Parents have used pacifiers in one form or another for centuries to soothe their little ones. They are easy to use, help the baby learn to self-soothe, and have become a symbol of early childhood. Babies have a strong sucking reflex, and a pacifier takes care of this. Pacifiers are even known to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome by regulating how deeply the baby sleeps. The benefits of pacifiers are too hard to ignore, and just for the fact that they reduce the baby’s tendency to suck on thumbs or fingers, they are a great option.
However, many new parents think that the risks of pacifiers outweigh the benefits. This thought can manifest itself based on what they hear from others. Most of these have to be taken with a pinch of salt, as the benefits of pacifiers far outweigh the cons. Let us look at some of these myths and the truths behind them.
Myth 1: Pacifiers are not safe
This is probably the one that is most talked about when it comes to pacifiers: their safety. As with everything that is used when it comes to a baby, pacifiers are as safe as the precautions that are taken by the parents.
A common worry is that a pacifier is a choking hazard. This depends on the type of pacifier that is purchased. A pacifier with an attached cord that is no longer than 6 inches minimizes choking risks. The scare here is that the cord can get wrapped around the neck of the baby and lead to choking, which will not happen if the cord length is less than 6 inches.
When choosing a pacifier, make sure it is relatively simple and does not come with many parts or dangling trinkets, as novelty parts that are glued on increase choking risks. Also, the pacifier should have holes in the plastic shield; this also minimizes the choking risk. Although the ones with extra decorations look attractive, they could prove dangerous for the baby. These decorations could come apart on their own or when the baby pulls at them. The baby could choke on any of them. You need to identify the pacifiers that work best for your baby and not follow the crowd for this one.
Myth 2: Using a pacifier is bad for your child’s teeth
Another common myth about pacifiers is how they affect the teeth of your child. Contrary to popular belief, pacifiers do not cause cavities unless they are dipped in juice or honey. In fact, there are more risks associated with the baby going to bed with a bottle as compared to a pacifier. It is a good idea to start weaning the baby off the pacifier around the first birthday.
Prolonged pacifier use, especially from around three years old when the child starts developing adult teeth, can lead to a narrowing of the upper palate, a shift in teeth position, and poor tongue posture. Again, these are seen only in infants that use the pacifier for longer durations and too many years.
Myth 3: A child can get hooked onto a pacifier
Again, this depends on how much the baby is allowed to use the pacifier by the parents. You will never see a child walk around with a pacifier at the age of 10. Pacifiers are meant to soothe babies and should be weaned off at the appropriate age. Pacifier use can only become a problem with increased frequency, intensity, and duration. It is recommended that pacifiers be used only in the crib or at bedtime. Limiting the use of pacifiers when the baby is up and about and crawling around reduces dependency on the pacifier. Also, bedtime use of pacifiers can greatly reduce the risk of SIDS.
Myth 4: A pacifier can be dropped and reused
Everything that is used for a baby that goes into its mouth, including a pacifier, has to be extremely clean to prevent the risk of infection and germs. Pacifiers can be washed in warm water with a mild soap solution and rinsed thoroughly to make sure they are clean. The five-second rule does not apply to pacifiers. Once they are dropped on the floor, make sure they are cleaned thoroughly before giving them back to the baby. It does not take long for germs and parasites to latch onto an item on the floor, and this holds true for pacifiers as well. Also, a quick rinse in a parent’s mouth is something people resort to, to pacifiers that have fallen down. This is extremely dangerous as there is a risk of passing on any germs that the adult may be carrying, like a cold, germs that cause cavities, or worse, like the herpes virus.
Myth 5: Pacifiers should be discarded once they are dropped
Like the last point, another common myth is that pacifiers have to be thrown away once they are dropped on the floor. While they should not be put back into the child’s mouth, pacifiers can be cleaned with warm water and mild soap to get rid of any impurities. Most pacifiers come with instructions about cleaning and care. You can follow it to ensure the pacifier’s longevity.
While some can be sterilized using a microwave, like the baby bottle, others can only be cleaned with warm water. However, a thorough cleaning is necessary before the baby uses it again. We recommend that you carry a spare pacifier in case this happens while you are outside or traveling. The spare one can be used until the first pacifier can be cleaned.
Myth 6: Pacifier use affects speech
Again, limited pacifier use does not cause any lasting problems. When the child is learning to talk and socialize, pacifier use should be limited. The reason many people say this is owing to the position of the tongue when a baby uses a pacifier. A baby who uses a pacifier constantly could face problems with how the tongue is placed during articulation. Intense and frequent pacifier use may affect the bite and tongue in a way that could cause a lisp, and this can be easily taken care of by limiting the use.
Myth 7: Usage of honey or alcohol dips increases the calming effect of the pacifier
Many people recommend the dipping of pacifiers in sugar water, honey, or alcohol to increase the calming effect of the pacifier and also to make the baby take to them better. Sugar water can lead to cavities in baby teeth and add unnecessary calories, while honey can be linked to botulism and death. Pacifiers will work on their own, and babies will learn to soothe themselves in due time, without any external stimuli.
Myth 8: Pacifiers should be introduced at birth
Pacifiers can be introduced at any time within the first six weeks to help children soothe themselves. That being said, they are not necessary at all. The first few weeks should be spent to establish a strong breastfeeding pattern, and the most important part of this is latching on to the mother’s breast. Once the latching is strong, and the baby can suckle on its own, then a pacifier may be introduced at bedtime or to soothe when the baby is being fussy. Also, pacifiers should only be used only after the baby is well-fed.
By using some basic principles like using a pacifier that is the appropriate size for the baby’s age and making sure that they are made of plastic-free materials, parents can rest assured of the safety and peace of mind that a pacifier provides. They have been around for centuries for this reason and are not going away anytime soon. So go ahead, keep these points in mind when you get your baby a pacifier.