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Pacifiers have become one of the most debated childcare objects. Used for years to soothe fussy babies, they’re now often criticized as much as praised. But are they good or bad to use for your baby? How long should your child use a pacifier?

Pros of Using a Pacifier

When your baby is upset, you’ll do anything to make them happy, since every moment they cry can bring you closer to crying yourself. Pacifiers are most often used to calm a fussy baby. They come in handy when your baby has finished their bottle, been burped and still wants to suckle. Since an empty baby bottle should be washed and cleaned right after use, a pacifier is an easy option to comfort them and keep them busy. This practice can help them learn to self soothe, as well.

Lastly, there is some evidence to link pacifier usage with lowered risk for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While there is no guaranteed way to prevent this tragic cause of death, some experts suggested giving your baby a pacifier during naptime and bedtime can help prevent it.

Possible Cons of Giving Your Baby a Pacifier

While no one can deny a pacifier’s ability to calm down a baby that is upset — and who doesn’t want a fast solution to fussing — there are some possible negatives to using one regularly.

First of all, if you’re breastfeeding, you want to make sure your baby is sucking properly from your breast so they get adequate nutrition with as limited discomfort to you as possible. Giving them a pacifier soon after birth may interfere with this development, as the textures and actions are very different. There is also some evidence to suggest regular use of a pacifier can lead to ear infections (watch out for our post on Ear Infections in the next week), which can be tough to deal with. Third is the chance using a pacifier for too long can impact how their teeth come in.

Lastly, there is the issue of dependence. Children can become quite attached to their pacifier, just like they would any other object that calms them down, which can mean battles further down the road when you try to take it from them.

Pacifier Best Practices

The bottom line? There are pros and cons to many childcare practices and the choice to use a pacifier is up to you. If you do choose to use one, here are some tips to keep in mind:

  • Don’t let them use a pacifier until one month of age.
  • Start weaning your baby off their pacifier after the age of six months, aiming to stop usage by their first birthday.
  • Shop for a pacifier that is BPA free and the appropriate size for your child’s mouth.
  • Try other options for comforting them before going for the pacifier.
  • Keep the pacifier clean and free of any food debris or dirt. To keep it from falling to the ground, use good quality strong fabric pacifier holder that will grip, but not rip your child’s clothes. But more importantly one that is not so long that it becomes a choking or strangulation hazard.
  • Be sure to stick to your weaning plan — it may be tough, but it’s crucial.
  • Make leaving the pacifier behind a positive experience and praise your child.

Keeping your baby happy, healthy and nourished is your main focus. Using a pacifier can be a valuable tool in your arsenal to keep your baby calm so you can enjoy your day together. Just keep these, pros, cons and tips in mind and you and your baby will reap all the benefits of a pacifier while using it properly.

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