in the Pediatrics journal.
The study looked at 136 infants who used pacifiers. Out of these, 69 of the infant’s mothers confessed they sucked the pacifier clean themselves. It was found that those 69 infants had a reduced risk of both asthma and eczema when they were received a check-up at 18 months of age.
So how does sucking on your little one’s pacifier help them? Well, according to Hesselmar, your saliva contains gut microflora. These are tiny, microscopic organisms which reside within the tract of the digestive system. Children who have a lot of gut microflora are well-known to have fewer problems with asthma and eczema.
3. Pacifiers Reduce The Risks Of SIDS
SIDS is one of the most frightening things every parent worries about. With no known cause, it is impossible to detect, making it even more devastating when it occurs. However, there are some ways to reduce the risks and experts claim a pacifier is one of them.
There are two ways pacifiers help to reduce SIDS. Firstly, they help to keep your little one more awake and in a much lighter state of sleep. As they constantly suck throughout the night, they are less likely to fall into a deep sleep, meaning there’s a much lower risk that they will stop breathing.
Secondly, the pacifier helps to keep your baby’s airway open, further reducing the chance they will stop breathing. It has actually been recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics that you offer your little one a pacifier as you put them down to sleep. However, it’s also noted that you shouldn’t try to force one upon your baby if they don’t like them at bedtime.
4. Pacifiers Can Increase The Risks Of Ear Infections
While the majority of facts surrounding the use of pacifiers are largely beneficial, as with anything there are some potential downsides.
For example, studies have linked pacifiers to ear infections in infants. Published within the Pediatrics journal, one study found that there was a 33% increase of ear infections in infants aged six to ten months. It’s worth pointing out here that this study relates to babies who have constant access to a pacifier. Those given a pacifier solely at bedtime were not affected.
So why do they increase baby’s chance of getting an ear infection? Well, it’s suspected that the sucking motion can cause too much pressure between the ear and the nose if your little one already has a stuffy nose.
Therefore, yes pacifiers can lead to ear infections, but only if your little one has a bunged up nose and uses it constantly.
5. They’re Excellent Soothers And Can Greatly Improve Sleep
One of the main things you learn as a new parent is how to survive on very little sleep! However, that doesn’t make the sleepless nights any less unbearable. If your little one refuses to settle down before bed, a pacifier can prove to be a godsend.
Babies love to suck on things. It’s why you’ll often see them sucking their thumbs and trying to put anything and everything in their mouths. That’s why, when they’re especially fussy, giving them a pacifier to suck on instantly soothes and calms them. It’s the reason so many parents swear by them and in some cases they can even save your sanity!
6. It’s Easier To Wean A Baby Off Of A Pacifier Than Thumb-sucking
A common worry about giving babies pacifiers to soothe them, is they will become too dependent upon them. However, infants who aren’t given a pacifier can resort instead to sucking their thumb and that is actually much more difficult to stop.
Obviously with a pacifier, you can take it away and choose when your little one can have it. That’s not something you can do with their thumbs!
7. Pacifiers Can Have A Negative Impact On The Teeth
By far the biggest concern raised about the use of pacifiers, is the effect they have on the teeth. Both orthodontists and dentists warn against the dangers. So how exactly can they affect your little one’s teeth?
The main problems that can occur not just through sucking on a pacifier, but also with sucking thumbs, include issues with jaw development and buck teeth. However, not all infants who use pacifiers will automatically develop these issues. Instead it depends upon how intensely they suck, how frequently they use the pacifier and how long they use them for.
It’s not only young infants you have to be worried about either. According to dentists, it’s a myth that your child won’t have these issues once their permanent teeth come through. Regardless of age, it’s a good idea to limit the use of pacifiers, rather than giving them continuously.
8. They Can Prevent Over-Eating
Infants who do have a fairly strong sucking reflex can end up over-feeding if they do not have access to a pacifier. This is because if they don’t have another channel to satisfy their sucking reflex, they’re going to give it all they have when they are feeding!
So, if you notice your little one is sucking a lot during feeding and they’re gaining a little too much weight, a pacifier could help.
9. Pacifiers Can Affect Speech Development
While it isn’t guaranteed, pacifiers do have the potential to negatively impact speech development. This is largely because when your little one is constantly sucking on a pacifier, they aren’t going to attempt to babble and copy anything you say. Instead, they’ll be quite content to just carry on sucking!
There’s also a link between speech issues caused by incorrect jaw development, as mentioned above. This isn’t overly common, but it’s still something you should be aware of.
10. They Are Most Effective Up Until The Age Of Six Months
You’ll find that most of the issues presented by frequent pacifier use, occur after the age of six months. Therefore, if you solely want to benefit from giving your little one a pacifier, it’s recommended that you consider weaning them off of it after they reach the age of six months.
This of course isn’t a guarantee that problems won’t arise, but it does minimize the risks significantly.
Overall, there are pros and cons that come from giving babies pacifiers. As you’ll gather from the 10 facts above, it appears restricting their use and only allowing them for a set period of time does tend to be the best way to approach it. You know your baby best, so do what feels right for you. It’s always worth understanding both sides of the pacifier argument before deciding whether or not to let your baby have one.
Finally, if your baby does frequently use pacifiers, you may consider picking up a pack of our pacifier clips, which will prevent them from falling on the ground and getting dirty.