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.

If you are in a hurry, you can jump down to my conclusion now. Are pacifiers bad? If not, read on!


Should I Use a Pacifier?

Pros:

  1. Soothe and bring comfort to an upset baby.
  2. May help to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) in infants less than 1 year of age.
  3. Helps to reduce symptoms of acid reflux or GERD.
  4. Saves a mommy's sanity. Important!

Things are looking positive....there are a few cons to consider though. 

Cons:

  1. Nipple confusion: Lactation consultants warn not to offer pacifiers before breast feeding has been established since it may cause nipple confusion. Pediatricians say it doesn't matter. If you have concerns, please contact your pediatrician.
  2. Dependency: Some books out there warn your baby may become dependent on pacifiers to fall asleep. When you child is young, I do not see the harm in this one. More on that later....
  3. May cause dental problems and speech delay. This is something to consider!

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 thrust. Until we got their habit under wraps, their speech and swallow abilities did not improve.

Therefore, through experience, there may be some truth to it after the age of 3

Why Not Throw All The Pacifiers Out?

If pacifiers can be bad, why use them? For one, my life as a mommy 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, bring comfort, and relax them...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. 

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 (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 judgement. 

Make sure the pacifier is hidden during the day so your little one has plenty of opportunity to talk and babble and interact with others. 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 their thumb....that is another battle. Click here for tips to stop thumb sucking. I have tried almost everything with my clients!

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Bridget is an ASHA certified, practicing speech language pathologist. She is passionate about providing parents with information on child speech and language development as well as provide functional, easy activities to do at home! Parents have the power to make a real difference.

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