For many parents, soothing their newborn is one of their toughest tasks, and this is where pacifiers come in handy. If your baby wants to keep suckling even after he/she has had her fill of breast milk and burped, and doesn’t seem to be particularly interested in being cuddled, rocked, or entertained in any way, then giving your newborn a pacifier might prove to be helpful.
This nipple replacement helps to calm fussy newborns by satisfying their natural desire to suck. Although having some peace and quiet in your home is already enough reason to get a pacifier for your newborn, there are many other benefits, top of which is saving your baby’s life. Research suggests that pacifiers significantly reduce the risk of SIDS (the unexpected death of an infant within his or her first year of life), and is also known as crib death, particularly during the first six months of life.
The Academy of General Dentistry (AGD) claims that there are many benefits of pacifiers for newborns that make them must-haves for many parents, but there are also some downsides to their use.
How is a pacifier good for my baby?
Pacifiers are considered safe for newborns. If you’re considering giving your newborn a pacifier, then it might actually be beneficial in the following ways:
- Help to soothe a fussy baby – especially those babies who’re happiest when sucking on something (breastfeeding or thumb sucking). If your baby turns away the pacifier, he/she might be hungry or in need of some nurturing (burping, holding, changing, etc.)
- Help the baby fall asleep – they help a baby settle down and fall asleep
- Offer temporary distraction – can be useful during and after blood tests, shots, and other
- Help in the transition to oral eating for infants who are tube-fed – a pacifier may be used during tube-feedings to increase the infant’s association between food intake and oral movements, which is beneficial during the transition to mouth-feeding.
- Help with reflux – while pacifiers are not the recommended treatment for acid reflux, the sucking action helps to prevent stomach fluids from rising up in the throat.
- Help to reduce risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – studies have shown that the use of pacifiers at nap time or bedtime reduces the risk of SIDS (when the baby stops breathing after being aroused from a deep sleep). The risk of SIDS falls after 6 months of age, so other forms of soothing can be explored from this point onwards.
- Ease discomfort during flights – some babies ‘pop’ their ears by yawning or swallowing to ease ear pain resulting from changes in air pressure. Sucking on a pacifier might prove to be helpful
How are pacifiers bad for newborns?
While pacifiers offer many advantages, they may also be bad for newborns if appropriate caution is not taken. Many newborns fall in love with theirs almost immediately away, so it’s important to examine the risks before introducing them.
To begin with, the prolonged use of pacifiers can develop into a habit that impedes the development of healthy teeth. The continued use of pacifiers past the age 3 years can lead to serious dental malformation. Sucking on a pacifier, or thumb sucking can change the shape of the roof of the baby’s mouth, inhibit proper growth of the teeth, and create challenges with tooth alignment, resulting in malocclusion.
Other cons include:
- Nipple confusion – if the pacifier is introduced too early, it may interfere with your baby’s ability to latch on to the breast properly when breastfeeding. To prevent this, it’s recommended that you wait about 2 to 4 weeks after birth before giving your newborn a pacifier so breastfeeding can be well established.
- Over dependence on the pacifier – If your baby gets used to falling asleep with a pacifier, they will require that pacifier to fall back asleep whenever they wake up during the night. Parents frequently have to get up numerous times during the night to look for a fallen pacifier. You can make your work easier by keeping several pacifiers in your baby’s crib at night so it’s easier to find another one when it falls out.
- Greater risk of middle ear infections – Studies have revealed that using a pacifier increases the risk of fluid buildup in the ears in babies aged 6 to 12 months, which may lead to ear infections. Though it’s not common, you should consult your doctor if your baby is experiencing ear infections.
How to safely use pacifiers for newborns
For safe use of pacifiers, restrict their use to when the baby is not hungry and does not respond to any acts of nurturing. Keep it clean by rinsing with warm water, and buy a pacifier with ventilation holes to permit air passage in the event of accidental lodging in your baby’s throat. And if you notice that the rubber or silicone nipple looks rough or worn, then you should replace it.
Frequently Asked Questions
When is the best time to introduce a pacifier to your newborn?
Babies are born with the instinct to suck, so they can normally start using a pacifier right after birth. In fact, pacifiers are usually given to premature babies to help them develop the reflexes to suck and swallow. That said, you might want to wait for 2 to 4 weeks if you’re breastfeeding so your baby can adapt to feeding himself. But if you’re bottle-feeding your newborn, there’s no need to wait.
Can i give my newborn a pacifier at night?
Pacifiers are safe to use with your newborn at any time of day or night, so there’s no need to remove the pacifier when your baby is sleeping. However, you should not use it to calm a hungry baby.
What is the best pacifier for newborns?
There is an abundance of pacifiers that come in different sizes, shapes, and colors. Perhaps the most important consideration when buying a pacifier is to ensure that the nipple (made from rubber or silicone), and the shield (where it’s connected) are actually a single piece. Two separate pieces may pose a choking hazard if they come apart. It should also be of a good size so it fits in your baby’s mouth, and must be easy to clean – dishwasher-safe.