When an infant is only a few weeks old, its most powerful natural reflex is sucking. They will suck anything available including thumbs, something they start doing months before they are even born. The baby’s first feeding method is via sucking and when an object of sucking is introduced, it creates a calming and soothing effect on the baby. Doctors have attributed the great demand for pacifiers to cases where babies are increasingly not being breast-fed. Parents are subsequently satisfying their babies’ sucking instincts using pacifiers. In most cases, pacifier use is believed to be harmless. Medical research has however differed on this and identified many hazards posed by the non-nutritional sucking of pacifiers.
Basically a pacifier is any object that has been made from rubber and or plastic, to simulate the shape of a breast’s nipple or smooth ring. This is especially designed for the baby to suck on, as an activity but not as a means of feeding. In most developed states, pacifiers are used as a means of keeping a baby busy instead of breastfeeding. Like in instances when the mother is unable, unavailable or unwilling to breast feed. In developing countries, the use of pacifiers for babies is introduced very early in the childhood, with the hope that it will stimulate and speed the development of teeth.
The American Academy of Pediatrics has over the years given pacifiers a green light and expressed the view that there are minimal disadvantages involved in pacifier use. This is despite contemporary findings which link pacifiers with undesired repercussions to babies’ health.
The proponents of pacifier use claim that it reduces the baby’s risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). This has actually been supported by many studies as among the key advantages of pacifier use. Non-nutritive sucking helps keep the baby busy and thus allowing its caregivers time to concentrate on other activities that may be vital or mandatory. A pacifier easily creates a temporary distraction to buy the caregiver a few minutes. Again, those moments when the baby needs to be calmed of its rage, like a doctor’s visit during a blood test, a shot, or even during a hair cut or something like that, the pacifier will be the much needed distraction.
It is also a form of play for the baby, before he or she can develop strength and independence to keep himself or herself busy while alone. Another viable advantage for the use of pacifiers for babies is that it weans the baby off the sucking of thumbs and other unclean objects in its environs, which might threaten health. The calming and soothing effect that pacifiers have on even the most fussy of babies, make many parents to rank a pacifier as a must have, just as the diapers are.
Although a pacifier primarily satisfies the natural sucking instincts of an infant, several studies have reported that the use of a pacifier has many disadvantages. The most significant risks posed by the pacifier use on babies’ health include a cumulative failure of breast-feeding since the baby has learnt how to suck and get nothing out of
it. Even when the baby is given a breast to feed, the baby plays with the breast instead of extracting the milk. Again, there have been conclusive findings that long-lived pacifier use causes dental deformities, since the rubber rubs on the young structures of the teeth before they are strong enough to bite, hold and press against each other. Medics have also highlighted that among babies using pacifiers, there is a high recurrent risk of acute otitis media. And of course there is that possibility of fatal or near fatal accidents, like when the rubber nip is swallowed or of resultant constipation due to saliva increase in the mouth.
Further, the disadvantages of using pacifiers for babies have even greater consequences and repercussions on the babies’ health. At later stages of life, the babies who used pacifiers have a common development of a type of latex allergy, serious tooth decay and oral ulcers, due to injuries and deformities inflicted by the rubber when the mouth was far too young. A baby can easily become very dependent on the pacifier such that it will never sleep without the pacifier in mouth and the moment it falls off or is removed, the baby wakes up. When parents make the effort to consult midwives, pediatricians and nurses before they introduce pacifiers for babies, they always change their minds, having been briefed of the potential disadvantages.