Are Pacifiers Bad?...Let's Investigate!
Are pacifiers bad? As a mother, I now know this to be a passionate and confusing topic.
This hot topic hits close to home since my adorable son just turned one year old and yes, he uses a pacifier...gasp!
As a speech therapist, I decided, years ago, I would NEVER use a pacifier and avoid any potential harm to my child. Then...my son was born and I threw that idea out the window.
Are Pacifiers Bad? Should I Use a Pacifier?
- Soothe and bring comfort to an upset baby.
- May help to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in infants less than 1 year of age.
- Helps to reduce symptoms of acid reflux or GERD.
- Saves a parent's sanity. Important!
Things are looking positive....there are a few cons to consider though.
- Nipple confusion: Lactation consultants warn not to offer pacifiers before breastfeeding has been established since it may cause nipple confusion. Some pediatricians say it doesn't matter. If you have concerns, please contact your pediatrician.
- Dependency: Some books out there warn your baby may become dependent on pacifiers to fall asleep. When your child is young, I do not see the harm in this one. More on that later....
- May cause dental problems and speech delay. This is something to consider! After a certain age and/or overuse, it can cause problems in these areas!!!
Do Pacifiers Delay Speech Development?
The verdict is out on this one...
After 3-5 years of age, the American Dental Association warns that use of a pacifier or thumb-sucking may cause dental problems. As a professional, I have seen this happen. Dental problems may cause an articulation/speech disorder or a reverse swallow pattern (tongue thrust).
In my clinical experience, I have worked with children, 4 years and older, who continued to suck their thumb or use a pacifier and had lisps and/or a tongue thrusts. Until we got their habit under wraps, their speech and swallow abilities did not and would not improve.
Why Not Throw All The Pacifiers Out?
If pacifiers can be bad, why use them? For one, my life as a mom would be much harder without pacifiers. I use them for my one year old on a daily basis....in moderation!
Babies and young toddlers do not have developed soothing mechanisms. A pacifier can be helpful at night to calm a baby down and bring comfort...the same way a bath, book, tv, or stretching does for some adults.
Therefore, for me, it is okay to offer a pacifier. When your child’s cognition develops, he may start to find comfort in a blanket or stuffed bear. When this happens, your child is ready to transition away from pacifier use.
Just make sure that your child doesn't use the pacifier all day long. There has to be a time to babble and play with sounds.
How To Find The Balance
Out of sight out of mind. Sucking on a pacifier brings comfort to our little ones. If something brings us comfort (like checking our smartphones CONSTANTLY) and it is in front of us all day, we will most likely do it!
Same thing with a pacifier. During the day, take the pacifier away and hide it. Offer it only at nap or when upset.
My Final "Educated" Verdict
Are pacifiers bad? NO! The key is moderation and best judgment.
Make sure the pacifier is hidden during the day so your little one has plenty of opportunities to talk and babble and interact with others which are social and speech development necessities.
After the age of 2 or when your child finds comfort from blankets or teddy bears, I would start to phase out the pacifier. If your child starts to suck his/her thumb....that is another battle and for another page...
Learn how to foster a baby's speech and language skills
Yes...it is important to think about your baby's speech and language development from the day he or she is born. This may seem overwhelming to a new parent or even a veteran, but I have some good news!
Encouraging speech and language development in an infant really isn't difficult. It is actually fun!
Learn more here: Baby Talk - What is it all about?