By Heather Pohlabel
Things are getting out of control. There is crying and screaming, and the tension is running high in the house. Your beautiful, lovely baby is fussy and absolutely nothing seems to be working. He is crying, but all of his needs have been met; you have fed and changed him, but still he is crying and fussy. Singing to him did not seem to help; rocking him did not either. What else could this child possibly want?
Let me ask you this: have you tried a pacifier? Yes, you heard me correctly! A pacifier!
Despite the bad reputation that they seem to carry, recent studies have shown that pacifiers do not increase the risk of future dental problems, and, in fact, can be very healthy for most babies. The bottom line is that pacifiers satisfy a need that even mothers cannot provide!
Some babies just feel a need to suck even after eating. Breastfeeding mothers have neither the time nor the tolerance to just let their babies suckle until satisfied after eating. Both bottle fed and breastfed babies can easily over eat if allowed to do so, so supplying baby with a pacifier immediately after eating will curb the temptation to overeat while allowing the baby to exercise his jaws and soothe his need to suckle.
Sometimes babies just like to play with something in their mouths, and the pacifier will allow them to do this on their own terms.
Many parents are resistant to the idea of providing a pacifier with the fear that their baby will become reliant on it and they will have to wean him from it. Well, yes, this is true. Babies need to be weaned of most things, but as with all developmental milestones, it will happen and it won't be as difficult as most fear. Many babies will outgrow or give up their pacifiers on their own. Some find their own hands early on or learn how to put toys in their mouths to satisfy their oral needs. Some are more tricky and will actually have to be tricked and coerced into giving up their security pacifier, but overall, there are definitely more pros than cons to allowing your baby to use a pacifier, especially in his infancy.
Some babies just will not suck their thumbs or do not find their hands comforting enough when they need to have something in their mouths. Pacifiers satisfy this need, and parents can help the baby in the soothing process, making an amiable situation for all involved.
Pacifiers, like all baby products, should be used responsibly. Here are some tips for pacifier use:
Do not attach a ribbon or string to your baby's pacifier, especially when he will be sleeping. This is a strangulation risk. There are pacifier attachments available in the stores. These attach to bibs or clothing to keep the pacifier within reach. These are a good idea if baby is going to be supervised while it is on. Otherwise, the pacifier does not really need to be attached to the baby.
Use only one piece pacifiers (pacifiers without "handles" and pacifiers that do not have a separate mouth piece holding the nipple in). Multipiece pacifiers become worn and can lose small pieces, making them a choking hazard.
Inspect the pacifier frequently for signs of deterioration by pulling gently on the nipple to see if it cracks. Replace pacifiers if they appear to be deteriorating or old.
Sanitize, wash, or sterilize pacifiers often. Saliva, dirt, food, and other unknown substances can build up at the base of the nipple. This is unsanitary and can make your baby sick. Be sure to clean pacifiers often as you would nipples for a bottle.
Do not make your own pacifiers; trust the ones sold in stores; all pacifiers sold in the United States must meet certain safety standards.
Do not coat the pacifier with a sweetener to make it more enjoyable for your baby. This promotes tooth decay.
Weaning your child from the pacifier is not really hard. Most are ready to give it up in exchange for "school". When your baby is potty trained, he should be ready to give up the pacifier as well. By the age of four, your child is too old for a pacifier and this is when the pacifier could cause problems with tooth development.