We are dispelling some myths and presenting the facts about pacifiers that every parent must know, offering essential information about their possible benefits and helping you make informed decisions for your child’s well-being.
Babies can become fussy. Pacifiers can, in fact, calm them. These two facts are universally accepted, but the remainder of the “facts” circulating regarding the benefits and risks of pacifiers are less clear.
We consulted our specialists to set the record right once and for all. Here are five facts regarding pacifiers that all new parents should be aware of.
1. Pacifiers Might Reduce SIDS Risk
The use of pacifiers has been shown in numerous studies to lower a baby’s risk of developing sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
Jennifer Shu, M.D., co-author of Heading Home With Your Newborn, explains, “The occasional movement of your baby’s mouth while sucking maintains him in a lighter state of sleep, decreasing the likelihood that he will cease breathing.” “Additionally, having a pacifier in your infant’s mouth helps keep their airway open,” she says, which may also reduce the chance of SIDS.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advocates placing a pacifier in your infant’s mouth before bedtime. However, this does not imply that you must provide your infant with a pacifier at bedtime if they do not respond well to using one. And if your infant does require a pacifier to fall asleep, you shouldn’t feel forced to constantly re-insert the plug if it slips out during the night.
2. Breastfeeding Infants May Use Pacifiers
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) advises parents to wait two to three weeks before giving pacifiers to nursing infants since the possibility of “nipple confusion” drives many breast- and chest-feeding parents to avoid them. If breastfeeding has been established and there are no additional issues (such as a poor milk supply), you can discuss introducing a pacifier with your doctor.
In June 2022, the AAP published a report in Pediatrics stating the following: “The use of pacifiers in healthy term infants before and after lactation is established does not shorten the time spent breastfeeding up to 4 months of age, according to a Cochrane review, but there is inadequate information on the possible dangers of pacifiers for both mothers and children. The recommendation was to encourage moms highly motivated to breastfeed to use pacifiers depending on personal desire.”
Freda Rosenfeld, a lactation consultant in Brooklyn, New York, notes that certain infants’ sucking needs cannot be met by feeding alone. Therefore, there is nothing inherently wrong with a breastfed infant taking a pacifier if they have recently been fed and are gaining weight healthily. Just be careful not to offer your baby a pacifier instead of your breast when they may be hungry.
3. Generally, Pacifiers Do Not Cause Dental Problems In Infants
Pacifier use during the first two years of a child’s life is generally not harmful. Your child’s mouth is so pliable that any alterations to the palate and teeth caused by a pacifier during these years can often be reversed. However, if your child continues to use a pacifier far into toddlerhood, it might result in malocclusions, such as an open bite in the front or a crossbite in the back.
Dr. Shu advises that it’s not simply the age at which your child gives up the pacifier that matters but also how vigorously they suck. Gentle suckers exert less force on their front teeth and may be able to use a pacifier until the age of three. Around 18 months, however, babies with a more vigorous sucking pattern may have obvious difficulties with their bite.
4. Pacifier Use May Raise the Chance of Ear Infections
A 2000 study published in Pediatrics found that older babies who regularly used pacifiers had higher ear infections than those who stopped using them at 6 months. Some physicians hypothesize that the association is due to the fact that sucking alters the pressure in the ears.
This pressure differential may impede fluid drainage through the tube from the middle ear to the back of the nose and throat. When fluid accumulates, it can cause infections. However, the information is insufficient to argue against pacifiers in general. Dr. Shu explains that they are only a problem if a baby has frequent and recurrent ear infections.
5. Pacifiers Must Be Often Washed
It’s no secret that pacifiers can become contaminated with germs, but the level of filth may come as a surprise. According to research conducted in 2012 by Richard Thomas Glass, D.D.S., Ph.D., a professor of forensic sciences, pathology, and dental medicine, fungi and bacteria resembling E. coli were found on and within the nipple of used pacifiers when examined under a microscope. Additionally, dirty pacifiers boost the risk of thrush.
Experts recommend running pacifiers through the dishwasher, sterilizer, or hand-washing with hot, soapy water daily or whenever they are dropped to eradicate bacteria. Dr. Glass advocates storing clean, dry pacifiers in plastic zip-top containers for added protection against germs and transit. In addition, you should periodically inspect your baby’s pacifiers and replace them if they become worn or cracked. In general, pacifiers should be replaced every four weeks.