Pondering about Pacifiers?

Prior to becoming a mother, I was very cautious about pacifier use for babies. After having my very lovable, very demanding son, my staunch views have become more practical. Pacifiers have been around for decades for a reason: they work. More specifically, they assist a child in soothing himself during instances of discomfort and initiate a child’s ability to soothe himself. Once upon a time, the speechie in me would have told every mother to discontinue pacifier use prior to 12 months of age (milestone marker for the production of first words). My knowledge base coupled with many sleepless nights have given me a new-found respect for a miraculous 2-inch piece of rubber. As a proponent of whole-child development, I believe that social-emotional development in addition to cognition (thought process), language, and physical elements is critical. What else is critical? A new parent’s sanity.
So what does the research say? Speech experts have noted that prolonged use of a pacifier can keep a child’s mouth in an unnatural position, making it more difficult for some muscles of the lips and tongue to develop naturally and thus may contribute to tongue-thrust patterns. Dental experts often encourage patients to discontinue use prior to a child’s permanent teeth coming in, as a pacifier may cause lasting dental problems.
What does a practical SLP say?
Use a natural rubber, rounded pacifier (it tends to depress the tongue less than the other types) when needed until more mature coping mechanisms have developed. On a related note, Eco-Piggy round pacifiers are made of natural rubber and are brilliantly constructed. Regarding a cut-off age, I strongly feel this recommendation is situationally based. If milestone-markers are being attained (i.e., babbling at or around 4 months, transition to solid food at or around 6 months, first words at or around 12 months), I would use parental intuition coupled with pediatrician recommendation in determining an appropriate cut-off age. If you have any questions or concerns, it’s always better to err on the side of caution and reach out for a professional opinion.

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