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Is a pacifier good for your baby? Ask the Expert- Dr. Pritika Rai


IS A PACIFIER GOOD FOR YOUR BABY?

“Breastfeeding”-  the word is enough to trigger debate on responsible parenting, advice from experience and not to forget- a truckload of emotion for the mom. Undoubtedly, it is one of the earliest and most important exercises in developing the intangible bond of trust and love between a mother and her child.  Simply put, it is one phase that no woman wants to get wrong!

“Your body is designed to make healthy milk,” says Laura Viehmann, M.D., clinical instructor in Paediatrics at the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, Providence.  Because your baby gets first dibs on the nutrients your system stores, eating well is not so much about producing quality milk as it is about maintaining one’s own health and energy.

Sucking and swallowing are the primary reflexes in a baby. In fact, babies are known to swallow amniotic fluid even before birth! The pattern of sucking and swallowing repeats quickly and continuously as long as milk is available for the child and the baby is hungry. This is known as“nutritive sucking.” Allowing a baby to suck without feeding is known as “non-nutritive sucking”. This may be at the breast (after the milk has been expressed), but when not possible, the use of dummy may be beneficial. Unlike nutritive sucking, the pattern of sucking happens rather slowly, with longer periods of rest. A baby may do this by sucking on a thumb, finger, a hand, pacifier, blanket, toys or other non-food items.

But why is it so important for the child to suck? For a baby the mouth is the primary outlet for the expression of emotions. Sucking can help comfort a child when he/she is tired, nervous, upset or restless. Gnashing and grinding of teeth by children, either in deep sleep or at times of stress is yet another observation by concerned parents. This is also considered normal until a certain age.

USE OF PACIFIERS – YES OR NO?

There are mixed opinions over whether pacifier use is beneficial to a child or not, and anecdotal incidents of accidental swallowing have created understandable fear among parents. However, 70-80% of the population has been found to use a pacifier. This is why it is important to understand the use of pacifiers at different ages and the benefits and risks involved.

  •  AAP recommends use of pacifier in infants up to 6 months of age to help prevent pain from any minor procedure in the emergency department and decreased hospital stay.
  • Risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) can be reduced by offering pacifiers to infants up to 6 months as reported by certain studies.
  • Pacifiers, however, may cause problems in breast feeding, and thus should not be introduced until breastfeeding is well established, preferably around 6 weeks.
  • AAP/AAFP guidelines recommend reducing or ceasing pacifier use in the second six months of life to reduce the risk of infection.
  • ICSI recommends avoiding pacifier use after 10 months
  • Adverse dental effects can be seen with usage after 2 years of age, but mainly after 4 years of age.

Thumbsucking

Conclusion: Pacifiers will not harm the baby as long as they are used safely and only till a certain age.

Some important Do’s and Dont’s

  • Use a one-piece pacifier made of sturdy material that is firm and flexible.
  • Do not place a pacifier on a ribbon or string and tie it to a crib/hand as there might be a risk of choking.
  • Never dip the pacifier in sugar, honey, syrup or any sweet food, as it increases the chances of tooth decay.
  • Clean pacifiers with hot water and replace regularly.
  • Do not share pacifiers between children, or clean by putting in your own mouth as it can pass bacteria and cause tooth decay.

ENDING NON-NUTRIRIVE SUCKING-WHEN AND HOW??

Most children stop sucking at the age of 2-4 years. Sucking past age 4 can change the shape of the child’s mouth and teeth (for example, causing buck teeth). Changes in the shape of a child’s mouth and teeth can cause the child to breathe through the mouth instead of the nose and can also cause speech problems and bite problems.

  • Tell the child why they want the child to stop sucking and the harm they can cause.
  • Tell the child that they believe the child can stop. Never humiliate or scold the child in front of others.
  • Use reminders when the child wants to stop sucking but needs help. A bandage, a mitten or sock on the child’s hand at night can also help.
  • Give the child something to track small successes, and reward him/her preferably with non material goods/food, mainly compliments.
  • Talk to a paediatric dentist, a paediatrician, or a speech therapist about other strategies to help a child stop sucking and intervention if required.

THE TRAP OF CONVENIENCE

Parents tend to resort to pacifiers to calm a cranky, irritable or colicky baby.  Even though it is hard to drop everything to calm a whimpering baby over and over again, it is highly recommended that parents discontinue the use of pacifiers around the age of 6 months- when the baby is ready to give it up.  Prolonged use after this period will result in the baby perceiving it as a source of comfort rather than something that mollifies her need to suck .

Therefore , we do not actively discourage the use of a pacifier if used correctly and only for the first few months of your baby’s life.

References: 

AAP- American Academy of Pediatrics.

AAFP- American Academy of Family Physicians.

ICSI- Institute for clinical systems

About our expert :

Dr. Pritika Rai is a paediatric dentist, practicing in Delhi. She completed her graduation from Government Dental College, Mumbai in 2009. Intrigued by the vast field of Paediatric Dentistry, she worked and trained for brief periods in various hospitals of eminence, including Naval Institute of Dental Sciences, INHS Asvini Campus (Mumbai), The Army Dental Centre, The Research and Referral Hospital (New Delhi), Post Graduate Institute of Medical Education and Research (Chandigarh) and All India Institute of Medical Sciences ( New Delhi). Motivated to provide the best quality of dental treatment for children, Dr. Rai completed her postgraduation in Paediatric and Preventive Dentistry from the prestigious King George’s Medical University, Lucknow. The range and quality of clinical training received there has provided her with an array of treatment options for patients facing complicated dental problems with the latest advancements in dental practice. Passionate about her field, she has undertaken to spread awareness and change the traditional beliefs and practices about Paediatric dentistry in the Indian population.

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