Are there any legit reasons to use pacifiers?

Man, if there’s one thing that bugs me, it’s seeing people shove a pacifier in the mouth of their toddler or little person. Even babies with pacifiers bug me, but when the kid can start to talk and communicate, why on earth are these parents preventing them from having a voice by gagging them with a pacifier?

Maybe I just “don’t get it”, but if you use a pacifier with your kid, particularly one that’s older than, say, one year old, why? I have seen five or six year olds (not often, I admit) with pacifiers, and that’s just kinda freaky more than anything.

In general, pacifiers seem to be a holdover from a parenting philosophy of “children should be seen but not heard” which seems somewhat inexplicable too: why have kids if you don’t want them to be part of your life? I mean, is there any child who has parents who listen and never has anything to say? (I mean, pre-teen, of course!)

The use of pacifiers particularly bugs me with girls too, I must admit. I think that many girls have a significant issue with finding and having a voice as they grow up, and pacifiers just seem like a tangible way to say “shut up. We don’t want to hear about it.” which isn’t doing wonders for the little folks and their sense of self, is it?

Am I off-base here?

18 comments on “Are there any legit reasons to use pacifiers?

  1. Well, as someone who struggled with this very question when my son was three months old, I’d like to think that yes, there are some legit reasons. I had a baby that needed to be latched on to me all… the… time… I learned how to even go to the bathroom while he was latched on. When we fell asleep on the bed, he fell asleep latched on – I’d wake up four hours later, he was still latched. You can guess how sore I got. But I held out for three months, through the pain and the agony, the exasperation of a child who had a real oral fixation. I remember that night – the night I gave him a pacifier for the first time. It was horrid, I felt SO guilty, but I was not sleeping any more, my hips were bruised from lying in one position for hours unable to move because if my son unlatched, he woke up. Sobbing, I gave it to him. He stopped crying, I didn’t for a while, but then I slept… Oh, I slept – finally – a good sleep. Now, he didn’t get it during the day – I see kids all the time, awake, in grocery stores and the like with pacifiers, and I’m assuming that’s what you’re talking about. I don’t agree with that either, personally, but I know that with me, I had a lot of “I shouldn’ts” and “I will never” moments about which I have had to eat crow – because most parents, given a vast array of tools, will choose what works for them and their child at that moment. I have found that parents will do things out of exasperation, and one of those things could be giving the pacifier. Maybe the child needs soothing, and comfort – but the mother/father doesn’t have the luxruy of stopping to be that full comfort, so the pacifier is given – then the pacifier becomes the preferred and expected comfort and easier for the parent. I don’t know what else I’m really trying to say here as it’s late, and I think I’m going to sign off because I’m starting to ramble… 😉

  2. I had the same thoughts… until my daughter was three months old. The problem was that she wanted to stay latched on to my wife to the point of not being able to sleep, and she wouldn’t sleep longer than a couple of hours at a time for weeks. At that point, we decided to let her have a pacifier when she was ready to sleep. She kept that pacifier at bed time for about a year, and on occasion she had it when riding in our car as well. While I wish we had never had to give it to her, I’m convinced that it was the right thing to ensure that our whole family stayed sane and happy.

  3. Infants have a built-in need to suck, even when they are not eating. Sometimes they latch onto their mothers but don’t actually drink, called non-nutrative nursing. It’s comforting to them, albeit not so great for the mom.
    Some babies learn to favor their thumbs, as my daughter did. Others favor pacifiers. After a while they become sources of comfort, much like a favorite blanket or stuffed toy. While some parents undoubtedly use pacifiers to keep their kids quiet, I’d venture a guess that most older toddlers who still use them have grown attached (no pun intended) to their pacifiers and choose not to stop using them.
    Of those kids, I bet their parents can’t wait to throw out the nasty, smelly things. After a certain point I’d say the parents should step in and wean their kids off the binky, but there’s probably no right or wrong age to do that. It would depend on the individual circumstances (but I would have to say that five or six years old seems far too old).

  4. i guess we got lucky. my son aidan never used a pacifier, latched on unless hungry, or sucked his thumb.

  5. When my daughter was born we had advice on how to avoid the pacifier (dummy). If my daughter needed comforting in the first year we used our little fingers. As soon as she was old enough she began using her own thumb. I dislike dummies and was glad we avoided using them.
    I think some children need this sort of pacification more than others and have often wondered if there is a link between use of dummies and smoking (just an adult dummy, maybe?).

