What are the Pros and Cons of Pacifiers?

What should I do when my baby wants to go on sucking after I've finished nursing him? He screams something awful when I try to remove him from the breast. I've thought about resorting to a pacifier, but I get conflicting opinions on this subject from family and friends. How do you understand the pros and cons of pacifiers?


As you’ve likely discovered, there are mixed opinions on this subject. Deciphering the pros and cons of pacifiers requires some personal investigation as well as expert advice. Some parents say they could not have survived their baby’s infancy without pacifiers, while others (including some breastfeeding advisers) have nothing good to say about them.

In general, we think it’s wise to limit their use with a very young infant who has not yet established stable and efficient nursing patterns. The feel, texture, taste and smell of a pacifier are clearly different from those of a mother’s nipples. It’s worth noting that sucking a pacifier too soon may interfere with a baby’s ability to distinguish between the real thing. This plays into some of the pros and cons of pacifiers.

After two weeks or more of steady nursing, assuming everything is going well, a pacifier can be helpful. Among other things, it can be useful in calming a baby who is already fed but still wants to suck who doesn’t have anything else, such as a wet diaper, bothering him and will suck on it with apparent satisfaction. However, a pacifier must not become a substitute for normal feeding, parental nurturing or checking to see if something is wrong.

It should also be noted that a number of research studies suggest that pacifier use during sleep is associated with a significant reduction in the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). There are a number of possible explanations for this finding. The effect seems to be greater among infants who sleep in more hazardous environments, such as soft bedding.

Practical Next Steps

  1. If you decide to use a pacifier, make sure you get a one-piece model with a soft nipple – either the straight bottle shape or the angled “orthodontic” type. Never use the nipple from a feeding bottle as a pacifier because the nipple can come loose and choke your baby. Make sure the pacifier you get is the right size for babies younger than six months. Also, ensure you find a design to survive boiling or trips through the dishwasher. For the first six months you will need to clean pacifiers frequently in this way to reduce the risk of infection.
  2. If you find a pacifier that your baby likes, buy several. They have a knack for disappearing into the sofa or under the car seat. So it’s a good idea to have lots of backups.
  3. Remember that babies are unable to replace pacifiers that fall out of their mouths. And that you’ll have to do this for them. Because of the danger of strangulation, never tie a pacifier to a string or ribbon around a baby’s neck to keep it in place.

7 Traits of Effective Parenting: Adaptability

As you’re likely learning, parenting requires adaptability. You can read all of the parenting articles or books in existence and still not find your answer. Or you can listen to all of the parenting advice from your family and friends and continue feeling overwhelmed. Remember, God uniquely designed and created your child. In the early parenting stages, it’s okay to try different parenting strategies and figure out which ones don’t work.

A situation like this is no different. Plenty of young infants benefit from pacifiers. Others maybe not so much. And that’s okay. As a parent, you can develop adaptability in your approach through a decision about pacifiers. Your ability to develop adaptability can positively impact your children far beyond the pros and cons of pacifiers.


Article Resources

Focus on the Family Complete Guide to Baby & Child Care

John Rosemond: Parenting with Love and Leadership

Counseling Resources

And you can call Focus on the Family’s Counseling department for a free over-the-phone consultation. Our counselors would be more than happy to serve you in any way they can.

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