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Why Use a Pacifier, When and How to Wean

We get it. Being parents to a newborn baby can be very confusing, especially if this is your first rodeo. While trying to figure it out, a pacifier is probably on the list of things that you want (or do not want) to introduce to your little one. It is a nipple-shaped silicone-based device used by babies to suck on. Whether you call it a binky, dummy, or paci, we can all agree that pacifiers have a soothing effect that can help calm a baby down. At least, most of the time. Although pacifiers can be your best friend, you should not always reach for them and pop them in your kid's mouth each time your baby turns fussy. There are adverse effects due to their overuse. This article will help you navigate and make decisions about pacifier use. We will look at the benefits and complications of using them. In addition, we are also going to discuss when to start using pacifiers, the best time to ditch them, and what to do to ease the weaning process.

Why should I give my baby a pacifier?

It offers analgesic (pain-relieving) effects. In hospitals where procedures such as insertion of IV needles and immunization occur, doctors use pacifiers to help reduce babies' perception of pain. They are also incredibly helpful during the painful teething period.

It soothes babies’ nervous systems. Babies innately feel safe when suckling on their mother’s breast. Since pacifiers mimic the shape of a nipple, sucking off of them reduces anxiety and distress in infants.

It lowers the threat of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) by 90%. The cause of SIDS remained unknown. Nevertheless, parents should consider giving pacifiers to babies aged one month and older during nap-time and bedtime, as advised by The American Academy of Pediatrics.

It is a great hack for air travel. The sucking and chewing motions help your baby pop their ears and acclimatize to the air pressure in the plane. No need to thank us. This trick will make you one happy parent with an angel baby on a flight.

It eases the transition to bottle feeding. Given that your baby would be used to the shape of a pacifier, it would be less of a hassle when you need to wean them off breastfeeding.

How early can my baby use it?

Parents can start giving pacifiers as soon as their little ones have gotten the hang of breastfeeding. If the baby has trouble latching on to the mother’s nipple, we encourage parents to postpone. Three to four weeks will do to establish proper breastfeeding. Premature use of a pacifier might cause nursing difficulties.

When should I get rid of it?

There is no exact time for stopping the use of a binky on your babies. Most children are naturally ready to let go of them when they reach their second to fourth birthday. At this age range, they have discovered other methods to self-soothe. However, some kids might feel a strong attachment to their pacifier as they give them a sense of comfort and familiarity. We advise parents to start weaning their kids off pacifiers slowly from the age of 6 months. As some kiddos are way harder to wean than others, age 4 would be the maximum limit to forever part ways with binky.

Complication due to prolonged use of pacifiers

  • Studies have shown no significant pain-relieving benefits of pacifier use on babies over 6 months old. In contrast, the overuse of pacifiers might do your kids more harm than good.

  • It increases the risk of middle ear infections for babies aged 6 to 24 months. When a baby sucks on a pacifier for a long time, the ear tube would abnormally open. Fluids from the throat can enter and be accumulated in the mid-ear area, causing bacterial inflammation. Studies suggest that children who don't use a pacifier have a 30% less chance of ear infection.

  • It might cause teeth misalignment in toddlers. Jawbones and dental structures are malleable. The prolonged pushing motion of the tongue while sucking might result in overbite or crossbite.

  • It makes babies gassy. Just like breastfeeding, sucking causes infants to swallow more air. Using pacifiers for long hours can cause babies to be overly bloated.

  • It might cause a delay in speech development. Babies learn about language by mimicking sounds. Take the pacifier off their mouths from time to time, so they are allowed to babble and imitate words.

What to do when weaning your baby off the pacifier

Gradually set boundaries. You can slowly reduce the time your baby can use a pacifier at age 6 months. Another way is to limit the usage only for naps or bedtime.

Compliment them. Whenever your child manages to divert from the urge to suck on the dummy, praise them for being such a big girl or boy. Giving them their favorite healthy snack as a positive reinforcement might work too.

Find substitutes. If comfort is what your child needs, try substituting the pacifier with a stuffed animal, a favorite toy, a security blankie, or a hug.

Teach alternative ways to self-soothe. When your kids are a little bit older, you can even teach them to self-soothe by doing calming activities.

Be patient. It can be a tough job to wean your baby. The pacifier might be your baby’s best friend. As heartbreaking as it is to separate them, do not lose hope or cave in when your child is begging for it. Kids are more resilient than they might seem, and they can adapt quickly to new circumstances. One day, you will be able to get rid of the pacifier for good, and they won’t even notice.

If you have any additional questions about your child's oral hygiene, please feel free to contact us at Urbana Pediatric Dentistry. To learn more about Urbana Pediatric Dentistry visit our About Us page. For more tips and information feel free to Contact Us and follow us on social media on Instagram @urbanapediatricdentistry and Facebook @urbanapediatricdentistry.

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