Pacifiers have been used for thousands of years to calm babies. Today, they are very controversial but have been shown to literally save babies.
Pacifiers, binkies, soothers, dummies or artificial teats have been a parents’ best friend and dentists’ foes. They help to calm and soothe a baby but can also lead to dental problems and possible tooth decay.
The use of pacifiers in babies under 1 year old have many health benefits and are even linked to saving babies’ lives.
From a reduction of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome to fewer allergies and better development pacifiers aid babies in safely making it through their first year of life. Often thought of as sweet relief to parents and caregivers, pacifiers actually have many health and even life-saving benefits for babies.
Historically, pacifiers have been made of clay, silver, pearl, and coral and today are manufactured out of plastic, silicon or latex. Pacifiers made of common objects and not specifically manufactured for the purpose can pose a serious choking hazard for babies.
Concerns over nipple confusion, supply and demand of breast milk, dental issues or attachment to pacifiers may be put to rest after reading the many life-saving benefits of pacifiers when used in babies under a year old.
There are many ways in which pacifiers have literally saved babies. They are recommended by many pediatricians for the first year of a baby’s life and often used in the NICU to speed baby’s development. Continue reading to find out about the many benefits of pacifiers.
15 Pacifiers Help Prevent SIDS
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome is the sudden and unexplained death of a baby while sleeping. It occurs in otherwise healthy babies less than a year old. SIDS can happen to children of any race but for unknown reasons, happens more frequently to African American, American Indian or Alaska Native infants.
The cause of SIDS is unknown but studies have shown that there is a relationship between pacifiers being used and a reduction of SIDS. Babies who use pacifiers are up to 61% less likely to die of SIDS.
Four studies corroborate the finding that pacifiers seem to help but no study has been able to explain why the pacifiers help. Some researchers theorize that it has to do with the positioning of the tongue while others think that babies wake easier if the pacifier falls out.
Use of pacifiers, putting baby to sleep on back, and having baby sleep in same room as parents are all recommended practices to reduce the threat of SIDS. It is also recommended that babies sleep in a crib without blankets, toys or crib bumper to reduce the risk.
14 Helps Preterm Babies Gain Weight
Babies begin sucking on fingers or thumbs long before birth. Ultra sounds show that babies suck on digits in the womb as part of their normal development. Studies have shown that encouraging premature babies to suck on a pacifier helps them to develop outside of the womb also.
A premature baby is one born before 37 weeks of gestation. Premature babies often have complicated medical issues. Continued research on neonates allows doctors to treat the baby and extend its development outside of the womb.
Preterm babies often are underweight and lack sucking, swallowing and feeding reflexes. Preterm babies can also incur a litany of other medical issues.
In a study entitled, “Nonnutritive sucking during tube feedings: effects on preterm neonates in an intensive care unit” published in Pediatrics, researchers found that the non-nutritive sucking provides comfort, state regulation, and oromotor development. They also found that babies had more rapid weight gain.
Pacifiers seem to help preterm babies develop the sucking and swallowing reflexes that lead to better feeding.
13 Preemies Who Use Pacifiers Have Fewer Health Complications
Premature babies are those babies born at any time before 37 weeks of gestation. The developmental issues and medical complications vary greatly based on gestational age a birth and also vary widely from infant to infant.
Often, babies begin sucking a thumb or finger in the womb to prepare for future feedings and to help oral development. A baby that is born prematurely may need extra practice at sucking as they try to survive outside of the womb.
It is a standard practice in most neonatal intensive care units to use pacifiers to soothe babies as well as for sucking practice.
According to an article published in Pediatrics, preterm babies who were given a pacifier during tube feedings were discharged from the hospital significantly sooner. Pacifier use, also known as non-nutritive sucking, has also been associated with other health benefits for the preterm baby. Pacifiers help premature babies to continue development outside of the womb.
12 New Paci Technology Shortens Hospital Stays
A new pacifier technology has been proven to shorten the hospital stay of premature infants. Previously, just the use of pacifiers has been beneficial in shortening the hospital stay of preterm infants. Now, a new technology known as the Pacifier Activated Lullaby (PAL) teaches premature babies to suck correctly and speeds development.
Very premature babies are born without the ability to coordinate a suck, swallow, breathe pattern needed in oral feeding explains Jayne Standley the creator of PAL. PAL teaches the baby to coordinate these movements by rewarding them with a lullaby when they put the movements together correctly.
PAL has been found to reduce the length of a preemie’s hospital stay by an average of 5 days. The babies are able to learn this critical element of development faster with the reinforcement of music. This gives them a boost in the skills they were meant to learn in the womb before birth.
