my children. Parents are often faced with the dilemma of “To soother or not to soother!” As a professional, this is a question that’s very hard for me to answer because it is such a personal decision. But what I can do is give you some information that may help you to decide whether a pacifier is right for you and your baby.
First off, it’s important to understand that babies are born with
a very strong, natural urge to suck. This is called the sucking reflex and some babies are born with a greater need to suck then others. Reflexes are involuntary movements or actions stimulated by the brain to help your baby survive. This sucking reflex is not only an instinctual survival reflex that assists with feeding but also helps babies to soothe and calm. Some parents can be confused with sucking as a message of hunger or a message of needing comfort. If you know that your baby is nutritionally satisfied but still seems
to have a strong urge to suck, a pacifier may be the solution.
Although babies are born with the Babkin Reflex, which instinctually allows him to bring his hand to his mouth, some babies are not as skilled as others to bring his hands close enough to suck on them. Also, to help minimize excessive wakes from the babies startle reflex, many babies are swaddled for the first few months with their hands kept close and tight to their body, which again doesn’t allow your baby to suck on his fingers. Nonetheless,
many professionals would prefer parents to offer their baby a pacifier as its use can be much more controlled by parents and it is much easier to wean off of then a finger would be. A pacifier can help your baby to calm, soothe and fall asleep more easily and independently
Unfortunately, there are some disadvantages of using pacifiers.
If breastfeeding, there can be some nipple confusion. Your baby will need to suck on a pacifier differently then he sucks on a breast. Therefore, if you use the pacifier too often, this could cause some confusion when baby returns back to feed on the breast. Not to mention, that if you are resorting to the pacifier too often, your baby may become very dependent on it and need it more often than you would like him to have it. Lastly, because your baby won’t be able to put the pacifier in his mouth on his own until about 6 months of age, you will be the one putting it into his mouth until then.
Regardless the use of a pacifier may not be unavoidable and may
help your baby learn to soothe and calm much easier and quicker. However, as one of my biggest philosophies…there’s always a better way!
Here are a few tips to help you use the pacifier with your baby
but still maintain some sanity!
If you are giving your baby a pacifier for the first
time, you may have to try a few times and sometimes hold it for him until he learns how to suck and hold on to it. You may also need to try a few different pacifiers to learn which one he likes the best.
When offering the pacifier, try to limit how long your baby has
the pacifier in his mouth. Once he is asleep, try and remove it from his mouth. If you can believe it, many parents will try to prop the pacifier to keep it in baby’s mouth, however this is not only dangerous but also creating a very bad habit that will be much harder to break. Your baby only needs the pacifier until he is calm, so try and remove it once he seems asleep.
If you have given your baby the pacifier 2-3 times and it continues to fall out very quickly, then it is not doing what it should be doing so refrain from continuing to use it, at least for that particular time. I usually give families a 2 x2 rule. If baby drops his pacifier 2 times within 2 minutes, then his fussing is likely in response to something else. You may need to ensure that there is not another issue like hunger, wet diaper or gas. Make sure that you have looked into these issues before attempting to offer the pacifier again.
Once your baby is about 4 months, you can start using the “guided
approach” with your baby. When offering him the pacifier, use his hands to get the pacifier and put it into his mouth. This will teach him that he can actually do this on his own and although it will take a couple months, he will eventually learn that he can get the pacifier himself.
For older babies who can put the pacifier in their mouth on their
own, use short pacifier clips to clip a few pacifiers to his bed sheet in the same area every night. This will help him find the pacifiers in the dark when he wants it without having to call out for help to find the lost pacifier.
So, all in all, use of a pacifier may be necessary to help your
baby self soothe however, try to eliminate the pacifier completely by 12 months age. By 6 months, many parents will make sure that the pacifier is only used for sleep times and then around the 10-12 month mark start to wean from it completely.