Are Pacifiers Good For Babies?

By Tracy Wright

Pacis, loveys, binkeys, babas—they are known by many names (known as “wubby” among my kids), but all refer to the infamous pacifier. The pacifier is an instrument that allows your baby to self-soothe by sucking. According to the National Institute of Health, babies are born wanting to suck, and many may even suck on their fingers or thumbs while in utero. According to Healthline, after birth, “the baby will begin to suck when this area is stimulated, which helps with nursing or bottle feeding.”

Still Controversial

But pacifiers can also be a controversial topic among parents and as helpful and cute as they may look, pacifiers can also be a controversial topic among parents and medical professionals who tout the benefits and drawbacks of the instrument. One thing most agree on is that pacifiers are not harmful, especially in the first year of a child’s life. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) actually points to evidence that says pacifiers can actually prevent SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome) in babies.

Pacifier Do’s and  Do Not’s

Even in the first year of life, there are some definite do’s and don’ts when using pacifiers:

• Never use pacifiers instead of feeding.

• Try to establish regular breast or bottle feeding before using a pacifier.

• Do not tie pacifiers to a crib or baby’s neck, as this could be a choking hazard for the baby.

• Only use pacifiers that are approved by your pediatrician (for example, do not use the top of a bottle as a pacifier).

• Pacifiers should be regularly sterilized ,and parents should check that they are intact without any broken pieces.

“The shield between the nipple and the ring should be at least 1-1⁄2 inches (3.8 cm) across, so the infant cannot take the entire pacifier into her mouth. Also, the shield should be made of firm plastic with ventilation holes,” according to the AAP.

How Long to Use Pacifier

It is generally accepted that pacifiers in the first year of a child’s life are good for self-soothing a baby. However, once a child turns 1, the debate becomes a bit ruffled. For example, pacifier use is sometimes tied to delayed speech development, although there has not been conclusive studies to prove this.

“As a speech language pathologist, I think they are the worst! They can delay speech development,” said Lauren Brewer, a speech language pathologist in the Orange County school system. “Kids can’t develop normal speech patterns if there is an object in their mouths for years. I am all about them for the first year for soothing. After that it has to go. They need to be taken away at after year one.”

Pacifiers can also cause dental problems if used for too long long. “One of the most well-known risks from pacifier overuse is a misaligned bite. This can include a crossbite, an open bite, or other types of malocclusions,” according to Healthline. “In particular, these dental issues are more commonly seen when older children are still using pacifiers. Prolonged pacifier use may force a child’s teeth to move and can even change the shape of the roof of their mouth to accommodate the constant presence of a foreign object.”

No Two Kids Are the Same

However, parents also claim that these experiences vary across children. Chances are if you kid needs braces, that won’t change, but prolonged pacifier use may make it worse.

“My older two children were heavy paci users,” said mom Erin Wolfe. “My youngest struggled with bottle nipples, never took a paci, had a speech delay and now needs the most extensive orthodontic work.”

Most medical professionals recommend that you try and stop pacifier use by 12-18 months of age. Involve your child in the process to give up the pacifier.

The National Institutes of Health recommends the following:

• “Limit the time you allow your child to use a pacifier. Use it only for sleep time and comfort until about 12 months old and then plan to give it up.

• Never use punishment to force your child to give up using a pacifier.

• Start a reward chart to mark your child’s progress.

• Praise your child when your child has given up the pacifier and tell them you are proud that they are growing up .”

And I will be quite honest as a mom here. Both of my kids were not fully done with their pacifiers until 4 years old. But after 1-2 years old, we did limit it extensively. I would not allow them to just always have it in their mouths and by the time we got to 3 years old, it was strictly used for bedtimes. Often what I would find is they mostly stopped using it after they fell asleep anyways.

Just like everything else with parenting, the use of pacifiers is very individualized for each child. When in doubt, talk to your pediatrician to make sure you are following all medical guidelines.


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