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Pacifier Advantages and Risks

Pacifiers have been the subject of much debate in recent years.  In this blog, we will discuss this hot topic and offer our feedback on the issues associated with pacifiers.

  • 1. What advantages do pacifiers offer for babies? Pacifiers satisfy babies’ need to suck, comfort babies, and help them go to sleep. Studies suggest that pacifiers also may reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, help preemies gain weight faster, and reduce the risk of overfeeding bottle-fed babies.
  • 2. When are kids too old to have pacifiers? Frequent pacifier use should end by 10 months to one year of age. All pacifier use (including bedtime use) should end by three years of age.
  • 3. How can parents wean a baby or child off a pacifier? What works best depends on the age and personality of the baby/child being weaned off the pacifier. Most children will stop using a pacifier on their own by approximately three years of age, but for parents to initiate weaning, we offer the following suggestions: provide other sources of comfort, create distractions when the child is seeking his/her pacifier, offer the child the opportunity to trade his/her pacifier for a new toy, restrict pacifier use to bedtime only, praise the child for not using his/her pacifier, and poke a hole in the end of the pacifier to decrease the pressure that the pacifier can create. Parents should never punish or criticize a child for continued use of a pacifier.
  • 4. What risks to pacifiers pose? Studies suggest that pacifiers may interfere with growth in frail babies, cause early weaning from breastfeeding, increase the risk of ear infections, create pacifier-dependence at bedtime and naptime, delay speech if pacifiers are used frequently when children are one year of age or older, create dental problems if pacifiers are used when children are five years of age or older, and may contribute to the development of a latex allergy.

In sum, pacifier use offers advantages and risks.  Given the age, health, and personality of a child, parents can make informed decisions about whether pacifier use is to be permitted, and, if so, for how long and in what contexts (i.e., bedtime only).    

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