Quick Tip
Never clean the pacifier by putting it in your mouth as the bacteria and other contaminants in your mouth can cause cavities in babies. Instead, rinse the pacifier in warm water.
Pacifiers are those "godsend" baby items that can soothe a squalling baby in a matter of seconds. Seems like mommy magic, doesn't it? Babies have a strong sucking reflex, and that is the reason why you find them sucking their thumb or fingers even when they are in the womb. The sucking action has a calming effect on the child, and this is the reason why parents list pacifiers as a must have.

Also known as dummy or binky, pacifiers are rubber, plastic, or silicone nipples with mouth shields. Popping a pacifier into the mouth of a fussy baby can work remarkably well at comforting the child and calming his/her crying. So why is it that many parents have an absolute "no-no" policy for using soothers? While there may be certain benefits of using pacifiers, you must also be aware of the drawbacks before introducing the pacifier. To help you decide whether they are good for your child, here are a list of pros and cons of baby pacifiers.

Advantages of Pacifiers

Soothes a Crying Baby

If your baby has been fed, burped, cuddled, and rocked, and still continues to cry and fuss, then a pacifier can help in calming him/her. Pacifiers make the baby feel good as the sucking motion helps release chemicals that reduce stress. This is the reason why babies love sucking their thumb or fingers. Infants need ways to soothe themselves, and the pacifier offers the perfect opportunity to cam a fussy, colicky child.

It can serve as handy distraction during blood tests, shots, and other medical procedures. It can also help ease the discomfort during air travel as babies are unable to swallow or yawn to relieve clogged ears caused by changes in the air pressure.

Reduces the Risk of SIDS

Is it safe for the baby to sleep with the pacifier in his/her mouth? This is a common question among parents. Well, there may be some good news. Pacifiers are known to decrease the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), especially when used at bedtime. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to let the child fall asleep with a pacifier for one year. This could be due to the fact that sucking on a pacifier helps in opening up air space around a baby's mouth and nose, which would prevent the baby from not getting enough oxygen. Parents should, however, never try to put the pacifier in the baby's mouth once he/she is asleep.

Satisfies the Sucking Reflex in Infants

Pacifiers are a good solution to non-nutritive sucking. Infants turn to sucking when they are bored or tired. Sucking their thumb is one way in which babies pacify themselves. However, unlike thumb sucking which can be a hard habit to break, weaning the child off the pacifier is easier.

Disadvantages of Pacifiers

Interferes with Breastfeeding

One of the biggest risks of long-term pacifier use is that it can interfere with breastfeeding. If the baby is introduced to the pacifier even before he/she gets the hang of nursing, it can lead to nipple confusion. Although there is no research to support this fact, it is best to wait for a month or two before introducing a pacifier. This helps the child become a proficient nurser, and also ensures that the mother's milk flow is established well.

Increases the Risk of Ear Infections

Pacifiers are known to increase the risk of middle ear infections. A study published in the Pediatrics found that pacifiers caused 40% more ear infections, also known as acute otitis media. Although there is no comprehensive research on why it may occur, it could be due to the change in pressure between the middle ear and upper throat.

Long-term Use Associated with Dental Problems

Excessive use of pacifiers can change the alignment of the teeth, and it may result in speech delay. It is also believed that overzealous use can lock the mouth in an unnatural position leading to speech delays. It can lead to cavities, malocclusion or crooked teeth, and gum recession.

There is no exact way to determine if pacifiers are good or bad for the child. Obviously, excessive use should be restricted, and parents should ideally try to wean the child off a pacifier when he/she is about a year old. However, if it calms the baby, especially in the first few months, then do use it. Never offer the pacifier between feedings when the child is hungry, or tie it around the baby's neck. Choose a sturdy pacifier with a vented shield that is at least 1-inch wide to prevent choking.