When you're a new parent, every decision can seem daunting. Even choosing whether or not to use a pacifier isn't an obvious choice. Aren't you just creating a bad habit that will be hard to break later?
Not necessarily, say baby care experts. "Pacifiers are great for soothing a fussy baby and helping them sleep better," says Mayra Rosado, MD, a pediatrician with HealthCare Partners in Los Angeles. They even offer some health benefits. Having babies use pacifiers reduced the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), a recent study in Maternal and Child Health found.
But before you run to the store and buy a handful of binkies, review these helpful tips.
If you're breastfeeding, wait. "Introducing the pacifier too early may interfere with suckling and getting a good latch on the breast," says Rosado, "which can interfere with lactation." The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you wait until you and your baby are used to breastfeeding, usually within the first 3 to 4 weeks.
Try a few different styles. "Some babies can be particular about which ones they'll take," Rosado says. Pacifiers can be made of silicone, latex, or a combo of plastic and silicone. Silicone nipples are sturdier, don't retain odors, and are easy to clean, says Rosado, while latex nipples are softer and retain scents (which your baby may like) but are not as sturdy with repeated washings. Regardless of your (or your baby's) preference, check that the pacifier is dishwasher-safe and that the nipple is securely attached to the base. "Give it a good tug, to make sure the nipple does not detach," Rosado says. Avoid pacifiers that have a gel or liquid filling, which is potentially harmful.
Don't force the issue. If your baby isn't interested in any pacifier, don't worry -- that's perfectly normal as well. "Some babies just don't like them," she says.
When it comes to weaning, the earlier the better. "I recommend weaning from the pacifier before 12 months simply because the child has not had the time to form a deep attachment yet," she says. But if it's become a habit for your toddler, gradually shorten the length of time your child uses the pacifier, find other ways to comfort him (perhaps with a blanket or stuffed animal), or trade the pacifier for a new toy.
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