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The Pros and Cons of Using a Pacifier

I was talking with a mother in Starbucks a few weeks ago when she said something shocking.

Her infant was screaming his head off.  She had just fed him and he was rubbing his eyes fiercely.

“I’m so sorry,” she apologized, “but I have to give him a pacifier. I’ve tried soooo hard not too, but I can’t help it.”

Yep. I was floored.  Not because she was going to use a pacifier, but because she APOLOGIZED for using a pacifier. As if she was not quite up-to-par on her parenting and was ashamed to admit it.

Goodness gracious!  Since when does using a pacifier require an apology? Have we really gone so far off the grace-train that we have to feel like guilty failures when we use a binky to calm our child?

The True Source of Mom-Guilt

There is WAAAAY too much guilt in the parenting arena these days.

All this guilt…do we HAVE to add “pacifier use” to the list?

Let’s be honest, 99% of all our parenting guilt comes because we are forced to make decisions we don’t feel ready to make. We aren’t sure what we think about formula, but breastfeeding has been a disaster. Or perhaps I don’t want to sleep coach, but getting up every hour for the past 6 months is wearing thin.

So, out of desperation, we make a quick decision.

Honestly, you don’t have time to research pros and cons! You can barely find the time and energy to check email.  

*patting on the shoulder*

That, my friend, is why I’m here.

I do the research. I write about the results. I email it straight to you.

Then you read it, and you decide what’s best for your family. 

Guilt?  What guilt?  You chose this for good reasons!

The Pros of Pacifier Use

Okay, let’s go through the good reasons that you may want to consider giving your baby a pacifier right from the hospital.

  • They have been shown to significantly reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Since babies have a natural desire to suck to soothe, offering a pacifier can help calm a fussy baby easier.
  • Pacifiers can be helpful during when you’re flying with your baby, by helping “pop” his ear canals at high altitudes.
  • Weaning from a pacifier is a LOT easier than weaning from thumb or finger sucking. 
  • They are a convenient way to quickly soothe a baby in public (or when they are getting shots at the doctor’s office!)
  • Pacifiers are small, relatively inexpensive and easy to toss into the diaper bag.
  • A 1992 study published in a Swedish journal found that preterm babies who sucked on binkies gained weight faster and experienced fewer health complications because sucking helped strengthen their oral muscles.

The Cons of Pacifier Use

Time for the counter-point. Here are some reasons why some parents decided NOT to introduce your baby to a soother.

  • Until your baby learns how to put the pacifier in his mouth on his own, you may find yourself getting up frequently to replace the pacifier at night. (Or you could just use a Wubbanub or Nookums to fix that problem!)
  • A study published in Pediatrics linked pacifier use to higher rates of ear infections by 33%.
  • Prolonged use of a pacifier could cause dental issues. Talk with your dentist to see when she would recommend weaning.
  • It can become a powerhouse of germs if it isn’t regularly disinfected. (So make sure yours are dishwasher safe or use a microwave sterilizer!)
  • You do NOT want to be caught without a binky when your child needs one! Keep an emergency stash in the glove compartment, in the diaper bag, and a field of them in the crib!
  • If you are struggling to breastfeed and get your milk supply established, you may want to wait to introduce the pacifier until you and your baby have found a good nursing rhythm.

Making Sure Your Pacifier is Safe

Obviously, an unsafe pacifier would be a major CON.  Keep your baby safe by…

  1. Don’t use old pacifiers.  Always check to make sure your teething infant hasn’t bitten off a part of the binky (choking hazard).
  2. Don’t make homemade pacifiers from bottle  nipples.  They don’t have the wide base to prevent choking.
  3. Wash them often (or stick them in the dishwasher) to keep them bacteria free.
  4. Make sure the pacifier is made of silicon and not latex.  Latex allergies are on the rise.
  5. Switch out pacifiers regularly to keep your baby from having a “favorite”.
  6. Watch the sizes!  The pacifiers for older babies are bigger than those designed for younger, smaller, mouths
  7. Don’t buy your binkies at discount or dollar stores.  I’ve seen WAAAAAY too many of those recalled.  Buy the real deal, and then use a cool clip (like the ones below) to prevent loosing them.

The Tricky Thing About This Decision…

I hope all this research about pacifier use can come in handy… but there’s something you should know about babies.

They have opinions.

Despite all your careful planning, your opinionated infant may steal the decision from you.

She may insist on being latched to your breast 24-7 until you’re feeling like a parasitic host, forcing you to into pacifier use in order to save your sanity.

Or, she may decide that in NO WAY will she be putting anything but the real-deal in her mouth, and no cajoling or tears will force her to suck on that silicone abomination.

