Baby Pacifier : Facts You Must Know Before Using It For Your Baby

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Ever been on a flight with a baby who is bent upon crying out her lungs? Don’t you wish you really had something to put in her mouth which will not only  make her go silent but also keep her silent for some time? You must have thought about a baby pacifier for sure at that moment and wondered why you never considered it or been thankful for it (if you are already using it).

As a parent, and especially a new one, any external object that can soothe a cranky baby is one of the most wanted things. And if it can somehow keep the mouth, and hence the sound, of the baby limited, then it is almost a blessing in disguise. And hence the invention of a pacifier.

A pacifier is such a convenience which is used for the same. It is either made of rubber, plastic or silicone and has a mouthpiece and a small handle for holding. It is designed to give the baby the feeling of nipple sucking. It is also called ‘soother‘or ‘binky’ in common parlance. But, there are a lot of ‘ifs’ associated with a pacifier. While some swear by its convenience, other parents, and some experts too, are not in support of using it. There reasons range from hygiene to dependence and more. But before we use it or chuck it, let’s explore some simple facts on the pacifier. We start with understanding

  • whether pacifiers are good for the baby
  • how to use a pacifier
  • weaning off from a pacifier
  • and also answer some frequently asked questions on the same

Is pacifier good for my baby?

Pacifiers are somewhat useful in a way but also have side effects as well. So, it entirely depends upon you how you weigh out the utility versus the cons of a pacifier.

What are the advantages of using a baby pacifier?

In case of a newborn, a pacifier acts as a soother and provides a calming effect on the mind. This helps to comfort the baby when she becomes cranky due to any pain, discomfort or absence of food or mother.

Some researches have also shown that a pacifier may reduce the risk of ‘Sudden Infant Death Syndrome’ (SIDS) though it is still not conclusive. Though some suspect the constant swallowing and chewing motion made due to a pacifier even during nap time keeps the flow of air intact in your baby’s lungs, thereby preventing the fatality.

In some situations for example, with a premature baby, a pacifier may actually be helpful in developing the sucking reflex. This will help the infant in latching on the nipple eventually.

What are the cons of using a pacifier?

The most recurrent and important concern that arises from usage of a pacifier is the ‘mal-alignment of teeth’. Constant use of a pacifier may distort the tooth buds and change the shape of tooth formation.

Long-term use of a pacifier may also lead to speech problems as the tongue is involved in the sucking activity. Once the pacifier is taken away, the child may find difficulty to speak since twisting the tongue to form words may not come naturally to him. 

Excessive sucking of a pacifier might also cause excessive gulping of air through the mouth, which can lead to the formation of gas in the child’s tummy. This might create colic pain and discomfort in babies. 

Frequent and long-term use of pacifiers may also cause ear infections. It has been found that children who use pacifiers are 5 times more likely to develop ear infection than children who don’t.

Some other health-related issues identified with un-managed use of a pacifier are:

  • Anxiety disorder
  • Type-2 Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular changes
  • Long term use of pacifier may also cause sleep disorder in adulthood. 
  • Stress
  • Lack of concentration
  • Mood disorder
  • Narrowing of the airways making feeding difficult for the child

Do’s and Don’ts when using a pacifier-

Do’s-
  1. Clean the pacifier regularly- It is necessary to clean the mouth portion of the pacifier very frequently to avoid deposition of germs and dust on it. It will also increase the life of the pacifier.
  2. Use warm water to clean the pacifier- Sterilise the pacifier in warm water to completely remove any germs and microbes from it. Rub it gently to not cause any tears. Sterilise it for a minimum of 5-8 minutes. Pacifiers should be sterilised every day for 3-5 times in a day or whenever the baby lets it out of her mouth. Also, read the instructions on the package carefully to know what should be the right temperature for the water in which the pacifier should be sterilised.
  3. Use a cap – Every pacifier package contains caps to cover it when not in use. So, when the baby is not using it, cover it with a cap to avoid contamination with the external environment and maintain it’s properties.
  4. Frequency of usage- According to researches, it is advised to use the pacifier in intervals whenever necessary. You can use it when making the baby sleep, during nap time or when just soothing the baby, if the baby is full.
  5. Wear and Tear- Look for any tear or holes in the mouth portion of the pacifier. Check the pacifier regularly for any discolouration, scratches or other change of shape etc. Discard it immediately if you notice any of the above.
  6. Use a new one- If any wear and tear are there on the pacifier, replace it with a new one immediately as it might cause harm to the baby. Look for age-specific pacifiers when buying a new one.
Don’ts-
  1. Food coatings- The pacifier should not be coated with any sugary items for use for the baby. Long-time exposure to sugar can lead to dental hygiene concerns.
  2. Avoid forceful usage-Do not attempt to forcefully put it inside the baby’s mouth as it might irritate the baby and may irritate the baby further.
  3. Never use it as a substitute for food- Avoid using it as a satiating object when the baby is hungry or to pass time till you prepare her meal. The constant sucking may lead the baby to feel satisfied and deny food when offered.
  4. Do not decorate it with extra toppings- Never use any toppings or fillings on the pacifier as it may lead to contamination and damage it.
  5. Temperature variant- Never store it in too hot or too cold temperature. It is best to store it in its cover, at room temperature.
  6. Do not use after giving medicine- Do not give the pacifier immediately after giving medicine, as the medicinal effects might break down the material of the pacifier.
  7. Avoid tying it around her neck- Never tie the pacifier around the baby’s head or neck area. It might cause strangulation.
  8. Let her use her own pacifier- Never share the same pacifier with other children. This might spread infections.

