Do Babies Need Pacifiers?

Pacifiers or dummies have been in almost every house for so many years as my grandmother keeps telling me. Sharing her point of view about pacifiers, my granny affirmed that she has never used them with all her eight children. She also told me that back then many moms resorted to pacifiers; they used to add mashed almonds with some sugar so their baby can be soothed.

old paci

Whether you decide to use a pacifier for your baby or not is up to you as it has its conveniences and its problems as well. With my little twins, I am going through the phase of weaning them off the pacifiers which has proved to have its own challenges. In fact, the night I decided to start with the process was when I was putting little Dahlia to sleep and she suddenly held her pacifier and threw it. I took it as a sign to help her and Raphy get rid of it. The first two days were tough on all three of us. It took us a lot of patience and consistency to achieve a great step.

Since all the choices that we make as parents will have their own pros and cons, I will list some of the research I have gathered regarding the advantages and disadvantages of pacifiers. I will also list the different methods I am applying to help my babies move on from pacifiers to avoid its long term effects.

The important advantages for using a pacifier:

  • Soothing effect:

Sucking often has a soothing and calming effect on a baby. Hence when your baby is crying and you know that she is full, has a clean diaper, and not in pain, a pacifier might do the trick to help calm her down.

  • Reducing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome(SIDS)

Sucking on a pacifier at nap time and bed time helps in reducing the risk of SIDS by 90% as per latest studies. The pacifier is particularly helpful in this regard during the first six months – even if they were sleeping on their tummy. “A baby who sleeps on his stomach without a pacifier has a 2.5 times greater risk of SIDS,” explains De-Kun Li, a reproductive epidemiologist with Kaiser Permanente in Oakland, Calif., who led the research. “If you use a pacifier, that baby’s risk disappears.” The work draws on interviews with 185 mothers of SIDS babies and 312 mothers of control infants collected between 1997 and 2000.’ (http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/pacifier-greatly-reduces)

However, it is always advised that a baby should avoid sleeping on the tummy as much as possible. The reasons of how a pacifier helps in reducing SIDS is still poorly explained, yet evidence from daily life shows that it does.

  • Traveling:

A pacifier helps in reducing ear blocking when traveling in an airplane due to air pressure changes. After all, babies simply cannot intentionally “pop” their ears open like us whether through yawning or chewing, so a pacifier could help reduce the pain.

  • Sleeping time:

Pacifiers can be a good way to have the baby learn to sleep either alone in her bed, or while being rocked in a stroller. Having it constricted to sleep only from an early age helps in weaning the baby from it later on.

  • Temporary distraction:

Many parents use pacifiers as a distraction after blood withdrawal or vaccinations. Personally, I would not go for this option as I would rather hold my baby, soothe him/her through talk and kisses, and try to show them any new item around the room.

  • Disposable Item:

Unlike sucking on a thumb, a pacifier can be thrown away once the baby is weaned from it.

And some of the disadvantages are:

  • Middle ear infection:

Within the six to twelve months age range, doctors advise to reduce the usage of pacifiers. In fact, studies have shown that it helps in increasing the risk of recurrent ear infections known as Otitis Media. The continued action of sucking helps in stimulating the flow of secretions from the nose into the middle ear, which creates infections.

  • Dental Development and effects on speech:

Prolonged daily usage of pacifiers leads to the deformation of the jaw and the malformation of the teeth, especially after the age of four years old. Additionally, a child with dental problems will suffer from speech issues as well.

  • Interference with breastfeeding:

If a mother is breastfeeding, she needs to wait for three to four weeks before introducing the pacifier. Waiting helps in avoiding potential breastfeeding issues and nipple confusion with the baby, who might be sensitive to the difference between the breast and the pacifier or bottle.

  • Attachment to the pacifier:

A baby can easily get attached and dependent on a pacifier where she might wake up on many intervals at night just to have it inserted back into her mouth. On the long run, this will frustrate the parents who will not be able to get enough sleep and rest.

funny paci

 So how can we as parents reduce the usage pf pacifiers?

Six years ago, my third son was completely weaned off the pacifier at the age of one. I do recall that I used to pull it out of his mouth the minute he dozed off. The problem with the twins is that when I do that, mainly with Raphy, he wakes up and we have to repeat the process of sleeping again. Worse is when he wakes up his sister.  I know it will take time because I do not want him to get frustrated, and bit by bit he will stop using it.

Here are the baby steps which I take into consideration when it comes to weaning the baby from a pacifier: [As I have mentioned before, parents know their children the most so what worked for my babies might not work for yours]

  • First I am cutting down on the times that my twins get to use the pacifier. For example, I started by limiting pacifier use to just nap time and bedtime. I usually remove its usage during the day and focus on having them occupied with play. After that, I try to remove the pacifier during the day at nap time. I would give them a toy which they have not played with for some time and they would sleep without the pacifier. It takes more time for them to sleep, and the baby might cry and get really fussy, but patience and comforting the baby are the keys to succeed in this mission.
  • The second tactic I am currently adopting is to keep the pacifier out of sight and reach from my baby. “Out of sight out of mind” as the saying goes, so the baby will be occupied with something else. Babies tend to forget the existence of an object if it is not in front of them.
  • When my twins are frustrated, I try to distract them by giving them special toys, and more cuddles for soothing. I usually hand them a spoon, an old remote control, or an empty plastic box. As a mom you need to improvise and see what attracts your baby’s attention the most.
  • Be consistent! As all parents who adore their children and want them to be happy, it is difficult to maintain our firm decision when we look at those chubby cheeks and teary eyes. However, I always try not to give in directly to my child’s crying and resort to other ways before resolving back to the pacifier.
  • It is advisable to help the baby get rid of the pacifier between 12 and 18 months of age as with time it gets more difficult to do that. However, do not pressure yourselves a lot if it is not working. For example, my baby twin boy still wakes up at night to have his pacifier although he is doing very well without it all day long and during nap times. I will not agonize him and myself in the middle of the night just because I read that I have to stop its usage before the age of 18 months.
  • Finally, I encourage my babies to babble and jabber without having the pacifier in their mouth in order to help them improve their speech skills. When a baby uses a pacifier to sleep, they will sleep quietly while they are busy sucking on it. Once you remove the pacifier, the baby is given a chance to experiment with their voice through babbling, screaming, and cooing. Soon they will get tired and doze off in deep sleep.

Cleanliness and hygiene of pacifiers:

  • In general, pacifiers should be changed every month as bacteria eventually infests inside no matter how well manufactured the pacifier is. The outside layer can be easily damaged or scratched. Hence the baby might be swallowing some amounts of the silicone with which it is composed of.
  • Check expiry date before buying the pacifier.
  • To guarantee good oral hygiene and to ensure its cleanliness during the first 6 months, a pacifier should be boiled in a clean pot or washed in a dishwasher. After the age of 6 months, warm water and soap will do the job just fine.
  • Never clean the pacifier by putting it in your own mouth! Your saliva has microbes and germs that will be easily transferred into your baby’s mouth. Trust me, I have seen quite a few parents doing that and I find it disgusting.
  • Purchase pacifiers with covers and hooks. I recently found one on Instagram (babyfirstmoments) showing a pacifier that covers itself up while falling as shown in the picture below:

blue paci

Babies like adults need time to break up on certain habits. The difference is that they will not be able to do that on their own and they need your support and patience to do so.  Like all parenting issues tolerance and persistence are the keys to successfully achieve your goals. 


pictures were found on the web

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