It is not unusual for an infant to turn to sucking its thumb or be satisfied with a pacifier early on as a form of security. Some parents may be content with offering a pacifier to baby just for a moment of peace and quiet. Doctors speculate there are both pros and cons in giving your baby a pacifier. Aside from a select few moments of solitude, other benefits of the pacifier according to Pediatrician Shu as stated in her book “Heading Home with Your Newborn” includes:
• The first main benefit is that it is easier to wean a baby from a pacifier than if it sucks its thumb.
• Pacifiers help baby to fulfill its need to suck that is not sufficient enough when feeding.
• When feeling irritated and colicky, a pacifier can help to soothe and console the distressed infant.
• The American Academy of Pediatrics states that giving baby a pacifier for its first 12 months of life while drifting off to sleep can protect against sudden infant syndrome (SID).
Just as there are pros in using a pacifier, there are also a few cons or disadvantages in its use such as:
• Some parents can confuse the need to suck a bottle or breast opposed to comforting baby with a pacifier.
• When introducing a pacifier too early to an infant, it can cause confusion and frustration for a hungry baby needing to be nursed or fed. Refrain from introducing a pacifier to your baby until after the first month of birth.
• Pediatric studies show that pacifiers can lead to ear infections, possibly due to the change of pressure between the throat and middle ear.
• Babies that are extremely enthusiastic and aggressive in sucking the pacifier can delay its speech or alter its tooth alignment later on when teeth begin to emerge.
If you choose to give your infant a pacifier, be sure it is age appropriate and that you monitor the situation at all times. Giving a pacifier that is too small for your child can result in choking. Also choose one that is Bisphenol A-free that can be harmful to infants.
Weaning a child from the pacifier can be difficult and challenging at times and should begin before age two. Control your child’s use of a pacifier to times of stress and discomfort, bed and naptimes only. Try a switch and substitute system by providing something like a blanket or special toy to soothe a toddler during a nap rather than the pacifier. Use a reward system by offering your child a special treat for not using the pacifier. For an older child, suggest sending the pacifier to the tooth fairy for a gift or treat reward.
It is much easier to wean a child from the pacifier than if it sucks a thumb. Even though it can be a difficult habit to break, children normally stop by school age. While weaning your infant from the pacifier, try to speak logically to your child in advance to the weaning process. This is a way to prepare the child as to what is coming, like saying “next week we are going to stop using the pacifier like a big boy/girl and I know you can do it.” Also make stronger limitations on using the pacifier, like only at nap time and in certain rooms only, shortening pacifier time. Eventually the child will no longer miss it. When the child is ready, the pacifier will be a thing of the past.