Friday, July 18, 2014

Are Pacifiers Bad for your child?

I observed a child in church recently that must have been at least 4 years old with a thumb in his mouth. I was thinking to myself, "his father has no idea what he's doing to his son". This event inspired me to write about thumb sucking and pacifiers.

In essence, thumb sucking and pacifiers have the same detrimental effects. I know many parents think that they are helping their children when they allow or even encourage them to use a pacifier (or thumb suck). Some "experts" suggest that it is helpful in comforting the child. Sure, it might soothe the child, but so will breastfeeding. There are other ways to soothe the child like rocking, burping and cuddling. Don't introduce a pacifier. They could become emotionally attached to it like Linus and his blanket. Why would you encourage that?

When an object is held in the mouth for an extended period of time, the bones of the mouth and the position of the teeth will be altered. This is true for any object. What we find in these cases is flared front teeth that do not come together when the mouth is closed. Try to bite into a sandwich with those teeth.

Notice the front teeth do not come together.

Another issue with pacifiers is the potential for nipple confusion. The infant may have difficulty latching onto the breast during feeding.

Some experts offer advice on "the 10 best ways to get the child to stop using a pacifier". I've got a better idea…..never start. If your child is using one already, here's an idea….take it away. Sure, they may be upset for ten minutes, an hour, a day or even a couple days. I'm sure this can produce quite a bit of anxiety for both the parents and the child. I assure you that you will get past this, so try not to be overly concerned.

I must address a potential concern that some professionals suggest. There are some studies that suggest that a pacifier dramatically decreases the risk of SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). I'm not entirely convinced of the link and suspect that the studies are flawed. This may be more of a case of correlation rather than causation. I don't see any physiologic link. Discuss this concern with your health care provider.

Dr. Cisneros maintains a practice in Freeburg and Columbia, IL. Both are in the Greater St Louis, MO area. For more information on a wide variety of subjects, please visit

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