When my daughter was 2 months old, she had a well-child check that didn't go very smoothly. For some reason or another she was really fussy. A "helpful" nurse popped her head in to ask, "Do you need a pacifier??" while holding one in a sterile little package. "No thank you," we replied, "we don't use one." Our daughter has never taken a pacifier, in fact, we never even tried. Apparently that is almost unheard of--so I was excited to hear that my bloggy friend Mandi had a blog to share about the decision not to use a paci, binky, or whatever you call them. Mandi & I have known each other since September and have become pretty good friends. We have many of the same parenting and lifestyle views. I've written two guest posts over at her blog, Catholic Newlywed that I hope you've read. Today, I am sharing one that she has written for me :-)
When my husband and I chose to cloth diaper, exclusively breastfeed, and co-sleep, we expected our choices to be controversial among some of our friends and family. For this reason, I thoroughly researched our decisions and was prepared to defend them. While we did receive some raised eyebrows and disapproving comments about these “unconventional” parenting methods, I was surprised to find that, thus far, we have received the most questions about our decision not to use a pacifier.
Before our daughter was born, I gave little thought to whether we would use a pacifier or not. I thought of pacifier use as simply a matter of personal preference on the part of the parent, comparable to the choice whether to use a regular or jogging stroller. Like many other baby items that I didn’t consider a necessity, I took a “wait and see” approach. My husband and I are raising a baby on a very tight budget, so I didn’t want to buy anything (not even a $3 pacifier) unless we knew we would use it.
While I wasn’t particularly opposed to pacifier use, I did hope that we wouldn’t need to use one. My first thought when I considered pacifiers was cleanliness. I can’t count the number of times I’ve seen a pacifier fall on the ground in a public place only to be put back in the baby’s mouth without being cleaned. Obviously, I could avoid doing that myself, but often it’s the toddler that picks it up and put it back in his mouth before the mom even notices. In my limited experience with babies and toddlers, it seemed that parents were spending the first few months of a baby’s life getting him to take a pacifier and only a few months later would begin the struggle to break him of the habit. While pregnant, my husband and I took a breastfeeding class during which we were advised to wait as long as possible (at least two weeks) before introducing a pacifier because it could interfere with breastfeeding. (The American Academy of Pediatrics advises to wait a full month.) If I was going to go several weeks without a pacifier anyway, why not just continue without it?
So that’s exactly what we did; we didn’t start with a pacifier, and we never found a need to use one. We have been extremely blessed in that our daughter is not a particularly fussy baby. There have been occasions when I might have tried using a pacifier; however, since there was not one in the home, I got along without it. Those difficult moments helped me to get to know my baby better, to figure out her different cues and cries, and to learn new and creative ways to calm her.
My husband and I have received some strange looks and impolite remarks from strangers when they noticed that our daughter did not take a pacifier; however, the most unsupportive comments came from our parents. While we were visiting our families over the holidays, nearly every time our daughter would fuss, we would hear, “See, she needs a pacifier!” or “That’s what they make pacifiers for.” I’ve often felt that these comments (from both our family and strangers) have been attempts to defend their parenting choices, as if by not giving our daughter a pacifier, we are accusing those who use pacifiers of endangering their child by doing so. Clearly that was not our intention, especially since we had no clear opposition to pacifiers.
Yet the constant questions I received led me to question our decision. I realized that we were indeed the only parents I knew (of both my generation and my parents) that didn’t use a pacifier. (Then I emailed Kaylene and she eased my mind a bit when she responded that they too never introduced a pacifier!) I was curious if I was missing out on something by not using a pacifier, so I researched the pros and cons of pacifier use. Overall, the information I’ve found has reassured me in our decision.
Other than its obvious purpose, to ease fussiness, the most convincing support of pacifier use is research suggesting that it reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). For this reason, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests using pacifiers at night and during naps until age one. I had read about this before our daughter was born, but since she was already at a low risk for SIDS we didn’t consider it reason in itself to introduce a pacifier. (We also decided to co-sleep despite AAP recommendations to the contrary citing increased risk of SIDS; other research suggests that co-sleeping actually decreases the risk of SIDS.) I didn’t find any other benefits of pacifiers that would justify its drawbacks. For example, pacifier use is suggested to help babies to sleep, yet it may also interfere with regular sleeping patterns (babies often awake during the night if they lose their pacifier and are unable to return to sleep on their own without it). Similarly, the advantages of pacifiers often can be found in alternative methods. Pacifiers can ease ear discomfort during plane flights, but so can breast or bottle feeding.
I found several compelling reasons for avoiding pacifiers: My initial concerns about sanitation were warranted; pacifiers often colonize with bacteria and research suggests that babies who use pacifiers are ill more often than those who don’t. Pacifier use specifically increases the risk of ear infections. Dental problems can result from prolonged use. As stated before, they can interfere with breastfeeding. And there are other aspects that haven’t yet been fully explored, for instance, the effect of separating sucking from nourishment. Although aided by these arguments, our main rationale for keeping our daughter pacifier-free remains the same: she hasn’t displayed a need for one. If we are managing well without one and there is no conclusive evidence to support its use, why should we bother with a pacifier?
My husband and I plan to have a large family and hope that pacifiers will never play a role in our parenting. Yet we recognize that each baby will have unique needs and temperaments and that we may at some point decide that a pacifier is best for a specific child. But a pacifier will always be a last resort on our household and we’re prepared to defend that decision.
For more information on pacifier use, here are a few helpful resources:
- Mayo Clinic, "Pacifiers: Are they good for your baby?"
- American Academy of Family Physicians, "Risks and Benefits of Pacifiers" and accompanying parent handout "Pacifier Benefits and Risks"
- Journal of the American Medical Association, "Pacifiers and Breastfeeding"
- Bright Future Lactation Resource Center, "Top Ten Reasons for NOT Using a Pacifier"
Mandi is wife to her grad student husband, David, and stay-at-home mother to two-month-old, Lucia Rose. She blogs about her new adventures in marriage and motherhood, her Catholic faith, saving money, and her journey toward natural living (and parenting) at Catholic Newlywed.