Ear infections- Pacifiers were found to be responsible for 25 percent of ear infections in children under 3 attending day care, according to a study published in Pediatrics in 1995. Restricting pacifier use to just before a child fell asleep, though, returned the risk to almost normal, a follow-up study in 2000 (also in Pediatrics) found. Why the link? Pacifier sucking promotes fluid collection in the ears, which can lead to ear infections, Shapiro says.
Early weaning from the breast- Offering a pacifier to a full-term baby may keep her from what she really needs—food. Indeed, several studies have linked pacifier use with early cessation of breastfeeding. However, a study reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association found that pacifiers probably were not to blame for early weaning. The researchers concluded that their use is a sign of breastfeeding difficulties or reduced motivation to breastfeed.
While the pacifier-breastfeeding connection remains a question, if you do give a binkie, it’s best to wait. “If you want to offer a pacifier, wait until four to six weeks, when your milk supply is established,” Howard says.
Dental problems- Children who suck anything—thumb, finger or pacifier—past age 2 have a higher risk of developing protruding front teeth and/or a crossbite in baby teeth, according to a study published last year in the Journal of the American Dental Association. In some cases, these problems persist when permanent teeth come in.
So where does that leave you and your screaming baby? Prudent use of a pacifier—occasionally and briefly, after breastfeeding is established and before your child is 2—probably won’t cause any harm. So if your baby is soothed by using a pacifier for short intervals, give it to her guilt-free. Or you could try another round of feeding, rocking or singing. Either way, your baby eventually will settle down.