The Soother Debate Part I: Are Soothers Bad for Your Newborn Baby?

When is a good time to give a newborn a pacifier?

The first time Elle cried at home (like really cried), I freaked out. Who knew this little person could even make so many tears, all the while multitasking at that decibel level? Definitely a CEO in the making!

Unlike a Fortune 500 CEO, though, she could not tell me what she wanted/needed, and I had no idea what to do. I checked her diaper, checked her temperature, validated in my memory (and the dishwasher) that she had just been fed, and even called my parents to brainstorm other verifications I may have missed in my panic. All signs pointed to a theoretical bundle of joy.

When she continued crying for longer than 15 minutes (aka eternity), I knew I had to further investigate and make my stance on the great soother debate.

The Pros: Can A Baby Sleep with a Pacifier?

  • Pacifiers can save a baby’s life: Apparently, research shows that pacifier-use could lead to a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) because it helps open up air space around a baby’s mouth and nose.
  • Pacifiers support early development of the baby’s tongue.
  • Pacifiers can help the baby learn how to self-soothe, including at naptime and bedtime (a trick I wish we could use as adults!)
  • Pacifiers can serve as a necessary distraction, in the parent’s control. Her thumb, on the other hand, is not in my control.

The Cons: Can a Baby Sleep with a Pacifier?

  • Prolonged pacifier use may lead to an increased risk of ear infections.
  • Prolonged pacifier use may also lead to problems with oral motor development.
  • Babies can get attached to their pacifiers, making it a tough (and apparently brutal!) habit to break, for both baby and daddy!
  • (Apparent) nipple confusion. Not an issue for this dad, but in my research, shouldn’t be an issue for any mama either.

So… are soothers bad? And what was my final decision?

My final decision was to introduce Elle to a pacifier after 3-4 weeks old, once she was used to breastfeeding from her mom. Apparently, the sucking “mechanism” for a pacifier versus breastfeeding are different, and I did not want to risk any confusion for her.

In terms of pacifier-choice, I chose one that was natural (avoiding latex and BPA’s) and was also one-piece, to reduce any risk of choking. I washed it at least twice daily with hot, soapy water and even ran it through the dishwasher every second day. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I bought 10 of the same one, and replaced it every month just to be safe!

I absolutely let her suck on it while she was falling asleep.  Truthfully, it would often end up falling out in any case, which I read was fine, and I never bothered to reinsert it once she was asleep.

What age should babies stop using pacifiers?

In making my final decision, however, I also promised myself that at 6 months, I would start to ween her off the pacifier. From what I read, at the age of 6 months and onwards, the pacifier had risks of becoming a “habit” for her, and I did not want her to be dependent or reliant on it. Also, around 6 months is when baby teeth begin to appear and ear infections become more common; so it simply seemed that the cons would start to outweigh the pros. So, I set a reminder in my calendar at the 6 month mark, and implemented some researched techniques (which you can read about here) to kick this potential habit before it could start!

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