Pacifiers: Are they good for your baby?
The decision to use a pacifier — or not — is up to you. Consider the do's and don'ts of giving your baby a pacifier, and how to help him or her break the habit.By Mayo Clinic Staff
Most babies have a strong sucking reflex. Some babies even suck their thumbs or fingers before they're born. Beyond nutrition, sucking often has a soothing, calming effect. That's why many parents rank pacifiers as must-haves, right up there with diaper wipes.
Are pacifiers really OK for your baby, though? Understand the benefits and risks of pacifier use, important safety tips, and steps to help wean your baby from the pacifier.
For some babies, pacifiers are the key to contentment between feedings. Consider the advantages:
- A pacifier might soothe a fussy baby. Some babies are happiest when they're sucking on something.
- A pacifier offers temporary distraction. A pacifier might come in handy during and after shots, blood tests or other procedures.
- A pacifier might help your baby fall asleep. If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick. Pacifier use does not appear to have any impact on a baby's length of sleep or nighttime awakenings.
- A pacifier might ease discomfort during flights. Babies can't intentionally "pop" their ears by swallowing or yawning to relieve ear pain caused by air pressure changes. Sucking on a pacifier might help.
- A pacifier might help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Sucking on a pacifier at nap time and bedtime might reduce the risk of SIDS. If you're breast-feeding, wait to offer a pacifier until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and you've settled into an effective nursing routine.
- Pacifiers are disposable. When it's time to stop using pacifiers, throw them away. If your child prefers to suck on his or her thumb or fingers, it might be more difficult to break the habit.
Of course, pacifiers have pitfalls as well. Consider the drawbacks:
July 22, 2017
- Early pacifier use might interfere with breast-feeding. Sucking on a breast is different from sucking on a pacifier or bottle, and some babies are sensitive to those differences. Some research links pacifier use to less frequent breast-feeding or the ending of breast-feeding after only a few months in certain babies. However, a review of unrestricted pacifier use in healthy, full-term infants found that it had no impact on the continuation of breast-feeding.
- Your baby might become dependent on the pacifier. If your baby uses a pacifier to sleep, you might face frequent middle-of-the-night crying spells when the pacifier falls out of your baby's mouth.
- Pacifier use might increase the risk of middle ear infections. However, rates of middle ear infections are generally lowest from birth to age 6 months — when the risk of SIDS is the highest and your baby might be most interested in a pacifier.
- Prolonged pacifier use might lead to dental problems. Normal pacifier use during the first few years of life doesn't cause long-term dental problems. However, prolonged pacifier use might cause a child's teeth to be misaligned or not come in properly.
See more In-depth
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- Moon RY, et al. SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Evidence base for 2016 updated recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138:e20162940.
- Psaila K, et al. Infant pacifiers for reduction in risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/14651858.CD007202.pub4. Accessed June 16, 2017.
- Jaafar SH, et al. Effect of restricted pacifier use in breastfeeding term infants for increasing duration of breastfeeding. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews. http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007202.pub4/full. Accessed June 16, 2017.
- Nowak AJ, et al. Oral habits and orofacial development in children. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 26, 2017.
- Thumb sucking, finger sucking and pacifier use. American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry. http://ebusiness.ada.org/productcatalog/product.aspx?ID=615. Accessed May 26, 2017.
- Corwin MJ, et al. Sudden infant death syndrome. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 26, 2017.
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- Hoecker J (expert opinion). Mayo Clinic, Rochester, Minn. July 1, 2017.