Are Pacifiers Really That Bad?

New parents are faced with many questions about what’s best for their babies. A common question we get from new parents is, are pacifiers really that bad and what are the pros and cons of allowing or not allowing their baby to have a pacifier?

There’s no easy way to answer this question. We’ll list the pros and cons of pacifier use to help you make the best decision for your child.

The Good

Pacifiers help soothe fussy babies

Pacifiers are helpful when babies are upset due to any number of reasons, including sleepiness, teething, colic or illness. They can also work as good distractions during doctor’s exams, shots or during flights when pressure changes may cause baby’s ears to hurt.

Pacifiers help some babies sleep

Some babies are lulled to sleep by sucking on a pacifier. The sucking motion helps them to self-soothe and relax.

Pacifiers may help reduce the risk of SIDS

Many studies show that pacifier use at bedtime or naptime greatly reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. If you’re breastfeeding, wait three to four weeks or until feeding habits are firmly established to introduce a pacifier. And never attach a pacifier to a baby’s clothing while he or she is sleeping.

The Bad

Pacifiers can interfere with breastfeeding

Pacifier use can make it more difficult to establish good nursing patterns. A breast feels different than a pacifier, and some babies are extremely sensitive to the difference. That can make it difficult for the baby to alternate between the two. Pacifier use may also lead to less frequent breastfeeding or shorten the overall time a baby nurses. The American Academy of Pediatrics says babies should breastfeed exclusively six months and in conjunction with developmentally appropriate foods until at least a year.

Pacifiers may cause ear infections

Some babies who use pacifiers experience more middle ear infections than those who don’t. This is especially true of babies older than six months.

Babies may become dependent

Some babies become so dependent on their pacifiers that they can’t be soothed without it.  That means they may have trouble falling back asleep if they wake up without it, or they may need a pacifier to help calm down after getting upset over even trivial matters. Be advised, once the pacifier habit has started, it can be very difficult to break.

The Ugly

Pacifiers can be dirty

Pacifiers can introduce dirt and germs into your baby’s mouth. Even if you think you’re keeping it clean and preventing the pacifier from falling on dirty surfaces, they are magnets for microorganisms which cause illness. Be sure to sterilize your baby’s pacifier frequently.

They can cause pacifier teeth

Babies who go on to use pacifiers as toddlers and even preschoolers are at risk of developing pacifier teeth. Overuse can cause the mouth and jaw to become misaligned. This can cause problems with the child’s bite and the position of his or her teeth. The same is true of children with significant thumb-sucking habits. According to the American Dental Association,  symptoms of pacifier teeth include the front teeth not meeting when the mouth is closed, changes to the roof of the mouth, crooked teeth or front teeth that tip forward.

Not every child who uses a pacifier or sucks his or her thumb will develop pacifier teeth. In fact, the American Academy of Family Physicians says crooked, unaligned teeth are more likely to occur in children who continue using a pacifier over the age of three. The risk gets even higher in children who continue over the age of four. Because of this, the American Dental Association, as well as the American Academy of Pediatric Dentistry, say parents should discourage their child’s pacifier use by the age of four.

 Ultimately, the decision is up to you as a parent. If you do allow your child to use a pacifier, remember that it’s important to cease use as soon as possible to prevent negative effects on teeth and jaw development.

Contact Us

Contact us today if you have questions or would like more guidance. We’d love the chance to help you keep your baby’s mouth as healthy as possible!