A Little More Wisdom

The Great Pacifier Debate

Written by
Cathy Hale
on March 8th, 2016


To soothe or not to soothe? That is the age-old binky question. 

I must admit, in my experience with pacifiers I had one son that loved his more than anything until he was four. Yes, four. It was odd to see him without a brightly colored binky in his mouth. My other son never liked a pacifier. Never. 

Why do pacifiers have a stigma? The big concern most parents tend to have is that too much dependency on a pacifier leads to sleep issues – like your baby won’t sleep without it. Others worry that if she uses a pacifier for an extended amount of time it can cause long-term dental problems when she gets older like misaligned teeth or front teeth that protrude. 

In my family, pacifier love seems to be handed down from one generation to the next. According to my parents and 90% of my baby pictures, I loved my pacifier until my toddler years. And we’re not talking a fancy-schmancy pacifier with cute colors. This was an old-school, golden-brown 1970s pacifier. 

My mom still tells stories about how she would hide it in an attempt to rid me of it. She said I would patiently look through dresser drawers and eventually find it. My son stopped using his pacifier because I cut the nipples off of it. He would pick it up, pop it in his mouth and then put it down. After a few days, he stopped picking them up. 

So let’s revisit one of the big concerns. Do pacifiers cause dental problems?

I used a pacifier for years – walking through the house clicking it like a squeaky toy – and I never needed braces as an adult. My front teeth were perfectly straight until I knocked one out in my teens, but that’s a different story. My son who loved his pacifier does have front teeth that protrude (he’s 11 now), so he needs braces. Would he have needed them without a pacifier? We’ll never know!

Pacifier Pros

Pacifiers do soothe your baby because babies are born with strong sucking reflexes. This is nature’s way of prepping them for breastfeeding. A pacifier satisfies that sucking urge, so it does tend to make many babies happier and calmer. 

Pacifiers serve as a distraction, so it may temporarily calm a fussy baby. Lots of parents like pacifiers for baby’s first doctor’s appointments when she may get shots or to use in public places where they want to keep baby quiet.

Pacifier Cons

Pacifiers can cause breastfeeding issues like latching problems in some newborns because of nipple confusion. This can be stressful and frustrating for a hungry baby and a nursing mama. That being said, it’s best not to introduce a pacifier until you and your baby establish your breastfeeding routine. 

On the plus side, her binky helps her sleep, but she may wake up crying if it pops out of her mouth during the night. Funny story! One of my friends would surround her sleeping toddler with multiple pacifiers at night, so when it fell out of her mouth, she had an increased chance of reaching out for one and finding it! That way mommy could get her Zzzs. #MomLife

Of course, prolonged pacifier use might lead to dental problems, which we’ve discussed. 

Tips for Binky Life

If your baby is 3-4 weeks old and she’s breastfeeding with no latching issues, you can certainly introduce a pacifier. It’s up to her whether she likes it or not.

If she likes her pacifier, don’t stress about it. Motherhood is stressful enough, so don’t worry if she likes her binky. Enjoy the fact that she enjoys it.

Don’t default to her pacifier to solve all of her woes. If your baby is fussy, re-position her, change up her routine or rock her. 

If she’s a true binky fan, I suggest buying identical ones to use as back-ups. When my son found the one he loved, we bought lots of them. 

Keep pacifiers clean to protect her from germs. Most silicone pacifiers are dishwasher safe, so you can wash them easily. If a pacifier has a hole in the nipple, toss it out. 

Don’t sweeten the deal! Resist the temptation to sweeten a pacifier with syrup or sugar or fruit juice. 

Most babies give up their pacifiers on their own. Babies who use pacifiers as toddlers tend to give them up around 2-4 years of age. You can always ask your pediatrician for advice if you need help curbing the binky habit. 

How do you soothe a fussy baby? Check out these articles for tips on soothing common tummy woes.

Do you have a funny binky story to share? Let us know in the comments sections on Facebook!

Cathy Hale

About Cathy Hale

Cathy Hale is a nationally recognized writer and lifestyle blogger.

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