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Are Pacifiers Doing More Harm Than Good?

The use of pacifiers in children is a controversial topic.

David and Victoria Beckham once drew heavy criticism regarding their parenting style when a photo of their 4-year-old daughter sucking a pacifier circulated online.

Were the Beckhams wrong for giving their daughter a dummy? What does the scientific evidence have to say about the use of pacifiers? Is it doing more harm than good?

Read on and find out if you should give your child a pacifier. It has soothing benefits, but does the good outweigh the bad?

Benefits of Using a Pacifier

Breaking the habit of using a pacifier is a common goal for many parents, but should you really do so? As the parent, that decision is up to you. Nonetheless, to help you be well-informed, it is crucial that you are familiar with its benefits and weigh them against the potential cons.

 

Reduce the Risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome

As the name implies, sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) refers to the sudden death of a baby less than 1-year-old. It is also known as crib death, with most instances happening while the little one is asleep.

The exact cause of SIDS remains unknown. However, experts agree that it is linked to the part of the infant’s brain that is responsible for controlling breathing. It is also associated with several physical factors, such as brain defects, low birth weight, and respiratory infection.

Pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS. According to a study, pacifiers could prevent one incident of SIDS-related death for every 2,733 babies using a pacifier while sleeping. It should be offered for all sleep episodes, whether it is day or night. Despite the consensus that it helps to prevent SIDS, it has not been clearly established why that is the case.

Calm a Baby

Another good reason to give your child a pacifier is its calming benefits. When they are anxious or fussy, giving them something to suck will keep them quiet. It will help when your child is throwing a tantrum.

When they are crying, a pacifier can also be a fool-proof way to make them stop. This also makes it a great sleep aid. Another great instance to give a baby a pacifier is during flights as it can act as a distraction.

Drawbacks of Using a Pacifier

Critics of using a pacifier argue that it has numerous risks, and when you are not careful, those risks will outweigh the benefits.

Increases Risk of Middle Ear Infections

This is one thing that most people find surprising. The mouth is far from the ear, right? Nonetheless, the risk of an ear infection is up to three times higher for those who use pacifiers. This can be caused by the constant sucking action, which can affect the ear.

Oral Health Problems

From impeding the tongue’s movement to crooked teeth, the use of pacifiers can deliver a plethora of oral health problems. With short-term use, it may not be harmful. However, long-term use can have more serious consequences, including teeth misalignment.

Developing Dependence

The biggest drawback of pacifier use is that children may end up developing a  dependency. It is a habit that they can bring with them as they age. The more they use a pacifier, the harder it will be to let go, even when there comes a time that its use is no longer recommended.

Weighing The Good and The Bad

Given the discussions above, one thing is clear: the use of pacifiers has its pros and cons. So, should you give one to your baby? If your answer is yes,  here are some important things to remember.

The most important thing to consider is timing. For those who are breastfeeding, it is best to delay the use of pacifiers until breastfeeding has been well-established. It will prevent nipple confusion. Otherwise, the infant might assume that the pacifier is the nipple, and resist breastfeeding.

Know when to stop. Based on expert recommendations, weaning should start when the baby reaches three years old. Waiting longer than such can result in serious problems with long-term implications, including dental malocclusions.

It will also help to give the child a pacifier only at certain times, such as during bedtime. If your child can have it anytime he or she wants to suck something, it will be more difficult to break the habit.

Tips and Tricks for Using Pacifiers

Make the most of pacifier use and limit its negative impact by keeping in mind the things mentioned below:

  • Choose the right pacifier. Finding the best product can be challenging. You might need to experiment with several options—it’s a good thing pacifiers are cheap! Look for one with a thin shaft and a flat and elastic teat. It should also come with an ergonomic shield, which will keep your baby comfortable.
  • Do not give your child a pacifier with a string or tie. This can be a choking hazard, especially during sleep when the baby is unsupervised.
  • Keep the pacifier clean. Prior to the first use, boil it for five minutes. Sterilize regularly and wash with warm water between uses. Have a box or case where you can keep the pacifier away from dirt and dust when it is not being used.
  • Always inspect for damage, especially the teat. Pull and make sure that it has a strong connection to the body of the pacifier. Otherwise, it will be a choking risk.

Final Thoughts

Overall, pacifier use has its benefits and drawbacks. It is good for the prevention of SIDS, as well as for calming an anxious and crying baby. At the same time, it has risks. For instance, it can result in oral health problems and long-term dependency. Nonetheless, it is safe to say that it is not doing more harm than good, especially if you are a responsible parent. Know when to wean, which should be at about 3 years old.

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