Pacifier Use

From the prenatal period, many mothers hesitate, among other concerns, about whether to give their baby a pacifier or not. He hears different comments from his environment about whether the use of pacifiers is necessary.

Is using a pacifier really necessary?

The baby comes into the world with a sucking reflex. This period is called the oral period and continues until about 2 years of age. The oral stage is the period when the baby gets to know the world through the mouth. The baby puts everything in his mouth, especially the breast of the mother, tastes it and tries to recognize it. The sucking reflex seen in this period functions to meet both the nutritional and safety needs of the baby. At this point, the pacifier can be used both to meet the baby’s need for sucking physically, to make the baby feel safe and comfortable, and to reduce the use of the mother’s breast outside of feeding.

The Benefits and Harms of the Pacifier

A pacifier is a habit-forming object. If the time and duration of use is not limited, babies can walk around with a pacifier in their mouth all day. This reduces both breast milk intake and ingestion of other foods. It can cause problems in nutrition and, accordingly, developmental delays. In addition, long-term use of pacifiers causes deterioration of mouth and tooth structure, delayed speech and psychological maturation, and ear and nose diseases are more common.

However, the pacifier also has its benefits. The use of a pacifier first of all meets the baby’s need for sucking. Babies suck not only because they are hungry, but also because of the necessity of the sucking reflex. At the same time, the pacifier relaxes the baby, makes him feel safe and sleep comfortably.

Babies who don’t use a pacifier look for their mother’s breast to meet their sucking needs, feel peaceful and safe, and go to sleep. This situation causes the baby, who is trying to adapt to the world, especially in the first 3-4 months, to live constantly attached to his mother’s breast, apart from his nutritional needs. This turns into a stressful situation for many mothers. The baby has to satisfy his need for sucking somehow.

Babies start thumb sucking when they cannot satisfy their sucking needs with breast and pacifier. However, finger sucking behavior is less common in children who use pacifiers than in children who do not use pacifiers.

It is more appropriate to use the pacifier only for transition to sleep so that the use of the pacifier does not become a habit. Due to its pacifying feature, the pacifier calms and relaxes the baby and allows him to sleep more comfortably. However, it is not suitable for the baby to be in the mouth during the whole sleep, as it impairs the quality of sleep. For this reason, it should be taken slowly by mouth when the baby goes to sleep. Giving a pacifier every time the baby cries and is restless accelerates the pacifier to become a habit.

It causes the quitting process to be more painful for the mother and child. In addition, in the long term, it causes the child to take something to his mouth in every tension situation. This can create habits up to nail biting, pen biting, eating unnecessary snacks and smoking.

When and At What Age Should the Pacifier Be Left?

Pacifiers are generally produced with and without a palate. Palateless models are more preferred by newborn babies as they are closer to the mother’s breast in shape. However, these models cause deterioration in the structure of the teeth and palate. Palatal models, on the other hand, are produced in such a way that the deterioration in the structure of the teeth and palate is less. However, the pacifier in both models should be put down before the child reaches 2 years of age. The age of 2 is the end of the oral period, that is, the period when the baby knows the world by mouth and feels safe with the sucking reflex.

Continuing pacifier use after the age of 2 psychologically causes the baby to stay in this period and not to grow. In addition, the age of 2 is the period when the milk teeth are completed and the tooth and palate structure is formed. The continued use of pacifiers in this period causes the jaw structure to deteriorate and the upper teeth to come forward. Milk teeth also affect the formation of permanent teeth and require long-term orthodontic treatments in the future. Disruption of the jaw structure also affects speech and the correct sounding.

How to Start Pacifiers in Babies?

It will be easier to let go if the pacifier is given from the beginning only to facilitate the transition to sleep. From the age of 1, giving the baby a soft toy with a pacifier before going to bed, and learning to sleep by hugging the toy can be provided. For babies who use pacifiers more intensively, it would be more appropriate to start by giving the pacifier only at bedtime.

What Should Parents Do to Wean the Baby from the Pacifier?

One of the most basic principles of raising children is to act decisively and consistently. As in all other matters, it is important for parents to be determined first and to show consistency both among themselves and among themselves in terms of quitting the pacifier. During the period of quitting the pacifier, family members need to support both each other and the baby and above all believe that they can do this.

There is a belief in some families that as they grow older they will give up their habits. It is common in these families that the child will one day stop breastfeeding. Therefore, the child is expected to make the decision. However, the decision to give up pacifier use is not a decision that the child can make on his own. The number of children who use pacifiers secretly from their friends at home is not small even though they attend primary school due to the parents’ inability to act decisively about giving up the pacifier.

The period of quitting the pacifier should not coincide with situations where the child is sick, there is a change in the home order, and there is tension between the parents. While such life events create enough trauma in the child’s life, in addition to this, experiencing the absence of a pacifier is even more challenging for children. For parents as well as for the child, coinciding with a period when the child and the family are restless wears out the whole family. As a result, it will be difficult to continue a practice that has begun, to be patient and to show determination.

First of all, it is necessary to know the importance of leaving the pacifier before the child reaches the age of 2 years. When parents decide to quit the pacifier, they should consider that the process can be difficult, and they should not forget that they should be determined and patient. When the appropriate time to leave the pacifier is determined, all pacifiers in the house should be discarded. Knowing the presence of a pacifier at home causes a return for both the child and the family. When the baby asks for the pacifier, it would be appropriate to say that there is no pacifier anymore and to sit next to him until he goes to sleep, to hold his hand when he cries and to make him feel safe.

One of the common mistakes is “You have grown up now. It is using expressions such as “brother, you became a sister”. The child who associates the lack of a pacifier with growing up may think that growing up is not good. This may cause some children to not eat in order not to grow up. Getting used to going to sleep without a pacifier differs from child to child, but it usually resolves within a week. Here, the patience and determination of the parents will accelerate the process, while indecisive and inconsistent attitudes will prolong the process.

Another common mistake is that at the end of the first night, the parents give up and give the pacifier again. In this case, the child sees that every time he cries, he can reach the object he wants and generalizes this behavior. This attitude will cause the process of giving up the pacifier to be longer and more challenging for both the child and the family.

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