Pacifier Facts – A Speech Therapist’s Perspective
Binky, pacifier, paci, dummy, soother – there are so many names! At least once a week the conversation of pacifiers is brought up to me as a speech therapist. Will it ruin our breastfeeding journey? Is it going to be a sleep crutch for my baby? How much does it really impact speech development? Do we need to care about his teeth moving? “My sister had hers until 4, and she’s fine!” It can be hard to make the right call when it comes to this parenting decision. Something that appears so simple can often leave parents lacking confidence in their choice. So, let’s talk about some pacifier facts from the perspective of a speech therapist – pros and cons of pacifier use as well as when we recommend calling it quits!
Pacifier Facts – Pros of Use:
- In newborns and infants, research shows that use of a pacifier during naps and bedtime may help reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
- Sucking is a natural soothing reflex. Use of a pacifier may be calming to your new addition.
- Use of a pacifier may help baby fall asleep faster and for longer periods of time. Scattering a few around the crib so that baby can replace a lost pacifier themselves is a good strategy to avoid the “baby drops pacifier, cries, mom and dad have to go replace it” pattern some parents feel stuck in at night time.
- There is limited evidence that pacifier use in breastfed babies leads to nipple confusion or decreased success in feeding. In fact, infants in the NICU are often presented with pacifiers to practice the patterns of sucking and swallowing as they learn to feed more effectively. Talk to your doctor or lactation counselor to make the right choice for you.
Pacifier Facts – Cons of Use:
- It can be a hard habit to break – though ideas like a Pacifier Fairy exchanging for a special present, giving them away to a younger sibling, or going cold turkey are often effective in just a few days! You can do it!
- Changes in dentition – prolonged pacifier use can lead to significant changes in the development patterns of a child’s palate and teeth, later impacting speech sound development, feeding, and orthodontia needs. We can usually tell if a toddler was a long time pacifier user or thumb sucker just by the shape of their smile when they enter the office!
- Speech and language delays – evidence shows children who use a pacifier for the majority of their day past the age of one are more likely to have delayed language development. If their mouth is occupied by a pacifier all day, they are limited in the exploration of sounds and words during play!
- During the early months, use a pacifier to calm baby, but never ignore hunger cues. Baby needs to eat when they are hungry, even if the binky appears to calm them instead.
- Early hunger cues may include: bringing hands to mouth, opening and closing mouth, fidgeting, sticking tongue out and/or fussing or crying.
- Limit pacifier use to nap time and bedtime only by one year of age. Leave them in the crib!
- Eliminate all pacifier use around age 2. Talk to your dentist or pediatrician if you have more specific concerns.
- If your child has access to their binkies during play time, encourage them to remove them when playing with you. This will encourage language exploration and babbling.
Have more questions or concerns? Ask you speech therapist for more information! You can get more information related to pacifier use and reduced SIDS risks from the American Academy of Pediatrics. For families that might be struggling to ditch the pacifier, check out Binka Bear.