Should you give your baby a pacifier? Using a pacifier comes with both benefits and downsides, according to the Academy of General Denistry (AGD).
On the positive side, pacifiers provide a source of comfort to infants. Pacifiers can also assist in reducing the incidence of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to the AGD. Because babies with pacifiers sleep less deeply than those who sleep without pacifiers, they can be aroused from a deep sleep that could result in the stopping of breathing.
On the other hand, pacifiers can harm the growth and development of the mouth and teeth. Prolonged pacifier use can cause changes in the shape of the roof of the mouth, prevent proper growth of the mouth and create problems with tooth alignment. If you do choose to give your child a pacifier, these tips can help reduce its harm:
- Restrict pacifier use to when the infant needs to fall asleep.
- Look for a pacifier with ventilation holes in the shield, as they permit air passage. This is important if the pacifier accidentally becomes lodged in the child’s throat.
- Always clean the pacifier before giving it to a child.
Breaking the pacifier habit
The AGD recommends that children stop using pacifiers by age two. (Up until that age, any alignment problem with the teeth or the developing bone is usually corrected within six months after pacifier use is stopped.)
Breaking the habit is not always easy. Here are a few suggestions for helping a child wean from the pacifier:
- Dip the pacifier in white vinegar.
- Pierce the top of the pacifier or cut it shorter to reduce sucking satisfaction.
- Leave it behind on a trip.
Always throw away a used pacifier; it is not sanitary for another child to use or to save.