To pacify or not to pacify, that is the question! If you’re a parent, or currently expecting, you’ve probably heard every possible recommendation and condemnation you’ve ever wanted to hear regarding pacifier use.
What is a dedicated, thoughtful parent to do?
Well, we’re here to help. And, it’s not as cut and dry as you think. In fact, we’re pretty sure you may just be surprised by our second biggest “pro.”
The Biggest Pros
It’s a superb calming mechanism: It would be difficult for many-a-parent to imagine being able to soothe a crying, restless baby at the doctor’s office, on a plane, or at naptime without a trusty pacifier nearby. Pacifiers are most certainly named appropriately.
May help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS): This is a biggie. The Mayo Clinic reports that having a child suck on a pacifier at naptime and bedtime might reduce the risk of SIDS.
The Mayo Clinic also suggests that if you're breast-feeding, you should “wait to offer a pacifier until your baby is 3 to 4 weeks old and you've settled into an effective nursing routine.”
The Biggest Con
Extended use can create tooth development concerns: Extended thumb sucking, tongue thrusting and pacifier use beyond the arrival of your child’s primary teeth can be problematic for the development of a proper bite.
Each of these habits tends to place undue forward-pressure on upper teeth and reverse, downward-pressure on bottom teeth – both of which can impact the proper development of a child’s jaw.
Your dentist and pediatrician can work with you to help curb these habits, but awareness is the most important first step.
What about the Baby Bottle?
Baby Bottle Tooth Decay: Streptococcus mutans, the bacterium that contributes to tooth decay, is fond of teeth no matter if they're in your mouth or your baby’s.
As a general rule, you’ll want to limit snacking, avoid placing anything sweet on a pacifier or bottle to get a baby to take to it, and avoid sharing your spoon with your child.
Because a diet high in refined carbohydrates contributes to larger populations of this bacterium, and sharing a spoon transfers the bacteria that exist in your mouth to your child’s mouth. Infants have very little of this bacterium to begin with, but you have lots!
And, yes, it’s contagious!
For even more tips, read our Seven Tips to Avoid Baby Bottle Tooth Decay article.