If you’re deciding whether or not to introduce a pacifier to your baby, there are a few things to consider. But whatever you decide as a parent, keep in mind your baby may love or reject it at the end of the day. Babies are very opinionated folk, and soothers are no neutral subject for many. Some babies rely heavily on them for comfort and have a hard time kicking their habit after two years old. Others spit them out and aren’t interested when they realize that there’s no milk attached to them. As a parent deciding whether or not to use a pacifier, here are a few things you need to know:
Comfort and Sleep Aids
To pacify literally means to restore a state of peace, and there’s no arguing that pacifiers deliver on that score! For a fussy baby in between feeds or a baby who is prone to crying for the sake of crying, a pacifier is a great calming mechanism. The pacifier makes it harder to yell and also distracts baby by helping him use his sucking reflex to calm himself down. Rest assured that if your baby really needs to scream, he will! The Mayo Clinic suggests that pacifiers can help in preventing SIDS when introduced at nap and bedtime, though cautions against putting in a pacifier once baby is already asleep.
Many parents save the pacifier for bedtime so that baby isn’t reliant on it during the day but has it to help her fall asleep. If you’re choosing to save the pacifier for sleep time, one suggestion is to keep the pacifier in the crib at all times so when nap time is over baby learns that it’s time to say goodbye to the pacifier. Likewise, when babies are fussy before bed it’s something for them to look forward to. If you’re going this route, check out the MAM Night Pacifier (for babies 6 months of age and older). The bonus benefit is that these pacifiers are hard to lose since they’re glow in the dark – no digging through blankets for a prodigal paci!
Pacifiers and Newborns
Many healthcare professionals suggest waiting until breastfeeding is well established before introducing the pacifier. Babies need to nurse on demand for the first several weeks both to help with latching and to bring in mother’s milk. If baby is using a pacifier, that’s less time on the breast to help stabilize nursing. Once breastfeeding is well underway though, a pacifier can be a great tool in between feedings when baby isn’t necessarily hungry, but just wants to suck. They give mom a break and still let baby exercise her sucking reflex.
When to Stop Using a Pacifier
Pacifiers can be wonderful for the first year or two, but prolonged use after age two is not recommended. Using a pacifier beyond age two can result in dental problems such as tooth decay and misaligned jaw. Stop using a pacifier if your child has a loose tooth, is over age two, or wakes repeatedly in the night due to the pacifier falling out. If the pacifier helps baby fall asleep, that helps his parents as well. But no one wants to be searching for a pacifier every couple hours in the night because baby can’t sleep without it.
When you’re ready to stop using the pacifier, explain to your child that it’s time for their soother to go bye-bye. Some parents cut off the tip of the nipple so pacifying is no longer enjoyable or soothing, and the baby chooses to reject the pacifier himself. There may be a couple of hard nights as your baby adjusts to not having her pacifier, but she will adjust. In the meantime, consider a new lovey to replace the pacifier and help her transition.