October 15, 2019

The use of the pacifier is a controversial subject in some circles.  There are passionate people on both ends of the debate and many have scientific studies to back up their position.  After a good hard look at the facts, each family has to make a decision whether for or against the pacifier and really stick to it come what may.  I did a little digging about the advantages and disadvantages of pacifier use and hopefully this will help you decide which path to take.

Advantages of using Pacifier

Do you like sleep? I do! Getting a good night’s sleep is probably the number one reason parents turn to using a pacifier with their baby. This can also turn into a disadvantage (as shown below), but the initial advantage of using the pacifier is SLEEP!  After all other attempts to soothe the baby have failed, many parents introduce the pacifier as one more option to help their baby (and them) get some rest.

In October of 2005, the American Academy of Pediatrics released a position regarding SIDS. One of the preventative measures they pointed out was the use of a pacifier.  I had never heard this before, so I did a little bit more research to figure out whether this was true or someone trying really hard to make a case for using the pacifier.  As it turns out, there was a study done on pacifier use and its link to SIDS.  Here’s what they did –

  • They interviewed parents in California who experienced the loss of a child due to SIDS about their child’s last sleep.
  • They carefully selected other parents that matched those in California but with no SIDS experience and interviewed them about baby’s sleep habits.
  • They analyzed many different areas very carefully – breastfeeding, not breastfeeding, smoking, not smoking, age, occupation, type of dwelling, etc.

At the end of the study, there was a very solid link between the use of pacifiers and a reduced chance of SIDS.  It crossed all the lines; whether the child used soft bedding or not, parents smoked or not, no matter the culture or the age or the income bracket.

I have three children, two of whom used the pacifier and one rejected it outright.  Thankfully, we have never had to go through the tragedy of losing a child to SIDS.  It certainly does make me pause for a moment.  While I’m about to list all the disadvantages of using the pacifier, this one advantage stands by itself as something to really consider when deciding whether or not to introduce the pacifier.

Disadvantages of using Pacifier

The disadvantages of pacifier use are almost too numerous to list.  You may get more sleep by using  pacifier in those first months, but the trade-offs could be insurmountable.  Of course, not all of these possibilities apply to everyone, but they certainly are food for thought.

  • At some point, they HAVE to get rid of it.  Whether the day comes at age 1 or age 8, they will have to throw that thing in the trash.  It would be much easier to never have to deal with it or at least deal with it early.  I took the pacifier away from my two little ones by 12 months and 13 months and never lost a minute of sleep.
  • Reformed jaw.  Depending on how much the child sucks on the pacifier, those little bones could be moved out of place.  Considering how much they grow and how soft those bones are in the beginning, I wasn’t surprised to read this suggestion.
  • Overbite/Cross Bite.  Again, because children grow and their bones solidify during these first years, you can introduce a problem that wasn’t there to begin with.
  • Delayed speech.  If you had a plastic plug in your mouth all the time, how much would you talk?
  • Inhibits social skills and development.  From the research I did, this seems to be a big concern among doctors and parents.  Other kids may not want to play with someone they perceive as a baby’s since many children see pacifiers on small babies primarily.  But, I will say that some doctors and parents are concerned that homeschooling will effect the socialization skills of children – I don’t agree.
  • Sleep concerns.  Here is where an advantage can become a disadvantage.  If the child is accustomed to having a pacifier in order to sleep, what will happen when that pacifier falls out during deep sleep.  “I! WANT! MY! PACIFIER!”  No more restful sleep for anyone!  The pacifier may interfere with the baby’s ability to himself as he gets older.
  • Soothing with the mouth now leads to soothing with the mouth later.  I had never thought about this before, but one doctor suggested that children who use the pacifier for long periods of time may turn to food, cigarettes, nail-biting, or other forms of oral soothing later in life.
  • Pacifiers get dirty.  They fall on the ground, they roll under beds, they get lost between the couch cushions, they get touched by others.  All kinds of things can happen to a pacifier that would introduce germs to mouth of your little darling.  Of course, there are lots of things babies put in their mouths that might be dirty.
  • Prevents oral learning.  Babies use their mouths to learn about the things around them.  If there is a pacifier in the way, they may not do as much learning.
  • Breastfeeding interference.  A well established rule is not to introduce the pacifier until the milk supply is well established.  Even after a good supply is maintained though, a baby may not nurse as frequently as she could, thereby reducing the cues sent to mommy’s body to make enough milk.
  • Increase in ear infections.  There has been a link established between ear infections and use of the pacifier.  If your baby seems to get lots of ear infections, you might see if this is true for you.  My oldest had many ear infections and three surgeries to place ear tubes before he was three – and he did use the pacifier.  Baby #2 used the pacifier less and had no ear infections.  Baby #3 did not use the pacifier and has had two ear infections (which happened at three years old).
  • Less mental stimulation.  It seems that some babies who use the pacifier may look around their environment less when they use the pacifier.  They are so content sucking on the pacifier that nothing else matters and they experience less of what is around them.
  • What is that pacifier made out of anyway?  Generally, latex or silicone.  In the case of latex, chemicals are added to keep the material soft.  Latex does not hold up well under high temperatures, so parents need to be very careful about sterilizing a latex pacifier too often as it will break down more quickly.  Silicone is a better material to use as it holds up better under heat.

