Today, we’re talking about the pros and cons of using a pacifier and how to help your little one say goodbye to their precious paci when the time is right.
The humble pacifier is often a source of relief for many parents. From soothing a fussy little one to helping your baby settle down for sleep, a pacifier can quickly become a life-saving parenting tool in the home. This tiny accessory is often lovingly dubbed a cute nickname such as the paci, binky, dummy or button, and it may fast develop into your child’s most prized possession. So why has the paci received such a bad rep over the years? Like most things in life, the pacifier has its benefits and downfalls.
Here we share everything you need to know about using a pacifier in your home.
Should you give your baby a pacifier?
Babies are born with an innate ability to suck and this strong reflex action helps them to feed. This sucking motion also acts as a source of comfort and calm for your baby. A pacifier is therefore a great way to offer relief to a young child between feeds, as it offers a safe, non-nutritive means of sucking. When your little one is unsettled, distressed, tired or even over stimulated, the use of that little binky can be a great source of relief. The pacifier is therefore a useful tool to help your little one settle down, relax, sleep better, feel more secure and learn to control their feelings.
When is the right time to introduce the pacifier?
If you’re breastfeeding, it is advised to only introduce a pacifier after a regular feeding routine is established. Remember, your baby is learning to breastfeed for the first time too, so you need to give your little one time to adapt and learn the ropes. This means that you may have to wait a few weeks until your newborn has mastered the art of breastfeeding to avoid any chance of nipple confusion.
If your baby is struggling to pick up weight, you may also want to talk to your medical practitioner about the use of a pacifier as your child may be less inclined to feed if they can simply suck on a pacifier without any nutritional gain.
What are the advantages of using a pacifier?Comfort. The main purpose of a pacifier is to offer comfort and relief to a baby. A newborn who wakes up often at night may find it soothing to suck on their paci as they learn to relax and self-soothe before dozing back off to dreamland.
Safer sleep. The American Academy of Pediatrics advises parents to offer infants a pacifier at nap time and bedtime to help lower the risk of sleep-related deaths in children, such as SIDS or suffocation during sleep.
Creating a calm environment. A pacifier may actually help your little one to better balance their moods and handle their emotions. Instead of relying on external factors, such as being held or rocked to sleep, a pacifier is a safe and easy way to ensure that your child is comforted and can more easily settle down for a nap.
What are some of the disadvantages of using a pacifier?Habit-forming. As your little one matures, they may develop a strong attachment to their paci, so much so, that it may be difficult to wean them off their pacifier when it is no longer needed.
The spread of germs. If not properly cared for, your child’s paci may be an ideal spot for lurking germs. Be sure to keep the pacifier clean and sanitized to avoid the spread of germs. Replace it often to ensure that it remains in a good condition.
Teeth and ear problems. Research suggests that prolonged pacifier use can cause problems with a child’s dental and oral development. Long-term pacifier use may also increase your little one’s risk of developing ear infections.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has this to say about the use of pacifiers at home: “Some people believe that using a pacifier can harm a baby. This certainly is not true. Pacifiers do not cause any medical or psychological problems. If your baby wants to suck beyond what nursing or bottle feeding provides, a pacifier will satisfy that need. However, a pacifier should not be used to replace or delay meals. It may be tempting to offer your child a pacifier when it is easy for you. But it is best to let your child decide whether, and when, to use it. Buy pacifiers that are one piece. The two-piece models can come apart and pose a choking hazard. NEVER tie a pacifier to your child’s crib, or around your child’s neck or hand. This could cause a serious strangulation injury, even death. When your child reaches one year of age, you may want to talk with your pediatrician about how – and when – to start weaning your child from the pacifier.”
So, when is the right time to toss the paci?
Just as your precious baby will soon develop into a new phase of life – from milk to solid food, from diapers to underwear – so too will the time come to say goodbye to their precious paci. Each child is different, but medical practitioners often advise to limit the use of a paci from around the age of 6 months.
A good tip is to keep the paci on hand only when it is time for bed or a daytime nap. This way your child will begin to learn other coping mechanisms during the day and only rely on the use of their pacifier for comfort before a nap or at bedtime.
Most children, however, are only emotionally ready to part with their pacifier by the age of two. It is important to follow your little one’s lead and speak to your toddler about the decision to get rid of the paci. Easing your way into the situation and getting your child’s buy-in may be beneficial for you both.
Experts agree that the benefits of a pacifier certainly outweigh the downfalls. Learn to take good care of your child’s paci, avoid prolonged use, and rest assured that the pacifier may be your secret weapon during those first few months of parenting.