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.
- Guilt about breastfeeding or using formula.
- Pressure regarding co-sleeping or sleep training.
- Shame about starting baby foods or waiting.
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…
- Don’t use old pacifiers. Always check to make sure your teething infant hasn’t bitten off a part of the binky (choking hazard).
- Don’t make homemade pacifiers from bottle nipples. They don’t have the wide base to prevent choking.
- Wash them often (or stick them in the dishwasher) to keep them bacteria free.
- Make sure the pacifier is made of silicon and not latex. Latex allergies are on the rise.
- Switch out pacifiers regularly to keep your baby from having a “favorite”.
- Watch the sizes! The pacifiers for older babies are bigger than those designed for younger, smaller, mouths
- 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.
Have You Read These Yet?
- A Cheater’s Guide to Baby Sleep Training
- 57 Strategies to Defeat Baby Teething Pain & Get More Sleep
- 7 Reasons Babywearing Isn’t Just for Crunchy Moms
- DIY: Build an Emergency Baby Car Kit in 3 Easy Steps
- Everything a New Mama Warrior Needs to Know About Baby Care
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We ♥ 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