Clinical studies of PAL showed that infants increased their sucking rates up to 2.5 times more than babies who didn’t use PAL.
11 Calm Babies During Medical Procedures
Pacifiers are used frequently to calm babies in the hospital nursery or the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) during and after medical procedures. The pacifier helps to soothe baby when it needs to have blood drawn or any other medical procedure that might be painful or uncomfortable to the baby.
The sucking reflex helps to bring a natural pain relief to babies. This analgesic relief can help the baby to get life-saving medical procedures. It also helps to reduce the amount of stress placed on a newborn. Breastfeeding can also bring about this natural pain relief but isn’t always available while the baby is in the nursery or NICU.
As a common practice, healthcare providers offer a pacifier and/or small amounts of sugar water to help babies cope with uncomfortable medical procedures. Researchers have found that both help to make babies feel calmer and more relaxed during and after a procedure.
10 Mouth-Cleaned Pacis Reduce Allergies In Kids
Parents have commonly been warned against sticking baby’s binkie in their mouth to clean it off. It probably seems like something you wouldn’t want to do any ways. That is until the paci hits the grocery store floor and you’re looking at a screaming baby. Then sticking it in your mouth doesn’t seem like such a big deal.
A study published in Pediatrics found that it might even be beneficial to the baby too. The findings showed that parents who sucked a pacifier clean for their kids had children with fewer allergies than parents who rinsed or boiled the pacifier.
The children with spit-cleaned binkies also had lower rates of eczema, fewer signs of asthma and smaller amounts of certain white blood cells that rise in response to allergies and other disorders.
Other studies have shown that the microorganism a child comes into contact with has an affect on their development (or lack of) allergies.
9 Helps To Extend Breastfeeding
New parents may be surprised to find out that using a pacifier can actually help to extend breastfeeding. Breastfeeding offers many health benefits to baby including immunity to certain illnesses that the mom has immunity to. Breastfeeding is also very nutritious and designed exactly for baby’s needs.
Parents are often concerned that a pacifier will inhibit the breastfeeding relationship. It may affect the supply and demand relationship between mom and baby. The baby could also develop nipple confusion and have more difficulty nursing.
So how can using a pacifier extend breastfeeding? Often, mothers who have to leave their baby’s with a caregiver to return to work find it hard to pump enough milk for the baby. According to KellyMom.com, breastfed babies often need much less breast milk than formula fed babies.
A baby may continue to cry or fuss after a bottle, not because it is still hungry, but because it wants to suck longer. A pacifier can be offered to fill this need. Using a pacifier instead of the hard-earned-pumped milk can help to extend the supply produced by mom and extend breastfeeding.
8 Better Bottle Feeding In Preterm Babies
Babies who are born early are developmentally behind their birth date peers in many ways. The birth date peers who were born full-term had extra weeks in the womb to prepare for life on the outside.
The preterm babies have much developing to catch up on to thrive outside of the womb. One major point of development is the ability to nurse from the breast or drink from the bottle.
This is often difficult for preemies because they learn to coordinate all of the movements needed to drink in the last few weeks in the womb. In a decidedly complex suck/swallow/breathe sequence babies are able to extract milk from the breast or the bottle.
One way for premature babies to speed the development of this sequence is to practice using a pacifier. Research has shown that premature babies who will take a pacifier have better success with bottle feedings. This greatly improves baby’s overall development outside of the womb.
7 Babies Less Likely To Develop Serious Intestinal Issues
Another interesting finding from research of premature babies who use pacifiers is that they are less likely to develop serious intestinal issues.
Preemies who use a pacifier are less likely to develop Necrotizing Enterocolitis (NEC). NEC is a serious intestinal issue that occurs in babies and has no known cause. A majority of babies affected by NEC are prematurely born.
NEC occurs when there is damage to the intestine and inflammation of the colon. Although the cause of the illness is unknown, it is thought that part of the intestine is weakened by too little oxygen or blood flow. The development of a hole in the intestine and widespread infection are main concerns with the illness. The severity of the illness can increase rapidly in the newborn.
The link between pacifier use and NEC is not clear but pacifiers have been found to lower the incidences of NEC for premature babies.
6 Encourage Babies To Soothe Themselves
As a newborn, babies usually cry about 3 hours a day. According to Cynthia R. Howard, M.D., P.P.H, associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester, that crying creates a lot of stress for the baby. Dr. Howard points out that pacifiers help to calm a baby and are used for about 75% of babies.
