By Stephanie Levine, DO, FAAP, Member of the Board of Directors at Keeping Babies Safe.
I tell grandparents and parents that pacifiers can be very useful. There are positive and negative aspects of pacifier use. Firstly, everything with babies is habit. It’s important to be prepared, because at some point usually around two years of age, grandparents and parents will have to be strong and take the pacifier away. We know that prolonged use can lead to certain dental problems.
The truth is babies like to suck, and pacifiers can help soothe a baby. The sucking reflex does not always mean hunger, but it’s encouraged to use them in between feeds or to go to sleep.
I try to discourage parents from constantly reinserting the pacifier while the baby or child is actually asleep. This is so that they do not become so reliant on the pacifier for actual sleeping. This can become a hard habit to break, especially once the child is older. Researchers have proposed an association between pacifier use for sleep and a reduced risk of SIDS. On the other side, the proposed theory is constant sucking while using a pacifier may be associated with more frequent bouts of ear infections.
Finally, grandparents and parents may find that many children will initially, or at some point, find their fingers to soothe themselves. This is also fine and I insure them that most children will not enter college sucking on a blanket!
For other helpful information and more on crib safety and safe sleep environments, visit www.keepingbabiessafe.org.