To Pacify or not to Pacify, that is the Question

When my son was born he had pretty severe acid reflux. He had a couple of hours a day that he would spend unexplainably upset and he was constantly having what they call “inverted spit up” (when the stomach acid and milk get into the esophagus and begin going up the nose and never actually come out- ouch.). His breath smelled like Mac n’ Cheese and we went through an entire bottle of gripe water per week. One of the things that seemed to help us, and keep him swallowing and developing those muscles, was a pacifier.

The controversy around the use of a pacifier has been around for decades. And I am not here to tell you that I disagree with all of it and pacifiers are perfect. They aren’t. The point of me telling you all about my son’s gross acid reflux, is to tell you that pacifiers have a place. They have a season. And there are things that they absolutely help with. However, the risks that you assume if you don’t curb the use of pacifiers before the age of two are very real and can be pretty serious.

I had my son’s dentist tell me that he needed to ditch the “sussy” by his second birthday or risk a misshapen pallet and permanent jaw damage that could only be fixed with costly orthodontia. This was a big wake up call to me and my “sussy- addict”. I began to do more research on this, and on pacifiers in general and what I found was very interesting. Not only was my dentist correct, but the research on motor skill function, verbal development and social engagement all being affected by the use of pacifiers was staggering. I have two nieces that used pacifiers until upwards of four years old, and these issues are evidenced in them. Delayed speech, tooth shape and development and cognitive engagement are all slowed in these girls. (boy aren’t I glad I get to write this anonymously 😊)

When in the presence of my 20-month-old, this becomes blaringly obvious as he is able to communicate his wants and needs with surprising clarity, while his 4-year-old cousin feels the need to scream her wants and needs out of the frustration that no one can understand her.

At this point, we are 4 months off of my son’s second birthday. We have gotten to the point that pacifiers are used for going to sleep and to genuinely “pacify” a fussy or tired boy. And even with that level of use, I am truly nervous about cutting him off at 2. But, I am willing to go through a few fussy nights and a frustrated kiddo in order to save him from the gamut of issues that pacifiers can bring.

Pacifiers do have some pro's that should be considered. I attached a few pros and cons of pacifiers below:




The Pro's


Lower Risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) 

Sucking on a pacifier at bedtime may reduce the risk of SIDS by more than 50% ! If you're breast-feeding, wait to offer a pacifier until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and you've settled into an effective nursing routine


A Pacifier May Help Your Baby Fall  Asleep

If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick. Pacifier use does not appear to have any impact on a baby's length of sleep or nighttime awakenings. 


A Pacifier May Ease Discomfort During Flights

If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick. Pacifier use does not appear to have any impact on a baby's length of sleep or nighttime awakenings.


The Cons


Early Pacifier Use May Intervene With Breast Feeding

Sucking on a breast is different from sucking on a pacifier or a yummy bottle of Holle, and some babies are sensitive to those differences. Some research links pacifier use to less frequent breast-feeding or the ending of breast-feeding after only a few months in certain babies. 


Ear Infection

According to one study, children who use pacifiers are almost twice as likely to get multiple ear infections as children who don’t.


Your Baby May Become Dependent On The Pacifier

If your baby uses a pacifier to sleep, you might face frequent middle-of-the-night crying spells when the pacifier falls out of your baby's mouth.


Dental Troubles

Normal pacifier use during the first years (up to 2 years) of life doesn't cause long-term dental problems. However, prolonged pacifier use might cause a child's teeth to be misaligned or not come in properly.


Tips To Consider

  • Choose the Silicon One Piece variety! Pacifiers made of two pieces pose a choking hazard if they break. Once you've chosen a favorite pacifier, keep a few identical backups on hand.

  • Don't always resort to a use pacifier. Sometimes a simple change of position or a rocking session can calm a crying baby.

  • Offer a pacifier to your baby only after or between feedings.

  • If you're breast-feeding, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting to offer a pacifier until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old, and you've settled into an effective nursing routine.

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