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I guess I'd have to say I'm still struggling with this question, which is why I'm throwing it out here for others to answer: what is your feeling on giving pacifiers to young children, and how old does a child have to be to start using a pacifier?

I know that many people frown on using pacifiers, but when my kids are crying, sometimes I just need to get them to calm down, and giving them a pacifier is one option I use to try and calm everyone down. Besides, there's something strangely funny about seeing my daughter put TWO pacifiers in her mouth.

Anyway, what are your experiences with them, and how young is too young?

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5 Answers 5

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I don't believe there is any compelling reason to avoid pacifier use for infants, particularly after the first 4 weeks (although earlier might be okay, too; see below). Ultimately, the decision may be influenced by your child's preference. My son had absolutely no interest in pacifiers by the time he was about 2 months old.

In truth, there actually is some compelling evidence in favor of pacifier use (if your child will use them): there is some evidence that pacifier use in the first year can reduce the likelihood of SIDS.

The potential negatives, particularly in the first year or two, are relatively few.

One of the primary concerns for artificial nipples/pacifiers is related to breastfeeding. Nipple confusion is the term commonly used to describe a child developing a preference for a specific type of nipple that conflicts with their normal feeding method (usually the undesired preference is for an artificial nipple, although a preference for breastfeeding in a child who, for whatever reason, will not typically be breastfed, could also fall into this category).

There is some debate over whether pacifier use can interfere with breastfeeding. Marie's very good answer to that question references some research that found no correlation between pacifier use and reductions in breastfeeding. However, she raises the issue of infants preferring the easiest route, and if breastfeeding is difficult for the child, it seems possible that use of a pacifier could complicate the process of learning to breastfeed further.

Another concern is the potential of dental problems. However, according to the Mayo Clinic this is not an issue during the first few years of a baby's life.

The Mayo Clinic also provides a nice Pro/Con list for pacifier use:

Pro

  • A pacifier might soothe a fussy baby. Some babies are happiest when they're sucking on something.
  • A pacifier offers temporary distraction. A pacifier might come in handy during shots, blood tests or other procedures.
  • A pacifier might help your baby fall asleep. If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick.
  • A pacifier might ease discomfort during flights. Babies can't intentionally "pop" their ears by swallowing or yawning to relieve ear pain caused by air pressure changes. Sucking on a pacifier might help.
  • Pacifiers might help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Researchers have found an association between pacifier use during sleep and a reduced risk of SIDS.
  • Pacifiers are disposable. When it's time to stop using pacifiers, you can throw them away. If your child prefers to suck on his or her thumb or fingers, it might be more difficult to break the habit.

Con

  • Early pacifier use might interfere with breast-feeding. Sucking on a breast is different from sucking on a pacifier or bottle, and some babies are sensitive to those differences. Research suggests that early use of artificial nipples is associated with decreased exclusive breast-feeding and duration of breast-feeding — although it's not clear if artificial nipples cause breast-feeding problems or serve as a solution to an existing problem.
  • Your baby might become dependent on the pacifier. If your baby uses a pacifier to sleep, you might face frequent middle-of-the-night crying spells when the pacifier falls out of your baby's mouth.
  • Pacifier use might increase the risk of middle ear infections. However, rates of middle ear infections are generally lowest from birth to age 6 months — when the risk of SIDS is the highest and your baby might be most interested in a pacifier.
  • Prolonged pacifier use might lead to dental problems. Normal pacifier use during the first few years of life doesn't cause long-term dental problems. However, prolonged pacifier use might cause a child's top front teeth to slant outward or not come in properly.
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I'm in favor of using pacifiers for the short term, like when the baby is hungry and you need to buy yourself a minute to make a bottle. For my daughters, I would let them fall asleep with it, then gently take it out.

My problem with them is that if you leave it in too much, the baby comes to expect it and you're always playing the game of putting it back in. In other words, instead of it pacifying the baby while waiting for their needs to be met, the pacifier itself becomes the need. Babies are needy enough without adding another one to the mix.

We adopted our son when he was one year old, and his foster mother before us had him using a pacifier 24/7, a practice we let him continue for about another year and a half because it was so deeply ingrained. He is four and a half now, off a pacifier for two years, and still has problems calming himself down. He cries at the drop of a hat, and doesn't stop crying until he is told. I don't know if the difficulty in self soothing stems from his early heavy pacifier use, or if that personality trait was what made him prone to pacifier "addiction" in the first place, but the correlation is definitely there, and the contrast with our other kids who only used pacifiers in moderation is clear.

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My wife was against a pacifier for our daughter due to the risk of later dental problems. However, we found that our daughter started sucking her thumb instead. We figured that a pacifier was at least something we could control - you can't take away a child's thumbs. She was given one as a baby and it was gradually removed from her at the age of 18 months. When we removed it, we simply left it tied to her pram so she could use it in the pram but no elsewhere. For a while, she would seek our her pram just to use the pacifier but over time that became too much work for her so she just gave it up.

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When our first child was born, my wife and I were going to not use a pacifier. I think our resolution lasted roughly a day. We gave her the "paci", and she loved it. It made our life and hers a lot easier. Child number 6 is now about 4 months old, and he and all our others have had them as soon as they wanted. They were all (and he is currently) breast-fed. The only down-side we have experienced is the problem where a kid's sleep gets interrupted when the paci falls out. It is a small price to pay. :-) –  Mark Meuer Dec 1 '11 at 17:51
    
FYI: My now 3.5yo son never wanted one and never had one. He never sucked his thumb either. That's one bullet we dodged. –  dave Dec 1 '11 at 19:18

I worked in daycares before having kids of my own and I can say from personal experience that I hate pacifiers. Yes it helps the child self soothe, but it seems like after a while they don't really NEED it, they just USE it because it has become a habit.

A lot of parents at the daycares had a hard time weening their children off of their pacifiers and some eventually gave up. It is also gross to hear a child learning how to talk with a binky stuck in their mouth. Some kids had "binky talk" when they didn't have it in their mouth because that is how they were learning to talk.

It's never too young for a pacifier though. I was lucky with my son, he would spit it out so I gave up. Didn't give one to my daughter, but my mom taught her how to suck on her finger. Now I can't get her to stop. Kind of like the pacifier game. Seems to me that if you don't offer one, you don't need to worry about trying to get them to stop. Easy peasy.

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I think that ultimately it's a personal decision. Your child needs soothed, and you need to find a way to do that that you're comfortable with and works.

sometimes, in the face of reality, idealism yields to pragmatism. :-)

As for "how young", my youngest shoved his thumb in his mouth as soon as he was born, so I can't imagine that there's any age that's too young.

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