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Pacifiers...To Use or Not to Use?

As a sleep consultant, I often encounter parents grappling with the decision of whether or not to introduce a pacifier to their baby's sleep routine. Pacifiers can be a helpful tool for soothing newborns and aiding in sleep, but they also come with their own set of potential drawbacks. Let's delve into the pros and cons of using a pacifier from a sleep consultant's perspective.
Soothing Tool: I know we have all been there, when our baby is fussy and it seems like the only way to get her to calm down is by giving her the pacifier. It can be a very helpful tool to help calm a baby down when they are upset by providing comfort. The sucking motion can mimic the experience of breastfeeding or bottle-feeding, which is inherently calming for many infants.
Reduces SIDS Risk: Some studies suggest that the use of a pacifier during sleep may reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). While the exact mechanism behind this is not fully understood, it is thought that the sucking motion helps keep the baby's airway open. The AAP recommends using a pacifier for the first 6 months of life to help reduce the risk of SIDS. 
Transitional Object: A pacifier can serve as a transitional object, providing a sense of security and familiarity for babies as they navigate different stages of development or transitions, such as starting daycare or moving to a new environment.
Temporary Soothing: During sleep regressions, teething, or periods of illness, a pacifier can offer temporary relief for babies who are struggling to settle down or self-soothe.
Dependency: One of the primary concerns with pacifier use is the risk of dependency. Babies who rely heavily on pacifiers to fall asleep may struggle to self-soothe and may wake frequently during the night when the pacifier falls out of their mouth. The lack of sucking can actually wake baby up out of a state of sleep, causing more frequent wake ups at night and short naps during the day. 
Sleep Associations: Introducing a pacifier as part of the sleep routine can create a strong sleep association. This means that when babies wake up during the night, they may require the pacifier to fall back asleep, leading to disrupted sleep patterns.
Dental Issues: Prolonged pacifier use, especially beyond the age of two or three, can potentially lead to dental problems such as misalignment of teeth or palate issues. It's essential to monitor your baby's pacifier use and wean them off it at an appropriate age.
Interference with Feeding: Overuse of pacifiers, particularly in newborns, can interfere with breastfeeding or bottle-feeding. It's important to establish feeding routines and ensure that pacifier use does not replace or disrupt essential feeding sessions.
As a sleep consultant, I believe that pacifiers can be a valuable tool for soothing babies and promoting sleep in the early months. However, it's essential to use them judiciously and be mindful of the potential drawbacks. Parents should consider their baby's individual needs, temperament, and developmental stage when making decisions about pacifier use. Ultimately, a balanced approach that promotes healthy sleep habits while addressing comfort and security needs is key. If you're unsure about whether to introduce a pacifier or how to wean your baby off it, consulting with a pediatrician or sleep specialist can provide personalized guidance and support. We hope this help you navigate pacifier use for your little one!

About the author

Amanda Medley

Why didn’t we try this sooner?! As we speak he is sound asleep in his crib – and has been since 7:15 pm.

Karianne Wanggaard

Sleep Well Sleep Specialists

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Working with Shannon, I went from 2-3 wake ups every night to 1 or 0. She aligned the plan with my preferred sleep cycle. She was always coaching, never judging. Shannon was great, I have referred MANY people to her! That's the best testament to her work that I can give.

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