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Pacifiers - Good Idea or Not?

Depending on how you look at them, pacifiers (or dummies) can be a either a life saver or a big no-no for you.

Pacifiers have been around forever but can be quite a difficult issue for parents. On the one hand they can provide comfort for baby and peace for you. On the other hand they are seen as a bad habit and a impediment to breast feeding. So what's the truth? And should you use one for your baby?

A lot depends on the sucking urge of your baby, in some babies the sucking urge is so strong that they will be upset and fractious if they can't suck on something. This something could be thumbs, fingers, entire fists, toes... in fact anything within range! If your baby is one of these, a pacifier or dummy can save your sanity.

Babies develop the sucking instinct before birth and ultrasound pictures show developing infants sucking their thumbs in the womb. This 'built in' instinct to suck is nature's way of ensuring babies get enough to web. There has even been speculation on this lasting into adulthood with one study showing that adults who were raised with pacifiers were less likely to take up smoking.

If baby is feeding normally and is still restless between feeds, chances are he's not hungry or thirsty but just would like to suck on something. Providing a dummy will soothe him and prevent him sucking his thumb or fingers, potentially leading to dental problems in the future.

Pacifiers are also useful at night when baby wakes up and starts to fret. The sucking action can soothe him enough to send him back to sleep.

There has been some research done into the connection between sucking pacifiers and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Three separate studies have suggested that their use may lessen the risk of SIDS. The reason's aren't clear but it's speculated that sucking on a pacifier may aid development of a baby's airways.

Another possibility is that a baby will turn his head sideways to prevent discomfort and this allows oxygen into the lungs. However at this point these are just speculation.

If pacifiers do all these things, how come they still get so much bad press?

Some parents just don't like the idea of using one. They might feel that they're failing in some way if their baby needs a soother to calm them. This is simply not true and in no way reflects on a parent's capability.

Breastfeeding and pacifiers

If you are breast feeding and having problems, a pacifier between feeds could lessen your baby's sucking instinct in the first few weeks. However if removing it doesn't help, check the situation out with the doctor.

Pacifiers can be habit forming. Babies with dummies are cute - toddlers with dummies are...not! Small children can become emotionally attached to their soother and won't leave the house without it!

Getting rid of pacifiers

Bribery works well here! Offer to exchange it for something your child really wants, for example a new toy. He won't feel so deprived if he's offered a reward. If you're brave simply take it away and explain gently that he's a big boy now and pacifiers are for babies!

If you decide to use one, here's a few pacifier don'ts!

  • Don't dip it in honey, it'll cause tooth decay and lead to a sweet tooth!
  • Don't just use it automatically. A crying baby means there maybe something else wrong.
  • Clean it regularly, especially if it's been dropped outside.
  • Try and wean baby off it before 12 months.
  • Select an orthodontic design. This reduces the risk of dental problems

It's a hard decision, but at the end of the day it's up to you and your baby whether to use a pacifier or not. Some babies simply don't take to them and will refuse to suck on them. That'll make the whole decision a lot easier!

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