To pacify or not to pacify, that is the question! If you’re a parent, or currently expecting, you’ve probably heard every possible recommendation and condemnation you’ve ever wanted to hear regarding pacifier use. So what is a dedicated, thoughtful, sanity-loving parent to do? Well, we’re here to help. And, it’s not as cut and dry as you think. In fact, we’re pretty sure you may just be surprised by our second biggest “pro.”
The Biggest “Pros”:
It’s a superb calming mechanism: It’s not too difficult to imagine a reason why this is the first in our list of “pros.” It would be difficult for many-a-parent to imagine being able to soothe a crying, restless baby at the doctor’s office, on a plane, or at naptime without a trusty pacifier nearby. It is most certainly appropriately named.
May help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): This is a biggie. The Mayo Clinic reports that having a child suck on a pacifier at naptime and bedtime might reduce the risk of SIDS. It’s not clear as to exactly why this is the case, but it has now become a generally recommended practice. They also suggest that if you're breast-feeding, you should “wait to offer a pacifier until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and you've settled into an effective nursing routine.”
The Biggest “Con”:
Extended use can create tooth development concerns: Extended thumb sucking, tongue thrusting and pacifier use beyond the arrival of your child’s primary teeth can be problematic for the development of a proper bite. Each of these habits tends to place undue forward-pressure on upper teeth and reverse, downward-pressure on bottom teeth – both of which can impact the proper development of a child’s jaw. Your dentist and pediatrician can work with you to help curb these habits, but being aware of them is the most important first step.
And What about the Baby Bottle?
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: Streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that contributes to tooth decay, is fond of teeth no matter if they're in your mouth or your baby’s. So, as a general rule, you’ll want to limit snacking, avoid placing anything sweet on a pacifier or bottle to get a baby to take to it, and avoid sharing your spoon with your child. Why? Because a diet high in refined carbohydrates contributes to larger populations of this bacterium, and sharing a spoon transfers the bacteria that exist in your mouth to your child’s mouth. Infants have very little of this bacterium to begin with, but you have lots! And, yes it’s contagious! For even more tips, read our Seven Tips to Avoid Baby Bottle Tooth Decay article.
Generally speaking, the decision to do just about anything in life requires you properly evaluate both risk and reward. Even something as simple as drinking water from the faucet in your home can be lauded and lambasted in the same breath, so the real work is in doing the research. Once you’ve done your due diligence, the decision-making is that much simpler!