Pacifiers are used as a soothing tool in infants and very young children. The habit of sucking is a normal, natural behavior for babies. This is how they receive all of their nutrition in the first months of life. Some babies will even begin sucking on their fingers or thumb inside the womb. Babies will also suck for other reasons. It is a soothing behavior that can help them relax and sometimes even put them to sleep. It can relieve anxiety and make them feel secure and happy. They are especially useful during the first six months of life.
Studies have also shown a benefit from pacifier use in development of jaw muscles as well as decreasing risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Pacifier use is generally safe and effective in its job for the first two years of life but problems can arise with continued pacifier use after age 2.
Dangers Of Continued Pacifier Use
Research has shown that pacifier use before the age of 2 is natural and healthy for a baby. After the age of 2 problems can arise that can endanger the child’s oral health going forward. Some of the dangers associated with continued pacifier use include:
-Increased risk of middle ear infections. Researchers theorized it may have something to do with the change in pressure equilibrium inside the ear caused by the constant sucking.
-Improper growth or development of the mouth.
-Misalignment Of Teeth. These issues might include displaced teeth, overbites, cross bites, and open bites.
-Increased Risk of Tooth Decay. Kids who use a pacifier longer, also tend to drink from a bottle longer. All this sucking combined with liquids applied directly to the teeth can cause tooth decay and badly formed teeth.
-Development of a Thumb Sucking Habit. This will accelerate and make any issues even more pronounced.
-Germ ingestion is increased throughout life with long term use of pacifiers. Research has shown that children who use pacifiers after infant stages are more likely to pick up and put items in their mouths.
-Sleep disruption. They have a problem because they grow used to having the pacifier in their mouth while sleeping, and can’t sleep without it. This issue isn’t limited to pacifier users. It’s also true of kids who suck their thumb past infancy. Older thumb suckers often mimic the health issues of pacifier users.
Correct Pacifier Use
Here are a few tips for correct pacifier use:
-Use specially designed orthodontic pacifiers. A good example is the advanced airshield orthodontic pacifier by NUK.
-Keep Pacifiers clean and free of unwanted germs. Always wash a new pacifier prior to use.
-Regularly check your child’s pacifier for cracks or tears. These can become a choking hazard and should be thrown away immediately.
-Do not tie the pacifier around your infants neck.
Following these rules will help ensure your babies pacifier use is safe and healthy.
What Can Be Done To Stop Pacifier Use
While the use of pacifiers before 2 years old is very beneficial it is not always easy to get your child to stop at their 2nd birthday. Some tips to help wean your child off the pacifier include:
1. Take It Away Sooner Than Later.
To break the pacifier habit taking the pacifier away sooner than later is the most effective strategy. Babies have their own powerful ways of protesting the end of a beloved habit like the pacifier. But taking it away when your child is too young to express his displeasure and negotiate with words can make the transition simpler and easier. Once the pacifier is taken away, do not give it back!!! Tell them it is gone, show it to them in the trash, and then bring it outside to the garbage. Children understand the concept “all gone”.
2. Change The Pacifier’s Taste.
You are probably familiar with the idea of stopping nail-biters by painting their nails with something that tastes unpleasant. A similar method sometimes works to separate kids and their pacifiers.
3. Leave it for the Pacifier Fairy
The pacifier fairy is a first cousin to the tooth fairy. This magical creature may help your child make the transition from being hooked on the pacifier to living pacifier-free. A nice replacement gift from the fairy is also a great idea.
4. Lose it
This may come as a revelation: Next time you’re frantically looking for your child’s precious pacifier, stop. If it’s lost, let it be lost. Alternatively, you can lose it on purpose. Both strategies have worked for desperate moms and dads.
For many infants weaning off the pacifier can be very difficult. Some kids are not only physically attached to the pacifier but emotionally attached as well. In those children it is doubly hard to break the habit. As hard as it may be for parent and child, for the child’s health it is a very important reason to break the habit at the right time before any damage can occur.