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The short answer is a qualified yes. You aren’t going to do any harm to your baby by providing a pacifier to help your child get to sleep.

However, for the first month of life, your baby should not use a pacifier or any sucking device for soothing. After one month, when your baby is already a champion breastfeeder, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends introducing a pacifier at nap time and bedtime. Studies have shown this practice to help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), which is most common between birth and six months of age. It is believed that babies who suck on pacifiers do not sleep as deeply and can arouse themselves from a deep sleep before they stop breathing.  But before deciding to use a pacifier, consider the pros and cons.

Pros

The natural sucking action of a pacifier can soothe a fussy baby and help them drift off to sleep.

  • The natural sucking action of a pacifier can soothe a fussy baby and help them drift off to sleep.
  • If baby takes a trip on an airplane, a pacifier can help them pop ears when the air pressure changes.
  • Pacifiers are easier to quit than thumb sucking, which is a ready alternative for babies with a strong drive to suck. This is one of the main reasons that the AAP recommends pacifiers.

Cons

  • If pacifier use is introduced too early (before one month), it can cause a breastfed baby to become confused between mom’s nipple and the pacifier. This could cause the baby to refuse to breastfeed altogether or reduce the length of breastfeeding.
  • A baby can become dependent on a pacifier, so much so that your baby awakens during the night with a crying spell when it falls out of their mouth. Although the pacifier habit is easier to break than the thumb sucking habit, it can still be difficult to wean a child from a pacifier.
  • Prolonged pacifier use can lead to dental problems, causing a child’s top front teeth to slant outward or not come in properly. You can reduce this somewhat by using an orthodontic pacifier.
  • Pacifier use has the potential to increase middle-ear infections. The continuous sucking causes the Auditory tubes to remain open and allows bacteria from the mouth to get inside the middle ear.

Takeaways

  • It’s okay to use a pacifier to help your baby sleep, but beware of possible side effects.
  • Introduce a pacifier at about 1 month old and during nap and sleep time.
  • Pacifiers can help a child calm down during travel and soothe when fussy.
  • A baby can become dependent on a pacifier and weaning can become difficult.

References

  1. American Academy of Pediatrics. Pacifiers: Satisfying Your Baby’s Needs.
  2. Mayo Clinic. Pacifiers: Are they good for your baby?
  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Practical Pacifier Principles.

Comments

  1. I tried so hard to get both of my girls to take pacifiers. My first has been a thumb sucker since 3 months old and my 8 month old sucks 2 of her fingers. They are self soothers, but this habit is incredibly hard to break. 🙁

    Reply
  2. I tried really hard not to give both of my girls pacifiers and I waited until they had breastfeeding down but I couldn’t resist. They slept so much better with them and were only used for sleeping and the occasionally fussiness out in public. At one years of age I took them away and luckily it only took about one week for them to get used to not having them!

    Reply
  3. I personally did not give my sons pacifiers. My mom told me the story that when I was a baby she couldn’t find my pacifier and I was crying so bad for it that she had to drive to the store in the middle of the night to buy more. I told myself that was not going to be me lol. They both did fine without it 🙂

    Reply
    1. Some babies get really hooked! We used to call the space behind my daughter’s crib the “pacifier graveyard.” She needed to go to sleep with several paci’s… and over time the number that feel through the crib rails increased. We would have to do a weekly roundup and wash them.

      Reply

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