Dr. Sarah Mitchell
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Pacifier Pros and Cons? What Baby Sleep Consultant Says?

There are so many names that you can call a pacifier. Paci, soother, dummy, bobo, or binky. Whatever you call it, you could be wondering if it can be a helpful tool for your little one? Well keep reading because we are talking all about pacifiers!

Why Do Babies Suck? 

When your child is a newborn a pacifier can provide non-nutritive sucking. This is sucking that is not associated with any nutritional gains.  We know babies suck while in the womb, as early as 7 - 8 weeks post conception.  Sucking is a primitive survival reflex.  Sucking helps your baby survive by assisting in the ability to transfer milk from the breast or bottle.  

Why Do Pacifiers Help? 

In the newborn stage pacifiers can be helpful as they meet that innate reflex to suck. They can meet a need

In addition pacifiers offer the following benefits:

  • When baby sucks this allows the release of endorphins and relaxation
  • This helps to provide comfort and security
  • These two factors combined can be a helpful tool for sleep as the sucking is relaxing 
  • Using a pacifier can also help reduce the risks of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome), according to the AAP and data from 2009. 
  • However, this study from 2017 “ found no randomised control trial evidence on which to support or refute the use of pacifiers for the prevention of SIDS.”  Meaning the data isn’t rock solid on pacifiers helping to reduce SIDS.
  • Can offer a temporary distraction
  • Can help tide your little one over until you can feed
  • Can be comforting for babies that have GI issues such as reflux or food sensitivity

How much your baby likes to suck on a pacifier can vary child to child.  Some babies have a ‘higher suck need” than others.   If your baby won’t take a pacifier don’t worry, there are some cons to using a pacifier. 

Some of the cons of using a pacifier are:

  • Many little ones can become dependent or a sleep crutch making it much harder for them to fall asleep independently.
  • Can take away from them developing “Self Soothing Skills”
  • That they can increase the risk of middle ear infections caused by the sucking motion
  • Prolonged use can lead to dental problems
  • Previously there had been practices against pacifier use that it would disrupt breastfeeding.  However, this 2022 study concluded that “based on our meta-analysis, pacifier use should not be restricted in term newborns, as it is not associated with lower breastfeeding success rates. Furthermore, introducing pacifiers to preterm newborns should be considered, as it seems to shorten the time to discharge as well as the transition time from gavage to total oral feeding
  • In addition this study on preterm infants pacifiers  actually help by strengthening sucking skills making the transition to breastfeeding easier. 

As mentioned earlier one of the cons of using a Pacifiers was that it can take away from developing “Self Soothing Skills” This can include a variety of things such as:

  • Sucking a thumb or finger
  • Rubbing or snuggling a lovey
  • Moving around and groaning/talking to get comfortable again

Overall, the big takeaway from pacifiers is, if it’s working for you, great! But, if you are having to go in multiple times a night to reinsert the pacifier, and it is no longer working for you, then it may be time to consider if the pacifier is acting as a sleep friend or foe. 

We teach you a step by step approach on how to great sleep with and without a pacifier in our Amazon Best Seller ‘ The Helping Babies Sleep Method; The Art and Science of Teaching Your Baby to Sleep.”

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