  6. Amen to all of you who pointed out all the quite legitimate reasons to permit/support a binky!
    Crikey, Dave, as they say, have you never chewed a pencil, tapped your foot, doodled on the side of a page during a meeting, zoned out with popcorn in front of TV, etc. etc.?? All of it about “self-stimming” in order to relax or calm down.
    The immature nervous systems of our little offspring have no OTHER easy way to discharge all the excess energy or release frustration in a socially acceptable way, so they suck to calm it down. And the Nuk (or your brand of choice) is a heckuva lot more helpful than staying attached to mom all day!
    Like any good thing, it can go too far for too long, and kids can get too attached. But generally, about age 2, they are sufficiently aware of what seems to be approved behavior to do it privately, if at all. It usually extinguishes itself by three, even before the Linus blankie bites the dust. If not, then parents can wean.
    Before that, sez this mom of two young adults, cut you and your kid a break! Don’t worry if some clueless onlookers cluck and disapprove; trust your OWN sense of your own kid instead!

  7. Dave Taylor, You are way off base. Almost to the point of arrogant. I feel that too many people in public places snub their nose at parents who try to do whats best at that time for that kid. Do you even have any kids?
    I have three kids two of which are hooked on the “Paci”. My daughter we are weening from it right now and she is extremely opinionated and vocal. If you ask me you got it wrong. The pacifier (at least for my little Nehvia) seems to intice her outspoken side. My little Wyatt is a very sweet and good natured boy. He got the short end of the stick on nursing because my wife was diagnosed with Crohn’s disease and had to be put on steroids. We started him on formula in bottles and he latched on to them and would never be without a bottle (much like some of the children mentioned above to there mums). He was gaining wieght very rapidly and was spitting up alot. the Pacifier seemed like a natural solution. It worked for him.

  8. I think you are off base. Using a pacifier for both my kids had nothing to do with trying to shut them up. In fact, my son who didn’t give up his till about 2 1/2 years old was and remains advanced in language development.
    My husband and myself are wrestling with getting it away from our daughter who, like most children, want it for comfort. She is a rock solid happy child, but still craves the comfort of a pacifier and has a loud strong voice that we respect and are proud of.

  9. My daughter is 4 weeks old and we’ve been using the pacifier since week 2. I don’t go to that first when she is upset or crying. I don’t use it to shut her up. She simply just likes to suck. She was sucking on her fingers in her ultrasound picture. Now when she is tired the pacifier helps her soothe herself. It is like a stress reliever. I plan to wean her before age one, but that is only because it can cause dental problems. I really think people need to be less obnoxious when it comes to parenting. As the young mother of a newborn I know all too well how very different everyone’s style of parenting is, which makes sense because all babies are different as well. If it wasn’t pleasant for the BABY trust me they would let you know. My daughter won’t take her pacifier if she doesn’t want it. It won’t shut a kid up if they don’t want to be “pacified.”

  10. I think you are right on with your comments about pacifiers. I have a 2 1/2 year old and I saw very early on that I could use this device to quiet her when she was hungry, uncomfortable, and on and on. I only gave it to her for three months, and then I dealt with her if she cried. My daughter now has better self-control than other kids, and I think it because I was more responsive to her rather than just shoving a pacifier in her mouth every time she cried. We have a nephew who is the same age as ours and he still uses the paci, and I can see a tremendous difference in the way he expresses himself. He seems more inwardly focused, as it seems most of his energy is used for sucking, and his language definitely is impaired. I think this is one of those issues where people are afraid to tell parents the truth, like of course it is crazy to give your 2 year old a pacifier! Today parents feel so guilty about working all the time that everyone just tells them that everything they do is fine. I seriously worry about some of the kids I see today and what they’ll grow up to become. I am a parent and I have sensitivity to other parenting styles, but I see a lot of really bad parenting, even neglect, that is explained away as “parenting style.” Judging from the other responses, this is going to be an unpopular post, but it is how I feel.

  11. Can anyone offer some comments on when is too old to carry a blankie or a stuffed animal in the car? My 9-year-old steptwins still insist on carrying theirs in the car when we go to school, do errands, etc. I recognize that they sometimes want their blankies and favorite stuffed animals to transition to the other house with them, but I’m at the point where I’m ready to say, “No, if you want it to go to the other house, you can put it in your backpack and promise me that you won’t take it out until you get there.” Am I being too harsh? My husband and his ex disagree with me – they allow the kids to bring animals and blankies in the car. Of course, my husband’s ex doesn’t believe it’s a problem that her 9-year-old son is still sucking his thumb and peeing in his pants once or twice a month. (Note the tone of sarcasm. I obviously think the thumb sucking and peeing are a problem.)

