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The good and the bad of introducing a pacifier to your infant

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Paci, Nummy, Binkie, Bobo, pacifiers come with many different names and often become a beloved object of babies and parents. There are many beneficial aspects of using a pacifier as well as quite a few drawbacks. New parents sometimes have a hard time determining if introducing a pacifier to their little ones routine is worth the time of weaning them later.

Benefits of Pacifiers

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends the pacifier to reduce the risk of SIDS in very young infants, until about six months old. They recommend using the pacifier at nap and bedtimes when the infants if falling asleep. The benefit does not extend through the sleep cycle, so it is best not to get in the habit of putting the pacifier back in their mouths once they are asleep if it falls out. Often using a pacifier will soothe a fussy baby and creates a temporary distraction such as when getting shots or needing a few extra minutes to prepare to feed them. Another thing to consider is, if your baby requires oral stimulation, a pacifier is often much easier to dispose of than thumbs and fingers. It is the best alternative to thumb-sucking for those infants that need to satisfy their sucking reflex.

Drawbacks of Pacifier Use

One of the biggest drawbacks of using a pacifier is that many children become dependent on the pacifier to soothe them when upset, hurt, or anxious. The ability to self soothe is vital to the emotional and cognitive development of your infant and their ability to problem solve. Many children that use pacifiers for a prolonged time also do not communicate with words as easily as children without pacifiers. They form their words differently, if at all, when they have a pacifier in their mouths, which may cause delays in speech. Facial mimicry is important for children in understanding and portraying emotions, often when sucking on a pacifier young infants are not imitating facial expressions of their caretakers which is often the first avenue of communication in infants. Prolonged use of a pacifier also may cause dental problems with the way teeth come in and can cause tooth decay.

Let your child be the guide as to whether you use a pacifier. It is a personal decision with no conclusive right or wrong answer. There are few things to think about if you decide to introduce a pacifier to your infant. First, it is best to use a silicone pacifier that is all one piece to help eliminate choking hazards. Second, never put anything sweet on the nipple to entice your child to take a pacifier. Third, limit the use of the pacifier. Limiting the use of the pacifier will help wean them later.

Weaning

Weaning a child from sucking on a pacifier can be difficult for both parent and child. Some parents and professionals believe that it should be done as early as six months and others feel it is fine to wait for the child to choose not to take it anymore. Weaning your little one can cause anxiety and frustration through the days and make it difficult for your baby to sleep at night. Let your child know what to expect. Let them know they will not be getting their pacifiers unless they are napping or going to sleep. Then walk them through the next step and let them know they are only getting it night. Then gradually take it from them at night after you have prepared them for it. Communication will help their anxiety as well as help keep you determined to see it through. Often our anxiety is much worse than the actuality. Be calm and persistent and your child will be too. Weaning can be difficult but in no time your child will be able to self soothe, be speaking much clearer, and you will be able to see their beautiful smile more frequently.

Sources: Mayo Clinic
WebMD
Pediatrics Vol. 116 No. 5

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