Well, if it’s the former, comfort yourself with the pacifier use pros above. If it’s the latter, remind yourself of the many cons.

And then hold on.  You’ve just entered the world of “You can’t tell me what to do!” parenting.

Let the games begin. 

*wink*


Have You Read These Yet?

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Citations

Pacifiers: Are They Good for Your Baby? MayoClinic.org
Pacifier Greatly Reduces Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. ScientificAmerican.com
Pacifiers: Satisfying Your Baby’s Needs. HealthyChildren.org

8 thoughts on “The Pros and Cons of Using a Pacifier

  1. Dear Heather,

    I need some help. My daughter is going to be 4 this year and has used a pacifier since she was born. I don’t have a problem with it at all, it helps her calm down just like her blanket she has had since she was born. We have got her to limit her pacifier use only during nap time and bed time. She doesn’t get it through out the day anymore but I am wondering if I am okay with letting her have it and she wants it and it isn’t causing any problems should I or should I begin to take it away. Please help me.

    1. Heather, I can relate completely! My girls all had binkys until they were three-ish. Here’s what we did to make the transition. #1 – We introduced the concept of the Binky Fairy. We talked about how the binky fairy takes binkies to other children who need them, emphasizing what a BIG GIRL she is and that she doesn’t need her binky as much as little babies do. (You could also do a Paci Pirate for boys!)

      #2 – Pick up a toy or something exciting for her, wrap it and stow it away.

      #3 – Decide on the night you’re going to stop using the paci. I would recommend a friday night, or something where you’ll be home the next day to recover, if the night doesn’t go well. No trips or vacations for sure.

      #4 – That day, go and do a “round up” finding all the binkys in the house and putting them in a basket or something. Designate a special tree outside (or a corner if you’re doing it inside) and leave the basket there for the binky fairy to pick up. The first night is going to be tough. There will be tears for sure. Just keep reminding her that she’s a big girl, and since she’s giving her binky’s away, she may get a special surprise from the binky fairy in the morning!

      #5 – Early the next morning, go put the gift under the tree. Then she can go out and receive her special “I’m a big kid now” surprise. I had one child that had two difficult nights, but the others were all binky-free within 24 hours.

      If you try this, be sure to let me know how it goes!

  2. There’s absolutely no evidence that avoiding latex with infants prevents a latex allergy. In fact, it may be just the opposite. Latex allergies have been going up, yes, at the same time that latex use has been going *down*. It may well be that the *lack* of latex exposure makes kids more likely to have a latex allergy later. There have been no studies on this, either way. Despite the widespread advice to avoid allergens in babies, there is no research to support that.

    Studies on food allergies, particularly peanuts, have shown that early exposure to peanuts (in the first year) is correlated with *less* peanut allergies later. Other foods have been studied now too and are showing the same thing. Frankly this makes more sense: things a baby is more likely to be exposed to early on are things that are likely to be common in the baby’s environment. It would make *no* sense evolutionarily for a baby to be more likely to develop allergies to things common in their environment. It makes more sense for early exposure to reduce the risk of allergies, that a baby’s body learns to be tolerant of the environment that they live in.

    1. Thanks CP for sharing your comment. Do you have any links you could share with us about these studies? Many parents prefer to the read the research from the source, so to speak, so if you could comment back with some of your sources, that would be very helpful. Very interesting!

  3. Any advice on weaning from the pacifier? My kiddo is almost 2 and has only been using one at nap and bedtime for a year. If he doesn’t have it, he does okay until about 5:30am when he wakes up screaming and doesn’t go back to sleep paci or not. Same thing happens at nap. Instead of a 2-3hr nap he gets 45min. I let him cry for about 10min before I go get him. Not sure if he’s to old for CIO or if I should just get hin up and he’ll get so tired after a few days of this that he’ll start sleeping normally again. He is SUCH a good and predictable sleeper now and I don’t want to permanently screw that up…I’m 7mo pregnant and need at least one sleeping regularly. Any advice would be helpful!

    1. We always did a Fairy (you could do a Pirate), and had her gather up all the binkys and put them under a tree outside (or a plant inside in the winter) then the “Binky Fairy” or “Binky Pirate” would come and take the binky’s away “for another child who needs them”. In the morning we’d leave a gift or something there instead as a thank you. The first night was rough, but after that the girls did just fine. The key is to be consistent.

      If you’re having sleeping issues, you may want to consider signing up for our free Super Sleeper tips here. It launches on Saturday and will send you “homework” of things you can be working on to make improvements without using CIO. Might be just what you’re looking for! xo

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