Pacifiers might be your best friend. Many parents rely on these nifty devices to help soothe their fussy babies. In fact, you likely know someone (or are that someone) who tried very hard, without success, to get your child to take a pacifier.
The truth about pacifiers will not shock you. They are safe, harmless, and literally, millions of babies use them every day without any adverse effects.
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Why a Pacifier?
Pacifiers have been used to keep babies and toddlers happy since forever. It’s no longer necessary (and certainly not the done thing) to shove a toy in the baby’s mouth to soothe them. No, we’re in the higher end of the market when it comes to appropriate pacifier use for our little ones.
Pacifiers are also referred to as soothers for a reason. The sucking motion is instinctive in babies. It’s how they feed, and if there’s something in their mouths to suck, that object comforts them.
In their currently recognized form, the pacifier has existed for over a century. We’ve used them to keep baby calm, to entertain, to distract, and to help with teething. They’re probably one of the first items parents pack before going on a journey.
When the baby is hungry, parents grab the pacifier and pop it in the baby’s mouth. Often this is done in the (vain) hope that the baby will think the fact nipple is a real one. But few babies were born yesterday, so soon work out that the object in their mouth has no nutritional benefits.
And we love to accessorize – even with pacifiers! Babies are unlikely to be fans of cartoon characters, but that doesn’t stop mom or dad choosing pacifiers with designs. Or even color-coordinating the pacifier to match the baby’s outfit – we may not think we do it, but.
There’s plenty of parents who swear by the humble pacifier, soother, binky, whatever name you choose to give it. “My baby won’t sleep without his pacifier!” “Whenever we travel, I always pack a spare, because she loves to play with it on long journeys!”
The pacifier does have its detractors, and not without reason in some cases. However, many of these relate to pacifier use rather than the object itself.
In the pro-pacifier camp:
Pacifiers are small, portable, easily located, fairly low maintenance, ways of giving babies what they want. Sucking is the most instinctive of newborns’ reactions, so much so that they start sucking within minutes of birth. They will put practically anything in their mouths, as most parents or observers of young children know.
The shape of the modern pacifier resembles the nipple or teat from which babies take nutrition. Be it breast or bottle; babies know that if they suck on that object, they will reap the benefits. It takes little stretches of the baby’s imagination to find comfort in sucking other objects –fingers, toys, and yes, pacifiers.
Pacifiers are easy to keep clean, and given the use they get, it’s critical to do so. It doesn’t take long – a rinse in hot, soapy water, and the pacifier is as good as new. They are also low-cost – most can be picked up for less than $10 and are found in most convenience stores.
There are age-appropriate pacifiers, which babies can start on from as young as four weeks. (Earlier use of pacifiers is not recommended, especially if the child is breast-fed, as it’s best to establish feeding routines.) Given that pacifiers are a low-cost item, it shouldn’t be difficult to get ones that match your baby’s development.
Some research links lower risks of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) to the use of pacifiers. Babies who use pacifiers tend not to sleep on their stomachs (a common SIDS risk factor). However, that doesn’t mean that other risk factors for SIDS can be overlooked.
There is no evidence that pacifiers in the early stages of life have any long-term negative effects psychologically or physically. One risk – that of poor dental health – is often linked to prolonged pacifier use, or adding sweetener to the pacifier.
Avoid this risk simply by stopping pacifier use after a certain age, and never using sweeteners on the teat. Typically, dentists recommend a hard cutoff between age three and four, at the absolute latest.
The pacifier is handy as a distraction, and as a tool to help babies relax. If they’re fed, dry, but still grumpy, the pacifier might calm bubs long enough to get them to sleep naturally. Again, don’t abdicate other soothing techniques, like rocking, singing, or cuddling, and use pacifiers as the cherry on the frosting.
In the con column for pacifier use:
Babies form attachments, and no amount of reasoning will persuade them that their latest object of affection needs throwing out. So parents need to be careful about letting pacifier use go on for too long. Use pacifiers long enough to get through the first few months of your baby’s life, then get rid of them.
While the basic pacifier is safe, if parents go for fancy models with added figurines, they can become choking hazards. Nothing is sacred to babies, and that includes biting or pulling to bits those deluxe objects. If it’s small and comes with detachable parts, babies will try and swallow it.
If your baby starts to depend on the pacifier, then mislaying the pacifier can be a massive drama. Nothing says “bad pacifier” use than the parent forced to crawl around the baby’s room to locate a missing pacifier. Traveling without the baby’s favorite pacifier is second only to traveling without extra diapers in the disaster column.
Ear and yeast infections are more often seen in children who use pacifiers. Again, this can be more to do with how the pacifier is used, rather than the fact it is used. Pacifiers, unless cleaned regularly, can introduce bacteria and other germs into your baby’s mouth, leading to infections.
Entertainment is key when it comes to kids.
Babies are easily, well, pacified, with a pacifier, so it’s a shame they don’t come in larger sizes! Older children need more stimulating entertainment, so for young children’s version of a pacifier, check out Twin Cities Kids Club.
Tours, trampolines, and tigers are just three of the ways to entertain kids of practically any age.
Pack the kids, pack the pacifiers, and visit us in St. Paul and Minneapolis for the best family discounts.