Pacifiers encourage babies to soothe themselves. When a baby is able to soothe itself, it incurs less stress and is better able to handle changes in its environment. The baby can also regulate its state better when it can soothe itself and respond appropriately to changing stimuli.
The pacifier acts as a tool for the baby to use in learning to self-soothe. By enacting the sucking reflex, a baby is able to bring about calming feelings in itself. Less stress in the baby can lead to more feelings of contentment, increased growth and well-being and a stronger immune system.
5 Pacifiers Discourage Babies From Putting Other Items In Mouth
There are many benefits to using a pacifier with babies. One of those benefits is in the pure mechanics of having a pacifier in baby’s mouth.
Babies constantly explore the world around them by putting items in their mouth. This exposes them to and many choking hazards.
By having a pacifier in baby’s mouth, they are less likely to put other, more dangerous items in their mouth. Of course, they still may do that but it at least slows them down or inhibits them from doing it all together.
The best way to reduce baby’s chances of choking on a foreign object is to completely baby-proof the area they are in. If there are older children in the house, this becomes much more difficult to do. Older children often have toys that are riddled with small pieces that may be dangerous for baby.
Visiting someone else’s house may also have hidden dangers for baby. Other homes may not be baby proofed and may have choking hazards within baby’s reach.
4 Reduces The Stress Babies Experience
A baby may experience stress from many influences. Being too hot or too cold, having a tummy ache or being hungry are all normal situations that cause a baby stress. Other factors can cause even more stress for the baby. Arguing or fighting in the house, violence on TV and distress of a parent can cause more than normal amounts of stress for a baby.
A baby that experiences extended periods of stress may have a weakened immune system, have difficulty sleeping or problems that interfere with development.
Pacifiers help to soothe and comfort babies in stressful situations. Although they can’t erase the need to be fed or the desire of a peaceful environment, they can help baby to regulate its state within the environment.
A baby signals its level of stress by crying. The pacifier can help to calm the baby in some situations and in turn reduce its stress.
3 Pacifiers Help Muscle Development
Pacifiers have been found to help develop the oral muscles, especially those in babies born before 37 weeks. Preterm babies are at a disadvantage when it comes to the development of muscles in the jaw, mouth and throat. Sucking on a pacifier helps preemies to work on the development of these muscles and to coordinate sucking, swallowing and breathing sequence needed to be fed orally.
Other sucking, such as that associated with breastfeeding has been linked to muscle development in the mouth and jaw. The increased demands breastfeeding places on the mouth helps to develop the jaw and facial muscles.
Preterm babies haven’t had the time in the womb to practice coordinating the movements needed for feeding. A pacifier can help to coordinate these movements and develop the muscles needed for oral feeding. It can be especially helpful in the developing the more complex coordination and muscle development oral feeding from the breast.
2 Pacifiers Can Help Caregivers Soothe A Fussy Baby
Caring for an upset baby can be very challenging. It brings about stress for both the caregiver and the baby. A pacifier can act as one more tool for the caregiver to use to calm the baby.
Parents or caregivers of babies who won’t take a pacifier often find themselves at a loss. Breastfed babies, for example, can often be calmed by nursing. When the mother is unavailable the caregiver can find it very helpful to use a pacifier to calm the baby. If the baby doesn’t normally take a pacifier, the situation can quickly become challenging for both the caregiver and the baby.
A caregiver may also rock or swaddle the baby to relieve the crying. In Happiest Baby on the Block, Dr. Harvey Karp, M.D. recommends using the 5 S’s to calm a baby: swaddle, side or stomach position, shush, swing and suck. The sucking can bring great comfort to an upset baby.
1 Pacifiers Make Babies More Sensitive To Problems While Sleeping
The use of pacifier has been linked to lower incidents of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). The exact reason why pacifiers actually help to reduce the risk of SIDS has not been determined yet.
There are many theories about the role that dummies play in keeping babies more safe while sleeping. One theory is that babies who fall asleep with the help of a pacifier in their mouth may actually wake easier if the pacifier falls out. It is thought that the baby may also wake up if another problem occurs.
For example, if the baby has trouble breathing or rolls over to its stomach it might be more likely to wake and correct the problem or get help from an adult.
The reliance on a pacifier might actually keep the baby in a slightly lighter sleep and more distracted by outside noise but also keep the baby safe. Other theories about the connection between the pacifier and SIDS include the position of the tongue, less sleep apnea, and an increase drive to breathe with the pacifier among others.
Sources: American Family Physician, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Science Daily