Your baby is crying. She looks very unhappy: She has her mouth open, her eyes squeezed shut, her fists clenched. You’ve tried everything you can think of to calm her down—breastfeeding, walking her in the stroller, gently rocking her and singing to her.
In your palm you hold what you hope will be the answer—a pacifier. But before you pop that binkie in her mouth, consider the many ways using it could affect your baby’s health.
A way to soothe- The amount of time an infant spends crying increases from birth until about 6 weeks, when a baby cries for an average of three hours a day. “That’s a lot of crying stress,” says Cynthia R. Howard, M.D., M.P.H., associate professor of pediatrics at the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry in New York. Sucking undoubtedly helps calm a baby, she adds, which is why pacifiers are so popular. According to a 1999 study by Howard published in Pediatrics, approximately 75 percent of babies are given pacifiers to suck.
Health benefits- The only proven medical benefits linked to pacifiers have been seen in preterm babies. Preemies who suck on binkies gain weight faster, according to a 1992 study published in the Swedish journal Acta Pediatrica. Other research has found that preemies who use pacifiers shortly after birth show earlier sucking patterns and experience fewer health complications. “Sucking promotes oral-muscle function and muscle development,” says Nina L. Shapiro, M.D., assistant professor of pediatric otolaryngology at the University of California, Los Angeles, School of Medicine.
Reduced risk of SIDS- Pacifiers are associated with a reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), according to four recent studies. But since a cause-and-effect relationship has not been proven, researchers aren’t sure how, or even if, pacifiers prevent SIDS. In the meantime, the SIDS Alliance refrains from recommending their use.