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Pacifier Pros Surely Outweigh The Cons...

One of the most common questions parents ask me is what I think about pacifier use. My answer is based on experience and research. Pacifiers are named as such because their main purpose is to pacify a baby. We know that a fetus begins suckling and swallowing around 16 weeks and they have an innate reflex to suck. Obviously, once born, this is due to their need to nurse or take a bottle. However, there are many babies that are not satisfied after feeding. I am not a believer of allowing a baby to nurse on demand, so if you do not agree with me on this, you might as well stop reading now. The most compelling reason to support using a pacifier would be that research suggests SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is substantially reduced in babies who are pacifier users. The American Academy of Pediatrics says, “Although the mechanism is not known, the reduced risk of SIDS associated with pacifier use during sleep is compelling.” Although it is still a controversial issue, many doctors will side with the research and suggest pacifier use.

Another point I would like to include is that full term babies are actually born without a thoroughly developed digestive system including intestinal mucus and enzymes. When a baby sucks, they must swallow and enzymes are released in the gut. This, in turn, aids in digestion and the building of hormones needed to help their system grow to maturity, at approximately 10-12 weeks old. Since we know that the sucking reflex has such an important role in all of this, it is a no brainer for me to recommend using a pacifier.

In my experience, when a baby has had enough to eat, as well as being well burped, they often need to be transitioned into a sleep mode. This includes swaddling, holding, rocking, shushing and white noise. All of these methods are soothing to the baby and will become “triggers” for their nap time and bedtime routines. A pacifier is simply one of the other things that will assist in this process, and more likely than not, when the baby falls asleep, they drop the pacifier since it is no longer needed. I am not at all in favor of tasks or products without a purpose. The difference between using a pacifier and keeping the baby at the breast also determines who is in control. If you are reading this article looking for sound advice, trust me on this, you do not want your baby to be in the driver’s seat. You are the adult and a first step in being a parent is to actually be the adult and make the right choices for your baby. Your baby may know when they are hungry, but once they are satiated, they do not know the difference between actively eating and simply sucking.

Now that I have stated my reasons for being a pacifier supporter, there are some other things that you need to keep in mind. If breastfeeding, a pacifier should be introduced after the first few feedings so that the baby is able to establish a good latch and begin ingesting all of the benefits of their mother’s colostrum. If your baby is having difficulty latching, the pacifier will not help the process. Latching is a separate issue. However, in time, the use of a pacifier will help strengthen the babies suck, which will, in turn, help the baby to latch. The next question that usually follows from new parents is about nipple confusion. I have cared for over 2 dozen babies in the past 4 years alone who have breast and bottle fed and used a pacifier without any trouble whatsoever. I do not believe in nipple confusion. I believe in figuring out what your baby’s needs are and addressing those needs.

If a baby is hungry, they need to be fed. This is an obvious statement, however, when breastfeeding a newborn it is not always so obvious as to whether they have eaten enough. So, offering a pacifier to a hungry baby who’s crying will simply frustrate both of you since they are hungry and the pacifier will not feed them. You need to figure out your baby’s signals and this is another reason, in my opinion, to put your baby on a schedule as soon as possible. Schedules and boundaries are imperative for babies and they will quickly commit to a routine. Bottle fed babies are much easier to gauge and schedule because you know exactly what their intake is. It is more difficult with breastfed newborns. They often fall asleep at the breast because they are so comfortable, warm and cozy as they are eating. This is why many nurses in the hospital will undress the baby to try and keep them more alert and awake while nursing. When they are hungry, it is best to get them fed as quickly as possible and snuggle afterwards.

So back to the pacifier. Once you know that your baby has been well fed and burped, it is time to put them to sleep. In the first few weeks, most newborns will fall asleep rather easily. I would be wealthy if I had a dollar for every parent that has told me on day 6, “My baby is such a good sleeper.” Newborns typically sleep 18-20 hours a day in the first few weeks. Even so, this is the best time to start your routine so that you can establish a pattern and your baby gets used to. They will not always follow on cue, but as they grow and start to have more awake time to balance all of their sleep, they will become accustomed to the schedule you have laid out. If your baby is falling asleep easily by being swaddled and cuddled, you will not need to use the pacifier during this time. In this case, do not even bother offering a pacifier. The trick is to know when to use it and when it is not needed. You and your baby will be on this around the clock schedule for weeks and it will seem like groundhog day. However, you will start to notice that at certain times during the day or night, they will begin to develop a pattern. Some babies only want the pacifier at night time, or other specific times. Your task is to figure out when they need it and when they don’t. The rule for pacifier use will change as they grow, but for newborns up to 6 months, these are the guidelines I advise using.

It is worth mentioning that newborns don’t always take a pacifier easily. You will need to hold it and introduce this to them. A newbie parent will hold it up to their baby’s mouth as they are crying and then take it out while the baby is still crying and say they don’t like the pacifier. It is best to introduce the pacifier to a calm, awake baby that is sleepy. If the baby is crying, they might need to be calmed down prior to introducing the pacifier. Once calmed, rub the pacifier on the baby’s tongue or towards the roof of their mouth. They will soon realize this is something they can suck on. It is fair to say that occasionally a baby will not take a pacifier no matter how often you try. I have only experienced this a couple of times in all of my years.

Pacifiers should always be sterilized prior to use. There are a multitude of pacifier manufacturer’s on the market. It is very difficult to know which one your baby would prefer, if they would even have a preference. They do come in many sizes, so begin with the newborn size. If your baby was premature, they make those as well. Do not fall for the cute ones with the heavy, decorative plastic shapes and colors. ​​

At 3-4 months of age or when your baby is on an established sleep schedule, it is a good idea to only allow the pacifier in their crib as a comforting part of their sleeping ritual. This will eliminate them using the pacifier all day, which was never its’ purpose, and it will become a bad habit. If at any point you no longer see a need for the pacifier, then simply stop using it. If your baby has become a pacifier fanatic, then it is a good idea to allow it in the crib only up to 18 months.