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Pacifiers – Part One

Posted on by Dr. Axelrad

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As was seen in the last couple of blogs, thumb sucking has a soothing and calming effect in babies and young children.

While in the womb, newborns and toddlers may suck their thumb to achieve this calm…pacifiers can achieve a similar outcome.

What is a pacifier?

A pacifier consists of a rubber, plastic or silicone nipple which an infant sucks on (see image above).

It also has a mouth shield and handle. Both of these are usually quite large so the infant cannot swallow or choke on it.

In the next couple of blogs, we will look at the pros and cons of using a pacifier including the best way to introduce a pacifier, safety concerns and ways to help your child break their pacifier sucking habit. We will even take a brief look at adult pacifiers…say what?

Strategy to introduce a soother

The first few weeks after birth may not be the best time to introduce a pacifier. This is the time when parents learn certain cues about their newborn i.e. hunger, gas, illness, need for sleep, need to be changed, etc.

It is best to establish breast feeding or bottle feeding before introducing a pacifier. A pacifier is recommended once you see a weight gain i.e. after 10 days.

If your baby is having difficulty gaining weight, it’s best to not introduce a pacifier. The issue is one of trying to avoid ‘nipple confusion’ between the pacifier and the mother’s breast nipple.

Please note: There is a different sucking action between sucking on a pacifier and the nipple. Little milk will be ‘extracted’ if a baby sucks on a nipple the same way as it does a pacifier.

Cleaning a pacifier

If a pacifier drops on the floor, the mom should not clean it by putting it in her mouth. This may introduce certain oral bacteria from the mom’s mouth, those which are cavity causing. And when the child’s first tooth erupts (usually about 6-7 months), the bacteria that were introduced can act on them which can lead to decay. It’s best to clean a pacifier with warm water and soap.

Safety concerns

It’s safe to attach a pacifier to your baby’s clothes, but not to the crib or around their neck as these may lead to choking or strangling the child.

Pros of the pacifier:
• Calms a crying or ‘fussy’ baby.
• Can act as a distraction to a baby when in need i.e.needles, blood tests, (procedures that require venipuncture).
• While in flight: Pacifier sucking may help a baby to ‘pop’ their ears. Adults can do this consciously by swallowing, yawning or chewing gum, however, babies cannot intentionally do this.
• Calms and settles the baby down and helps them to fall asleep.
• May reduce the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). There is a strong correlation between pacifier usage and a decreased rate of SIDS.
• Pacifiers are disposable, so it is easier to break a pacifier sucking habit as opposed to the thumb.

The best strategy for pacifier use is to limit it to sleep time only, but this is often easier said than done…how easy is it to just give it to a fussy or crying baby to calm it down?

In the next blog we will conclude our discussion of pacifiers. We will look at the cons of using a pacifier…until then.

Yours in dental health and wellness,

Dr. Robert Axelrad, Dentist in Brampton, ON

For any dental questions or concerns, please give us a call today @ 905.791.3867…you’ll be glad you did!

Based in Brampton, Ontario, Brampton Dentist Dr. Robert Axelrad has been practicing gentle and pain-free dentistry for over two decades. During this time, he has helped to improve the dental health of countless satisfied patients in Peel Region, Brampton and beyond!

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