Can My Baby Have a Pacifier? What Parents Need to Know
A pacifier is a great option to have on-hand when your baby is needing some extra comfort and support. Here is everything you need to know about when to use a pacifier, the benefits and downfalls of a pacifier, and safety tips to keep in mind.
When to Use a Pacifier?
Pacifiers are a quick and easy way to provide some comfort to your baby. They can be incredibly helpful if your baby seems to have a strong desire to suck but has not quite figured out how to get their fingers into their mouth.While running errands, on a plane, or just living your busy parent lifestyle, pacifiers can help provide some temporary comfort to your fussy or crying little one. Pacifiers are also a great option to look into if your baby has trouble falling asleep or being able to put themselves back to sleep.
You should wait to introduce a pacifier to your baby until they are at least 3-4 weeks old. Since the mechanisms of breastfeeding and using a pacifier are different, you will want to wait until to introduce the pacifier to your baby until they have gotten the hang of breastfeeding or using a bottle. Although pacifiers are not proven to cause any nipple-confusion for your baby, you could wait until around 6-8 weeks old, just for further assurance that your baby understands the difference in both mechanisms necessary.
Using a Pacifier: Pros v. Cons
Pacifiers are a great option to give to your baby if they are acting fussy or needing extra support while sleeping. Sucking is a primal need of all babies and while most babies are typically satisfied after breastfeeding or feeding from a bottle, some babies want more which is why many parents do choose to use a pacifier. One of the biggest benefits to using a pacifier is that it will help to soothe your baby when they are crying, acting fussy, or having trouble falling asleep.Pacifiers are a great distraction for your baby and can help stop your baby from crying while you are out in public or at home.
Another benefit to using a pacifier is that you have total control. When your baby self-soothes by sucking on their fingers, you do not have control over when they choose to do this. With a pacifier, you can give or take it away when necessary. This will be especially helpful when it comes time to start weaning your baby off the pacifier.
If you find that your baby is having trouble falling asleep or staying asleep throughout the night, pacifiers are a great, positive sleep association for your baby. Positive sleep associations are any habits that your baby can do on their own when going to sleep. The pacifier will help to teach your baby how to self-soothe themselves back to sleep without your help.
A final benefit to using a pacifier is that pacifiers are known to decrease your baby's risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.) The sucking mechanism of the pacifier will help to open the air space around your baby's mouth and nose which will help to get them enough oxygen while breathing.
Pacifiers are known to have many benefits, however, there are a few downfalls to pacifiers that you should keep in mind. First, using a pacifier can become a hard habit to break. You will want to make sure your baby does not become too attached or dependent on their pacifier since it will be important to eventually stop using completely to avoid any dental problems down the road.
When using a pacifier, make sure you are not accidentally looking over any issues your baby is trying to call attention to. It can become easy to habitually give your baby the pacifier anytime they start to act fussy or cry. While pacifiers can be a great temporary solution to stop the fussiness or crying, make sure your baby is not acting that way because they are in need of a diaper change, they are hungry, or asking for anything else.
A potential con to using a pacifier to help your baby sleep at night is that if they lose the pacifier, they might wake up crying. You might need to help them find the pacifier and give it back to them in order to fall back asleep again. However, this is a minor downfall to using a pacifier, especially if you find that the pacifier is really helping your baby learn to fall asleep on their own.
One final disadvantage to think about when considering using a pacifier is the potential dental problems it could cause later in life. Keep in mind that a pacifier will not have any affect on your baby's development under the age of two years old. You will want to make sure that you have completely stopped using a pacifier for your baby by the age of two, in order to prevent any dental problems from developing.
Different Types of Pacifiers
There are hundreds of different pacifiers on the market and you might have to switch around a few times until you find your baby’s favorite. Here are some things to keep in mind when shopping for the right pacifier.
A traditional pacifier will have three essential parts: the nipple, the shield, and the ring. Most pacifiers will feature all three parts as one piece of molded silicone or rubber. The nipple will be made of silicone or latex and your baby will be able to tell the difference between your nipple and the pacifier nipple. The shield will prevent the nipple from going inside your baby’s mouth which would become a choking hazard. The shield should also have small ventilation holes to help prevent saliva from collecting (which can cause skin irritation,) or block your baby’s breathing abilities. The ring is a handle so that you can easily grab the pacifier from your baby’s mouth or can be attached to a strap to prevent the pacifier from falling on the floor.
- Nipple-Shape: there are two types of nipple-shapes for your baby. There is orthodontic and the rounded nipple. Orthodontic nipples are flat on the bottom and rounded on the top to conform to the baby’s tongue and potentially interfere less with your baby’s oral development. Rounded nipples will feature a rounded ball-shape at the end with a regular base.
- Pacifier Size: there will be different pacifier sizes available depending on your baby’s age. You should make sure that the pacifier your baby uses is not too big or too small so that it is not a safety hazard. Each pacifier brand’s sizing is different and dependent on the material and shape of the nipple and shield. Look to buy a pacifier that is recommended for your child’s age, rather than just guessing what looks to be right.
- Latex vs. Silicone: silicone is more commonly used for pacifiers as it is dishwasher safe and much sturdier than latex. Latex is softer and more flexible, but it will wear out quickly and must be hand-washed. Additionally, some infants might be allergic or sensitive to latex and can have a small reaction when using a latex pacifier.
Tips to Keep in Mind
Plan on cleaning the pacifier at least once per day. Most pacifiers will be top-rack dishwasher safe, or you can hand-wash it with mild soap and warm water. To sterilize the pacifier, you can also drop it in a pot of boiling water for about 5 minutes before washing it again.
Avoid attaching the pacifier to your baby’s crib, carriage, stroller, or on their neck with a strap that is longer than 6 inches as this is a potential safety hazard. There are shorter clips and straps available that are safe to use, however, you should not use them while your baby is sleeping to avoid any hazard.
A pacifier should never be dipped in any sugary liquids (like honey) as it is very bad for your baby’s gum development and health.
Many companies sell novelty pacifiers that have special attachments that are fun for special occasions or Halloween costumes. As cute as these are, be aware of any small pieces that could break off and become a choking hazard. These novelty pacifiers should not be used as your daily pacifier.
A pacifier should never be used in replacement of a meal, or to delay a feeding. Before offering the pacifier, you should make sure that your baby is not hungry. Try to only offer a pacifier after a meal, or in-between feedings to avoid this.
Keep in mind that not all babies will like pacifiers! Although it can be cost-efficient to stock up on bulk amounts of pacifiers so that you can easily replace them if they get lost or worn out - wait to do this until your baby consistently uses a pacifier and you have found the right brand.
When To Start Weaning Off the Pacifier?
You will want to start weaning off the pacifier before your baby turns at least two years old. Since it can be a hard habit to break, you should plan on starting this process even before this age as it can take some time. If you wait too long, the pacifier can cause dental problems that will affect your child later on. To help this process go smoothly, it is best to use a pacifier in moderation. You will find what works best for you and your baby but try your best to avoid your baby becoming fully dependent on the pacifier.
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