Parents frequently look at their shoes when we ask them if their baby uses a pacifier, as if it’s something to be ashamed of. Many moms think of it as their “dirty little secret.” Well, guess what? Our kids used pacifiers and we would do it again!
There is some controversy about the use of pacifiers stemming mostly from lactation consultants who can scare new moms into thinking that their baby will develop nipple confusion if he is given anything other than a breast to suck. I understand…I was told the same thing and was concerned. I was having enough trouble nursing without creating any confusion for my daughter! So, I waited for about a week before I tried the paci. My mom was actually the one who “trained” Margo to self-soothe with it and it was a dream. Suddenly, Margo was sleeping more and seemed calmer.
“Sucking” is one of Karp’s “5 S’s” and it’s an important one! If we don’t want our babies to use the breast to soothe 24/7, then we need to give them an alternative. Pacifiers are very helpful in this regard. Melissa’s children used pacifiers and were champion nursers. My daughter was not a great nurser but that had nothing to do with the pacifier (but that’s another story). Teaching our babies to self-soothe is the first (and maybe most important) lesson we teach our children and we believe that it’s our job to give them the tools they need to do so.
Aside from the obvious soothing benefits, there are some additional benefits to pacifier use. Pacifier use while falling asleep helps reduce the risk of SIDS according to research published in the medical journal Pediatrics. Pacifiers also create more saliva, which can help soothe acid reflux. And recent research presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies shows that pacifier use does not interfere with breastfeeding and may even help.
Of course, as with all tools, pacifiers should be used correctly. After your baby is around 12-months-old, we believe it’s important to set limits. For us, the pacifier was used for sleeping (naps and at night) and in the car. We did not want the pacifier to impede her speech development (my mom is a speech therapist). I have to admit that Margo used her pacifier for far longer than I ever imagined she would and it was a bit of a sore spot for my husband, who wanted to take it away long before I felt it was a good idea. But we were always consistent about limiting its use. Our dentist also shared with us that she prefers that children use a pacifier rather than a thumb since a pacifier can be taken away! She told us that it would take three months to “undo” the movement of the teeth caused by the pacifier and, in fact, Margo’s teeth have pushed back since she stopped using it.
Many parents ask us what to do when the pacifier falls out and a baby cries because she can’t put it back in her mouth or how to manage taking away the paci. As always, one answer does not fit all situations but generally, it’s ok to quietly sneak into your baby’s room to replace the paci as long as you do not otherwise engage with him. As soon as your baby has arm and hand control and is unswaddled, you can place a number of pacifiers in the crib in the hopes that he will be able to “find” one and replace it himself.
As far as when to end pacifier use, only you and your family will know when the time is right. When you are ready, many families have had success with the “Paci Fairy” coming and leaving a gift in place of all of the collected pacifiers. We had success with cutting a hole in the paci at which point our daughter immediately rejected it.
Helping you and your family get enough sleep is our priority and we believe that using tools to do that is nothing to be ashamed of! As with most aspects of child-rearing, setting limits is important, and pacifiers are no different.