How To Get Rid of the Pacifier
You might be feeling that it is time for your baby to get rid of the pacifier but the thought of HOW to actually do that is fairly daunting.  Depending on the age of your child, it can be a very easy task or it can feel like the onset of World War III.  Catch it early and you’ll be so thankful you did.

I aimed to get rid of the pacifier for my first baby when he turned one year.  I collected all the pacifiers and bottles and threw them away.  To my memory, he never complained about it.

For some reason, with my next baby  I was very nervous to follow the same procedure.  She was such a great sleeper from just a few weeks old, I was afraid I might stir up some problems.  Finally, when she was 13 months old at the reassurance of my mother-in-law, I finally took her off the pacifier and she did just fine.  With this baby, I did it a bit more gradually.  First, I only let her have the pacifier at home, then only in the bed, until finally we took it away altogether.  This all happened over the course of three or four days.  As it turns out, I was more attached to the pacifier than she was!  She is still my best sleeper of the three.

If your baby is a little older, a little more mentally cognitive, a little more vocal – you could be in for trouble.  If your child is anywhere beyond two years old, you might want to try one of the following methods for taking away the pacifier.

  • Gradually.  As I mentioned above, try taking it away in increments.  First, no pacifier outside the house.  Then, no pacifier outside the house or outside the bed.  Then, no pacifier at nap.  You get the picture.
  • Trade.  You might take your little one to the store and let him choose a toy to trade for the pacifier.  Once you get home, make a big ceremony of it so that he remembers and understands exactly what it happening.  Then, have him give you the pacifier and give him the toy.  Make sure there is applause and lots of pomp and circumstance!  He’ll feel so important for making the trade.
  • Sudden.  Just make up your mind to take it away on a certain day and do it.  You’ll have to endure more crying and whining with this option and you really have to have a will of iron against her alligator tears and sobs for the pacifier.
  • Warnings.  Take a few days to remind and warn your child very often that on a certain day, the pacifier will go away.  You might even make a visual aid such as a calendar or paper chain to help him count down the days until there is no more pacifier.

So, whether you choose to introduce a pacifier or not and regardless of when you decide to take it away, make sure you know all of the important facts about the pacifier and its use.  You would also do well to have a plan ahead of time regarding when to introduce it and when/how to take it away to save yourself worrying about it and making last minute decisions during emotional times.

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I'm a mama to three lovely kids. I'm passionate about mothering and parenting, and am eager to share what I know on topics such as parenting, natural living and child safety.

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