For many mothers, there is nothing more heart-wrenching than the incessant cries of an inconsolable baby. We instinctively rock and cuddle, coo and cajole, hoping that it is enough to calm the little one.
There are times, however, when a mother’s touch does not quite work and that is when some may turn to a pacifier for help. We take a closer look at the pros and cons of relying on pacifiers as a solution.
Pros: A trusty solution
Babies have a strong sucking reflex and a pacifier, much like a mother’s teat, can thus produce a soothing effect. For fussier babies who don’t settle down easily, a pacifier can provide much-needed relief for both mother and child.
For one, it offers a temporary distraction during and after medical procedures such as injections and blood tests. It also provides the comfort your baby needs to fall asleep.
If you travel frequently with your baby, you might find a pacifier useful during takeoff and landing. While adults know how to pop their ears to relieve discomfort caused by air pressure changes, babies do not and sucking on a pacifier can help.
Since pacifiers are disposable, it is also easier to wean your baby off the habit of sucking on something once they are old enough to stop. It is somewhat harder to eliminate the habit when it involves the baby’s own fingers and thumbs.
More significantly, it is said that using a pacifier can help to lower the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) – one of the most common causes of deaths among babies between 1 and 12 months old.
Cons: dependencies and other side effects
There can, however, be too much of a good thing. Babies can get so used to having a pacifier at all hours that they develop an overdependence on it. This could easily trigger crying in the middle of the night when the pacifier invariably falls out of your baby’s mouth.
Furthermore, using pacifiers too early in a baby’s life might disrupt breastfeeding patterns, especially for those who are sensitive to the differences between human and artificial teats. Once exposed to pacifiers, research suggests that babies may be less prone to nurse for as long or as well.
Other side effects cited include an increased risk of middle ear infections and, in some cases, dental problems. Beyond the first few years of life, prolonged use of a pacifier could cause your child’s teeth to be misaligned or affect the formation of new teeth.
If not the pacifier, what then?
Different children have different personalities and temperaments, and there is no one-size-fits-all approach. Still, general wisdom makes a case for doing everything in a healthy dose of moderation.
For starters, you could try limiting the use of pacifiers to a few, specific times of the day. If you find that your child is seeking the pacifier for comfort, try replacing it a song, a bedtime story or cuddle.
You could also explore other sensory activities that are comforting, such as a slow back rub, taking deep breaths or holding on to a soft toy. It is important to be consistent and maintain the change for at least 7 days before deciding if it is working.