What is the right time to wean the baby off the pacifier?

Babies can use the pacifier up to the age of one year. Sometimes you can extend it to 2-3 years, but the sooner the better so that no long-term habits are formed.

How to wean the child off the pacifier?

Many parents face a challenge when it comes to weaning the baby off the pacifier. Here are some suggestions:

  1. Slow down the process of taking off those soothers, from ‘twice to once to nil.’ This reduces the child’s dependence on pacifiers and she will not become cranky when it is taken away.
  2. Introduce other methods of soothing her like lots of cuddling, cozy blankets, soft toys, rocking gently,  patting her on the back (slowly and calmly), singing lullabies.
  3. Give her examples of cartoon characters who were strong enough to let go off a pacifier. Keep the motivation positive.
  4. In the case of older children, advise them on the ill-effects of using a pacifier for long and explain to them the disadvantages, pros, and cons.
  5. It’s gone! Fix a day for telling the child that the pacifier has suddenly disappeared. Tell her, that it was torn, cracked and went away on its own.
  6. Elders, caretakers, and parents at home should try to guide the child in the process of weaning off the pacifier together so that the child does not feel aloof and insecure once the pacifier is gone. 
  7. Try to imbibe more of nature’s comforts, like strolling outside, gardening with the child, talks on the seasons, sunlight, windy day, clouds etc. This helps the child to get over the hangover of using the pacifier.

How to choose and buy a pacifier?

There are a lot of companies making and selling pacifiers in the market. Buy a BPA –Free (Bisphenol-A) product which according to research is safe for babies. Also a good pacifier should have air ventilation holes, in order to remove the saliva deposition.

FAQs on pacifiers

My son is 24 months old now and is still fond of the pacifier. It is when I assure him that I’ll give him a pacifier, then only he goes to bed for sleep. How to manage that?

Answer– This is a very common concern that comes up from long term use of the pacifier. This is more of a habitual issue than anything else. You can try shift your son’s attention to alternate options like cuddling, rocking him on your lap before bedtime, tell him stories, use soft toys, blankets, etc. to keep him distracted and not miss the pacifier.

My daughter has started talking, but her speech is not clear. Tongue movement is not appropriate. Is this something related to pacifier use? Do I need to consult a specialist?

Answer– Well, this may or may not be related to the pacifier usage only. You have to check for how long she was using the pacifier, the number of times in a day and how much she was dependent on it. Pacifier may cause a speech problem. But, it is always better to consult the paediatrician to evaluate other causes as well.

My child is 17 months old. Since late I have noticed some red patches around her mouth. Lips are red sometimes, but without any swelling. She uses a pacifier sometimes. Can it be causing her skin irritation? What precautions need to be taken henceforth?

Answer– Studies have not shown any relevant information on skin problems with pacifier usage. But you should always look for any tear on the mouthpiece of the pacifier. Buy one with BPA-free material.  Check regularly for any distortion of  colour, shape, and cracks. Sterilize thoroughly and store properly. The infection may be because of the contaminated pacifier.

My son is 18 months old now. He continually looks for a pacifier, especially in the market place or in any public area, but does not use it at home. I think he gets irritated in a crowded place. So, he needs one for self-soothing and calming. He is not habituated to it, and have weaned off nicely. But is this occasional use something to worry about? What can I do to stop him from getting irritated?

Answer– Anxiety disorder occur in many children after this age group. So, careful and gentle management of this issue is very much necessary. Always accompany the child in such a situation. Try to normalize for him the habit of being in public without his pacifier. Give him some of his favourite toys for alternate comfort. And never be rude to him or scold him. Pay attention to his activities and work accordingly.

My baby is 1 month old. I have introduced a pacifier to her. Is it wrong to give pacifier at such an early stage? What is the exact age to introduce a pacifier to the child?

Answer– Always remember that every child should go through the natural process of breastfeeding. This is necessary for her growth. So, giving them pacifier at this stage is not advisable as it may lead to nipple confusion. Once they have got on to the latching part, then you can introduce the pacifier. This will not hamper breastfeeding.

My son is 10 months old. He uses pacifier once a day now. I am trying to wean him off the pacifier. But is it true that a pacifier reduces the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome? As of now, I have gathered some information through internet. So, can I let him use it for some more days?

Answer– Well, some researches and studies have shown in many cases that a pacifier does reduce the chance of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). But, it is also true that it does not happen in every case. So, you can let him use it for some time now.

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