For many parents, a pacifier seems to work like magic. It’s a quick way to soothe your child when you turn to comfort them.
However, many parents often wonder if it’s okay to give their baby a pacifier. After all, the internet is full of conflicting opinions and information about pacifier use.
While there’s no denying pacifiers work well for crying babies, there can be a few potential pitfalls to be aware of when introducing one.
Here’s what to know about giving your little one a pacifier.
The Top Concerns of Pacifier Use
Every child is unique with their individual needs and abilities. Some may go back and forth between breastfeeding and pacifier use without problems. Meanwhile, others may experience significant challenges with pacifiers.
Some of the main concerns with pacifiers include nipple confusion, low milk supply and dental health.
One of the main considerations of pacifier use is the issues that may occur during breastfeeding. The sucking techniques between breastfeeding and an artificial nipple are different.
Although sucking is an instinct within newborns, it’s still a skill they need to develop over time. Therefore, differences in nursing and pacifier use can lead to frustration and breast refusal, especially when babies are still new.
Another result it can lead to is poor latching, which can be painful for the breastfeeding mother. When the baby’s learned sucking technique leads to ineffective breastfeeding, it can result in low milk supply and weight loss.
However, introducing a pacifier at the right time can be key to avoiding breastfeeding complications.
Many parents’ concerns stem from the dental impact their baby can receive when using a pacifier. However, pacifiers only become an issue with prolonged use. Once they age into their toddler years, the continued use can be linked to recurrent ear infections.
If the child is still reliant on a pacifier by four, they can experience permanent teeth damage. That’s because this is the age where their adult teeth start to grow.
Therefore, they may have problems with misaligned teeth and changes in their jaw or the roof of their mouth.
An anterior open bite is one of the most common dental effects in older children. This issue is where a gap occurs between the front upper and lower teeth.
When to Introduce a Pacifier to Your Baby
If you’re thinking of introducing a pacifier to your baby, the best time for it is when they’re used to breastfeeding. Normally, this occurs around three to four weeks after they’re born.
Yet, keep in mind that your milk supply depends entirely on your baby’s suckling. So if your baby spends too much time with the pacifier, this means less time on the breast. In turn, too little stimulation may decrease your milk supply.
When and How to Wean
Once you start giving your baby a pacifier, it’s a good idea to have a plan for when you’ll ditch it. The best point in time is when they start approaching their second birthday. After that point, they’ll be better off learning how to soothe themselves in new ways.
With binkies, it helps to keep the use down in moderation. Weaning occurs best when you instill limits. If you like how the pacifier works, it’s perfectly fine to restrict usage to napping and fussy times.
If your child has a hard time weaning off the binky by age two, you could try using an orthodontic-friendly version to limit dental risks. Or, you could offer a transitional object to replace the binky.
For instance, a favorite blanket or stuffed animal may work as a security item and help them self-soothe.
Pros and Cons of Pacifiers
At the first sign of a whimper, you may be quick to pop the pacifier in to your baby’s mouth. But first, it helps to take these pros and cons into consideration.
- Decreases the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome): The theory with a pacifier is that it may open up the airway in your baby’s mouth and nose, ensuring enough oxygen.
- Serves as a quick distraction: Many parents rely on pacifiers as a quick way to soothe their baby. For instance, if they get a shot at the doctor or their ears start popping on the plane, the pacifier can quickly calm crying babies.
- Helps babies learn how to self-soothe: Your baby may learn how to get to sleep faster or fall asleep independently.
- May become attached: A pacifier can be a tough habit to break, especially when they reach the toddler years.
- It can be a bad habit for you: Soothing your baby with a pacifier at every first sign of an outburst may make you overlook the real reason they’re crying. As a result, the baby may only be happy when something is in their mouth — and may be unable to comfort themselves in other ways.
- May result in less sleep for all: Babies who use pacifiers each night to sleep may not know how to sleep independently. Therefore, if the baby loses the binky in the middle of the night, they might fuss — requiring you to wake up and get it for them.
Should You Give Your Child a Pacifier?
If your baby gets fussy or needs help falling asleep, pacifiers can be essential when in need. You know what’s best for your child despite the positives and negatives. Therefore, it’s up to you to make that decision.
However, if you think it would help, try one to see how it works.