Babies are born with an innate need to suck. New-borns rely on this “suck reflex” not only for sustenance but also for soothing.Young infants have no other mechanism to control their distress. They can’t get a drink; they can’t ask for a blanket; they can’t use their hands to control things. Sucking provides a way for them to calm themselves.
Thus, babies will suck – if not on a dummy, then on a thumb, finger, bottle, or breast. If a baby needs to nurse more than every two hours, he’s using Mom as a pacifier. In such cases, a dummy can help satisfy baby’s non-nutritive sucking needs while giving Mom a needed break.
Just be sure breastfeeding is well established before introducing the pacifier, or babies who do have trouble learning to breastfeed, the pacifier can teach bad habits. Pacifiers have been shown to interfere with breastfeeding, especially if introduced within the first 6 weeks of life.
For some babies, dummies are the key to contentment between feedings. Consider the advantages:
A pacifier may soothe
a fussy baby. Some babies are happiest when they’re sucking on something.
A pacifier offers
temporary distraction. When your baby’s hungry, a pacifier may buy you a few
minutes to find a comfortable spot to nurse or to prepare a bottle. A pacifier
may also come in handy during shots, blood tests or other procedures.
A pacifier may help your baby fall asleep. If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick.
Pacifiers may help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Researchers have found an association between pacifier use during sleep and a reduced risk of SIDS.
Pacifiers are disposable. When it’s time to stop using pacifiers, you can throw them away. If your child prefers to suck on his or her thumb or fingers, it may be more difficult to break the habit.
While parents worry that dummies may harm baby’s teeth, they typically have no effect on a child under two. From a dental-health perspective, it’s best to limit the pacifier when a child is two and stop it entirely by the time a child is four.
Past age four, pacifiers can cause an overbite, open bite, or cross-bite – problems that affect chewing, speech, and appearance, and often require orthodontics to correct. Unfortunately, so-called orthodontic pacifiers don’t make a difference. What matters is the frequency and intensity of the sucking habit.
Children who suck pacifiers may be more prone to ear infections (otitis media)
Some older infants may have delayed speech development due to the pacifier’s constant presence in their mouths preventing them from practising their speaking skills.
Your baby may become dependent on the pacifier. If your baby uses a pacifier to sleep, you may face frequent middle-of-the-night crying spells when the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth.
Don’t use a pacifier as a first line of defence. Sometimes a change of position or a rocking session can calm a crying baby. If your baby seems hungry, offer the breast or a bottle.
Choose the one-piece, dishwasher-safe variety. Pacifiers made of two pieces pose a choking hazard if they break. The shape and firmness is up to you — or your baby. Once you’ve
settled on a favourite pacifier, keep a few identical back-ups on hand. Many babies refuse a substitute pacifier.
Let your baby set the pace. If your baby’s not interested in the pacifier, try again later — or skip it entirely. If the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth while he or she is sleeping, don’t pop it back in.
Keep it clean. Before you offer your baby a pacifier, wash it with soap and water and allow it to dry thoroughly. Resist the temptation to “rinse” the pacifier in your own mouth. You’ll only spread more germs to your baby.
Keep it safe. Replace pacifiers often, and watch for signs of deterioration. A worn or cracked nipple can tear off and pose a choking hazard. Also use caution with pacifier clips.
Never use a string or strap long enough to get caught around your baby’s neck.
Know when to pull the plug. If ear infections are a concern, you might begin to wean your child from a pacifier at age 6 months. Most kids stop using pacifiers on their own between
ages two and four. If you’re concerned about your child’s pacifier use, consult his or her doctor for suggestions.
The bottom line
The decision to use a dummy — or not — is up to you. Let go of any guilt or pressure as you learn what works best for your baby.