Pacifier Pros and Cons

Your guide to the ages and stages of development

Sue's 8-month-old has had a string of ear infections and is taking antibiotics again. But during a recent visit to the pediatrician, Sue learned something she didn't know. The doctor suggested that the baby's ear infections may be connected to using a pacifier.

Some studies suggest that pacifiers can contribute to health problems in babies, so the question of whether to use a pacifier is a tricky one. For example, in a study published earlier this year, pediatricians found a 33 percent increase in ear infections in 6- to 10-month-old infants who used a pacifier throughout the day compared with infants who only used a pacifier when they were put to sleep. In a study done in Brazil, researchers found that infants who used a pacifier were 2.5 times more likely than other infants to cease breastfeeding by 6 months, yet they had fewer breastfeeding problems than nonusers.

A recent study on SIDS deaths published in Pediatrics magazine found that infants who used a pacifier were at a lower risk for SIDS than those who didn't. The hypothesis is that a pacifier protects the upper airway from becoming obstructed by the tongue.

Confused? With all these conflicting studies, your best plan is to do what seems to be working for your baby. Here are a few recommendations:

  • After your baby reaches 6 months, try to limit her use of a pacifier to naptime and bedtime. Limiting pacifier use now will make it easier to break the pacifier habit when your child is older.
  • When your infant is breastfeeding, let him decide when he's had enough. Don't try to wean him from your breast by substituting a pacifier.
  • Instead of reaching for your baby's pacifier when she is fussy, figure out what's bothering her. Is she sleepy or need a clean diaper? If you're not able to solve the problem, look for other ways to soothe your baby, such as singing to her or whispering in her ear.

Footsie Fun

You and your baby will experience lots of giggles with this idea from the book, Games to Play with Babies by Jackie Silberg (Gryphon House). Infants have a fascination with their feet and toes so why not give them something really fun and silly to look at? Take your baby's plain white socks and decorate them with fabric paint, patches of bright fabric, yarn, or even jingle bells. Use non-toxic paints or markers to decorate the socks and be sure that an adult is present to prevent your baby from putting a sock in his mouth. Play peek-a-boo behind his colorful, fun feet and watch his eyes light up.

Read more articles that highlight writing by Christian women at ChristianityToday.com/Women

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