Ask the Expert

Pacifiers and Babies: The Great Debate

By May 10, 2011May 13th, 201275 Comments

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When Dr. Melissa Arca approached us about writing for SITS, there was no hesitation on our part. A mom, blogger, AND a pediatrician? Yes, please!

For her first parenting post, Melissa is tackling pacifier use. Should you or shouldn’t you when it comes to your child? Let us know what you think in the comments!

A bit more about our latest Ask the Expert contributor:

Melissa Arca, M.D. is a board certified pediatrician; currently working part-time while raising her two young children, ages 3 and 6. Writing about motherhood, parenting, and children’s health has become her passion. You can find out what she thinks about pacifiers and much more on her blog, Confessions of a Dr.Mom. It’s the place where the two worlds of doctor and mom collide.

As a pediatrician and mom, I am always fascinated and intrigued by differing opinions on various parenting topics. It really helps me to know what other moms are thinking and why. Not only does this give me insight into what some of the parents I encounter in my practice might be thinking, it introduces me to some viewpoints I may not have considered.

With that being said, I’m so excited to cover the great pacifier debate on She Says, She Says. In my experience, parents tend to have a love/hate relationship with the pacifier. On the one hand, many moms realize that it works. It is a powerful soother for their child’s non-nutritive sucking needs.

On the other hand, in can be habit forming and thus, can be a hard habit to break.

The pros of pacifier use are valid and real. Babies have a natural, biological need to suck. In some babies, this need is more pronounced and a pacifier (or thumb) can certainly fill that need. It has also been shown that babies who use a pacifier while sleeping have a decreased risk of SIDS. Another pro? When quitting time draws near, a pacifier can be taken away, while a thumb cannot.

Now for the cons of pacifier use, because you knew it was coming. Sucking on a pacifier can clearly become a habit, especially if pacifier use extends beyond two years old. Unfortunately, there is some social stigma attached to prolonged pacifier use, think Suri Cruise. It seems everyone had an opinion on that.

In addition, if overused, a pacifier could potentially interfere with proper development of teeth and pose an obstacle to speech development. Pacifier use has also been discovered as a risk factor for recurrent ear infections in susceptible children.

There you have it, some of the pros and cons of the pacifier. Yes, I have my own opinions and experiences but will save them for later. I don’t want to influence your honest and candid answers here.

So, tell us, where do you stand on the great pacifier debate? What has been your personal experience with them?

About Francesca

Francesca has an extensive background in content marketing, public relations, and social outreach. She oversees all Operations at Sway Group, including our robust metrics capabilities. Prior to joining the online world, Francesca oversaw viticulture and oenology at various wineries in both California and Italy, and managed regulatory affairs and facility approvals at the biotech company, Genentech. Francesca has been featured on CBS Sacramento and Food Blogger Pro’s podcast. She has also hosted an AMA webinar and spoken at Social Media World.


  • Joy says:

    Love-hate relationship certainly describes it well. My first son used one until he was 2. In fact a nurse in the hospital gave him his first one. Flash forward 4 years later to son #2. We actually asked the nurse, same hospital, if they had one to give our newborn because we recognized hi need to suck. She said it was against hospital policy. Funny how the trends change!
    I am a believer in pacifiers but also learned on this Mom’s Guide (http://www.1dental.com/moms-guide/) that they can lead to tooth decay. Check it out. It has lots of other helpful articles.

  • Anne Galivan says:

    I have four children and my policy on the use of the pacifier was two-fold:

    1) Infants need them. I breastfed all of my children and newborns have such an insatiable need for sucking that it can make mommy’s boobs tender beyond belief! I always had a policy of nursing on demand but if a child just nursed thirty minutes ago they don’t likely need the breastmilk, they need the sucking. I really loved the MAMs pacifiers.

    2) Once the pacifier became a toy it went in the garbage. When babies start pulling it in and out, chewing on it etc. – usually at about six months – that tells me they don’t need it for the sucking anymore. Time to give them other toys to chew on and ditch the pacifier.

  • Sarah says:

    Never gave either child a pacifier, but I was so tempted with my son. He just seemed to need something to help him sleep. But since we didn’t with my daughter, the hubs vetoed giving him one. Now he is 5 months and is doing fine without.

  • Well for me, I personally don’t like pacifiers because I always relate it to the way too big children I see walking around still sucking on them. I didn’t want that to be my child, however, in the same breath I kinda wish I did use them because both my boys are finger suckers and I can’t take their fingers away. The other issue I find when I did try to use the pacifier was that my boys just didn’t like them; they always spit them out. In hindsight, I think I would have used pacifiers if my boys took to them.

  • Cherrylej says:

    my daughter has never used a pacifier nor sucks her thumbs. on some occasion she will put her pointer finger in her mouth like she’s feeling her gums. sometimes i find it odd and i worry because i remember reading something about babies not using pacifiers, but her pedia assured me that nothing is wrong with my daughter..

  • So funny! I *just* posted about my oldest son’s pacifier saga today! As with so many things in the parenting field, I feel like it’s very subjective, and while I personally cringe when I see children over three sucking on a pacifier, the little voice inside my head tells me not to judge, because someday that could be my child. You just never know.