In the United States it is estimated that 75-80% of infants use pacifiers. The reason for this high take up rate is because the strong sucking reflex found in newborns has a calming and soothing effect on them.

It stimulates the release of endorphins, which are natural pain relievers and mood elevators. Babies often use non-nutritive sucking (sucking without taking in food) as a self-soothing mechanism, which can help them relax and feel comforted.

There are benefits of pacifier use, however there are also some important drawbacks. Below are the pros and cons of pacifier use, to assist you in determining what’s right for you and your baby.

Pros of Pacifiers:

  1. Soothing and Comfort: Pacifiers can provide comfort and soothe babies, helping them self-soothe and manage stress or discomfort. Sucking on a pacifier may reduce fussiness and crying.
  2. SIDS Risk Reduction: The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that pacifier use during sleep can help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
  3. Pain Relief: Sucking on a pacifier can help alleviate pain during medical procedures, such as vaccinations, and may offer comfort during teething.
  4. Sleep Aid: Some babies find it easier to fall asleep with a pacifier, and it may help babies self-soothe when they wake up in the middle of the night.
  5. Helps preemies thrive: Research has found that pacifier use among preterm babies results in shorter hospital stays and better bottle-feeding.
  6. Eases air travel: Planning air travel? The sucking motion of the jaw provides a shift in the middle ear, where the baby can feel pressure when the plane is going up or descending.

Cons of Pacifiers:

  1. Breastfeeding Issues: Introducing a pacifier too early (before breastfeeding is well-established) may interfere with breastfeeding because it can lead to nipple confusion. It's generally recommended to wait until breastfeeding is established before offering a pacifier.
  2. Dependency: Overreliance on a pacifier can lead to dependence, and babies may become fussy when the pacifier is not available. Breaking this dependence can be challenging.
  3. Dental Issues: Extended pacifier use, especially beyond the age of 2, can lead to dental problems, such as misalignment of teeth and changes in the roof of the mouth.
  4. Ear Infections: There is some evidence to suggest that prolonged pacifier use may increase the risk of ear infections, although the link is not fully established.
  5. Hygiene and Safety: Pacifiers need to be kept clean, as they can harbor bacteria. Additionally, pacifiers can pose choking hazards if they break or have small parts.
  6. Interference with Communication: Overuse of pacifiers may reduce opportunities for infants to practice communication skills.
  7. Potential weight gain: A new childhood obesity study showed that infants who used a pacifier past 4 months were about 10 percent more likely to be overweight by age one and 20 percent more likely to be overweight by age 2, compared to infants who didn’t use one.  
All good things must come to an end and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents consider limiting or stopping pacifier use after the age of 6 months, especially when the child's first teeth start coming in. By age 2, most children should stop using pacifiers entirely.
October 11, 2023 — Rodney Hyde

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