Contrary to old school beliefs, pacifiers are good for babies! Now, don’t get too crazy. I said babies, not preschoolers!
The good definitely outweighs the bad when it comes to pacifiers for babies. And…there are good ones and bad ones to choose from. I’m a big proponent of them in my work. I’ll narrow it down to the main 10 reasons why, then explain more below.
Note: These recommendations are for babies 0-12 months old. After 12 months, pacifiers can create speech, feeding, and dental problems, and parents need to work on weaning them off. Read this article for weaning the pacifier: How and When to Pull the Plug on The Pacifier
10 Reasons Why Pacifiers Are Good for Babies
- Recommended by the AAP to the risk of SIDS
- Helps with self-soothing
- Helps baby transition between breast and bottle
- Helps everyone sleep better
- Much easier to wean than the thumb
- More hygienic than the thumb or fingers
- Helps with introducing new foods or flavors
- Helps with discomfort after feeding due to reflux (excessive, painful spit-up) or gas
- Helps improve feeding for babies with a “weak latch” or “poor suck”
- Does anyone have a MUTE BUTTON for this baby?
Need I say more? Well of course I do!
- Recommended by the AAP to decrease the risk of SIDS. There is good evidence that babies are less likely to die of SIDS if they sleep with a pacifier, even if there are other risk factors, like low birth weight or exposure to smoking. See the research study from the British Medical Journal here. (see 10 Things You Need To Know About SIDS)
- Helps with self-soothing. At some point, a baby needs to learn to sooth himself, after he’s developed a trust and reliance on a healthy primary caregiver. They need to be able to calm their own bodies and minds at some point, even while they are able to be soothed by external factors like being held or fed. We do want them to move out when they’re 18, right? (Read about infant attachment here)
- Helps baby transition between breast and bottle. Some babies struggle with the transition from breast to bottle, whether or not the bottle has formula or pumped breast milk. Having the skill of sucking on a pacifier allows a baby to be more flexible with accepting other nipples besides moms’.
- Helps everyone sleep better. I loved bedtime more than any other time of day when my daughter was a baby, but the bedtime routine totally knocked me out, and she rarely let me put her down awake. The pacifier really helped her self-soothe and settled her tummy so she could fall asleep peacefully.
- Much easier to wean than the thumb. It is much easier to break your baby’s pacifier habit when you can just–POOF!–make it disappear. Or you can make up a story about the pacifier angel needing your baby to pass their beloved oral fixation along to the wee ones that need them more. It’s really hard to make a thumb go bye-bye overnight. Babies are too smart to fall for that antic. As much as I am a fan of pacifiers, I am NOT a fan of toddlers dependent on pacifiers. If your baby is clenching their teeth to hold on to the pacifier while they are talking, get rid of it! I have a 7-year-old kiddo (patient) who still sucks her thumb. I’m sure her mom has thought about actually cutting off her thumbs a time or two. (No! Never! How cruel! Haha!)
- More hygienic than the thumb or fingers. Now, don’t go assuming I’m a germ freak. I will admit that, at least once, I’ve stuck a pacifier back in my baby’s mouth after it dropped on the floor at my house…of course, after checking for dog hair. (Scandalous!). But, no one likes a fussy, snot-faced baby, right? It is so easy for siblings and strangers to pass germs to the little one–just an innocent moment of grabbing their hands for a little patty cake or peek-a-boo? Yep, that’s all it takes. Ahhhchew! Whaaaah!
- Helps with introducing new foods or flavors. This tip comes from my speechie friends (aka Speech and Language Pathologists) who work with picky and problem eaters of all ages. As long as it is an approved food for babies, go ahead and dip a little bit! (Anyone singing Tootsie Roll in their head? Did I just date myself? Ha!)
- Helps with discomfort after feeding due to reflux/gas. I alluded to this tip in #4, and–trust me–it really helps their poor tummies and throats. If reflux (stomach contents) is coming up their throat (esophagus) during or after feedings, just a few sucks and swallows will help redirect the escaping acid. More sucks on the bottle or breast doesn’t work if they’ve already refused to eat more because that just adds more volume of fluids to be rejected by the stomach. I recommend this to the parents of a lot of my baby patients, and some say “My baby won’t take a pacifier”, to which I say, “They don’t have to suck the life out of it for 20 minutes (maybe not so sarcastic)…just hold it there long enough to elicit a few swallows.”
- Helps improve feeding for babies with a “weak latch” or “poor suck.” This will take up a whole other blog post to fully explain. (Coming soon!) But to keep it simple, we use pacifiers at our clinic to help stimulate the baby’s mouth, lips and tongue for better breastfeeding and sometimes solid feeding. The Soothie pacifiers are especially great because you can stick your finger in the nipple part for better control, and you can see when baby’s tongue comes out to “cup” the nipple for a good latch.
- Does anyone have a MUTE BUTTON for this baby?Because, dear readers, sometimes we just need some PEACE AND QUIET! Right?
Do you know of some other reasons why pacifiers are good for babies? Thanks for reading!