Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Pacifier: to use or not to use - guest post


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:


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.

14 comments:

  1. We have never used a pacifier regularly either. We actually tried it at one point because we were trying to get our daughter to not scream the entire time she rode in the car, but she never had any interest in a pacifier. Personally I am glad to never have to wean from them! Thanks for sharing your insights on the benefits of not using them :-)

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    1. I've had three chldren and never used a pacjfier on any of them as think babies don't need them,now my children are older they say they won't use them when they have children either I am the only person I know to never using them and its refreshing to find others

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  2. Before my daughter was born, I said I didn't want a pacifier to be used, but 1-2 weeks later she loved it, and she did not have any problems with nipple confusion. When she was 8-10 weeks old, she would spit the pacifier out and put her thumb in. Yes, she's a thumb sucker. I agree with you that each child is different and what worked for one might not work for another. I recommend that parents educate themselves about issues {including pacifier use}.

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    1. My sister and I were the same way we got off them really young b/c we were thumb suckers (oops)

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  3. We used one for a bit, but C never seemed to care for it. I introduced it on her 1 month birthday and she didn't like it. She would take it occasionally for naps/bed for a few months, but around 6 months I took them all away. There were moments that I regretted it and wished I had it to soothe her/help her sleep, but now at 18 months I am watching friends try and take them away, and I am thankful I don't have that problem.

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  4. I had no intentions of using a pacifier, either. The nurses at the hospital suggested I try it with our daughter her first night, and in my tired, naive stupor, I agreed. I think it may have interfered with nursing (we had a very rocky start!), but Elise ended up rejecting "binkies" anyway. I was just as glad, for all of the reasons you've stated! Elise has never been a particularly calm or easygoing baby, but sticking a pacifier in her mouth never worked. (Nursing -- what the pacifier is trying to mimic -- always worked wonders.) Like you, I'm hopeful that any future children we have won't be interested in pacifiers.

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  5. I didn't want to use a pacifier before Gus was born because I didn't want to end up just sticking a binky in baby's mouth instead of responding to his real need / reason for fussiness. But when he was a couple of weeks old, I was exhausted and sore from nursing him for hours (cluster feeding and bad latch are not a mama's best friend!), my mom suggested giving him one so I could get a short break. She basically told me that just because I used one once did not mean I had to use one always and forever. It did turn out to be really useful, but we didn't give it to him too often, mostly in the car or similar places where nursing was difficult/impossible for the moment, including standing outside in the cold waiting to get into the US embassy to get his passport! But after 3 months or so, he stopped taking it. Lucky I didn't have to wean him off, but I did wish I still had it for car journeys sometimes! So they can be useful, but I would recommend using them judiciously, if possible.

    And I think that, with respect to the reduction in SIDS risk, my understanding is that they mimic some of the things that come from co-sleeping and nursing in the night--regulation of breathing, not getting into too deep a sleep, etc.

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  6. My oldest never took a pacifier maybe twice. We gave it to him a few times in a resturaunt when he'd already nursed and just wanted to suck but he erally never cared for it. (FWIW, he was a major puker so just letting him nurse and nurse added up to an upset tummy and soaked Mommy!). My youngest wasn't interested for a long time, but we offered it tok him around 5 months to see if it would help with the incessent screaming in the car and voila! Car rides became MUCH more pleasant. I think avoiding it as a easy "go to" make sense but I can say it made a huge difference for our family. We did stop using it in the car as he got older and could enjoys books and soft toys more in the car.

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  7. We, too, wanted to avoid using a pacifier for as long as possible. Mostly to make sure Joseph got comfortable with nursing. But 2-3 weeks into nursing I was so sore and so tired from Joseph wanting to nurse/suck approximately every hour 24 hours a day (several times a day he'd go 1.5-2 hours, but almost never longer than 2 hours without nursing) that I was desperate to try anything that would give me even a short break. My dad, a pediatrician, suggested we try a pacifier to give me a chance to rest. Joseph didn't take it very well at first, but we kept trying because I literally wasn't getting a break - ever. Once he took the pacifier my sore nipples got much better and I was actually able to space his nursing to every 2 hours which was a huge relief! We, like you, didn't want to use it every time he cried and ignore his real reasons for crying, but it was definitely helpful - and for me, I think, needed.
    Luckily, he became disinterested in his pacifier around 5-6 months. So, we haven't had to deal with breaking him of the habit. I definitely want to try not to use a pacifier at all with future babies, but it will depend on their temperaments.

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  8. My little guy rejects them too! I went in not wanting to use them, but then didn't have any problems because he acts like he is choking when you try to put it in his mouth! Sometimes I wish he would take it to help sooth himself!

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  9. My daughter had a pacifier until about 9 months- I hated the thing and one by one you loose them and I never bothered replacing them. She seemed okay with that. My son never liked it despite my husband's attempts to save him from SIDS... He survived WITHOUT a pacifier.

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  10. A pacifier is purely a matter of personal choice, but it can be very dangerous to let a baby suck a thumb after touching God knows What out there in public. Shopping cart handles, door and elevator buttons, the checkout touch pad, and many things touched by adults (including moms who later touch their babies) are profoundly contaminated. It is also not uncommon for a child who plays in sand at the park to pick up worms (from animal feces) if they also happen to put hands into their mouths. Should a child take to the thumb, be prepared to be extremely cautious about keeping that child's hands clean. To any of you who think "paranoia", think again. Most of you have not trouble believing in what you can not see on Sunday morning in Church. Go one more step here. Note that when an outbreak of illness does cause fatalities, they are notoriously babies and children under 5, and the elderly. SO before you decide to superpower you babies immune system by over-exposing them to biohazards, remember what could be at stake, and that factory farming is bringing us numerous antibiotic resistant strains of bacteria. Use your best judgment. Remember that those "good old days" were filled with very large families, and losing babies to infections was a mere fact of life, and this was BEFORE we began putting them into a public daycare facilities, full of other babies, and adults who walk right in from the streets on the floors they crawl and play on. Ewww!

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