  12. I wouldn’t advocate the use of a pacifier (dummy or soother in some locations) for older children or for younger children for l
    ong periods while awake as this can potentially slow their communicative development.
    However there are some valid reasons to consider the use of a pacifier for younger children.
    In four independant studies it has been recently shown that a pacifier used during night sleeps can halve the instances of SIDS.
    In fact the American Academy of Pediatrics has recently advised parents to offer babies a dummy at bedtime from birth to one year for this very reason.
    In addition, adults who used pacifiers as babies are less likely to smoke. Human babies have a very real need to suck for comfort and it is becomming increasingly apparent that a lack of comfort and skin to skin contact at an early age can cause addictive behaviours in later life.

  13. Well, speaking as a very person who has ALOT of experience with the problem..I do mean A.L.O.T. I think that it..well okay. Its a matter of opinion. Heres my side and story.
    I am a female and turning 14 in less then a week, I get straight A’s..with the occasional B..I am very outgoing and big talker. I have plenty of friends, the teachers like me, I have a boyfriend, Im not unconfortable with myself. And..I use a pacifiere. Woah, big shock?? haha, im serious. My friends don’t know about it and I Do hide that fact. It doesn’t stop me from anything, as you all seem to think it does. Talking? No problem with that. Speach? Nope I have perfect articulation. I use it because Its a..well confort. It’s somthing that, to me, gives me a safe feeling and keeps me from biting a whole through my toung ;). In my opinion, I think its fine. I used to have a problem with it and I did quit for maby a year, but I decided that I really didn’t mind and went back to it.
    The thing I think really bothers people is the teeth problems? Well, I will admit that my teeth arn’t really straight, but arnt horrible eather. My teeth are slightly in an overbite, but I have braces, and imsure that even without using the Binki I would have needed them anyways. Honesly, I guess I’d say, Im glad my Parents didn’t force me off of it. Even if they don’t exactly Approve, their supportive, which is the most important thing.
    So, I would say that It’s more then just entertainment for some kids. Somtimes is like..having a great confort, it calms, and helps me feel better.
    Don’t get me wrong, It after about 4, it should be kept at home. Not infront of distant family.
    Well, I don’t know if this have influenced you against or for Binkis. But…Good Luck

  14. You are WAY off base. The American Acadamy of pediatric dentistry has no proof of long term dental problems from pacifier use before permanent teeth come in (approx age 5). Thumb sucking, however, causes many more problems. If it is comforting to a 2 or 3 year old, why on earth would you take it away. For anyone who is struggling with the decision to take it away from your child, ask yourself if you are doing this because it makes yourself and more importantly other arrogant, judgemental people uncomfortable or is it really damaging your child? Do what is right for the child, not the nosy people at the grocery store. I am a registered nurse and according to my mother, had my pacifier past 2 1/2 years. I had no speech problems, no dental problems and am quite well adjusted in society. I have never seen anyone graduate college with one in their mouth, nor have I ever heard of job interviews that ask when you gave up your pacifier. So… don’t sweat it if your toddler can’t seem to let it go, he will eventually. My son is 3 years old and still uses his at bedtime and naptime. He is advanced in speech and cognitive skills, so it doesn’t seem to be damaging him. I would advise Dave Taylor and anyone else who has the time and energy to judge other people based on whether or not their child is comforted by a pacifier, to focus your time on something more productive. When is the last time anyone judged a 4 year old for reaching for a teddy bear when they were scared, hurt or tired. Next time you see a parent give their child a comfort object, keep your opinions to yourself; because after all, it is their child and their decision.

  15. On the other hand, Kristie, a quick search on the National Institutes of Health medical database (see ) reveals a number of interesting research studies, including one entitled “Pacifier habit: history and multidisciplinary view” that concludes:
    “Pacifiers prevent the establishment of breastfeeding and lead to weaning. Their use may cause suffocation, poisoning, or allergies and increases the risk of caries, infections, and intestinal parasitic diseases. Harmful effects are related to frequency, duration, and intensity of the habit. It should be discontinued by the age of 3 or 4 in order not to affect speech and dentition. CONCLUSIONS: There are more harmful effects than benefits. It is advisable that health professionals inform parents of the pros and cons of pacifiers so that they can make a conscious decision regarding its use.”
    But that’s kind of irrelevant. My article states that *I* think parents should put more effort into weaning children off pacifiers when they’re young so as to encourage the child to speak up and the parents to listen to their little voice. If a child is able to walk and talk coherently, I think it’s past time for them to be done with their binky.

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