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Some parents wonder how they would ever survive their baby's first year without the use of a pacifier, while others are very much opposed to the idea of using one of these little gadgets. The decision to use a pacifier is a personal one you must make.

Infants often suck to calm themselves and a pacifier can come in handy when sucking from the breast or bottle isn't sufficient or practical. But your baby may not even want or need to use a pacifier; some babies prefer their own fist, thumb or fingers for self-soothing.

Most experts agree that if you wish to use a pacifier, you should wait at least two weeks after birth before even attempting to introduce one. This will help your baby to establish healthy and stable nursing patterns before introducing a foreign object.

There are pros and cons to using a pacifier: They can help calm a cranky or colicky baby or a baby who is already fed and full but still wants to suck and research suggests they may help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, they also may increase the risk of middle ear infections, early use may interfere with breastfeeding, and your baby may become dependent on one.

If you do decide to use a pacifier, keep these tips in mind:

  • Purchase a one-piece model; pacifiers must now meet federal standards requiring a mouth shield to prevent your baby from choking.

  • Keep your baby's pacifier clean at all times to reduce the risk of infections from germs.

  • Watch for deterioration of the nipple part and replace it at once if it shows visible cracks or becomes torn. This will prevent choking on small pieces of the nipple.

  • DO NOT under any circumstance attach a pacifier to your baby with a strap or string that is long enough to wrap around your baby's neck.

  • Try to avoid using a pacifier at bedtime to put your baby to sleep. It is a hard habit to break if your child begins to use it for security, and it's hard for you to find it in the dark when your baby loses it in the middle of the night.

When you find a pacifier your baby likes, buy a few extras to keep on hand. These tiny items get lost very easily. You will find them everywhere - under the cushions of your couch, under the seats of your car, and the bottom of the diaper bag.

Many parents wonder when they should take away the pacifier. This is a controversial question. Some experts recommend taking it away by age two, others say the child will give it up on their own, while others say it should be given up when your baby is weaned and no longer feels the need to suck. Some children hold on to their pacifier for many years, which can lead to dental problems and can become a very difficult habit to break if it is used as a security object. If you are concerned about your child's pacifier use, consult your pediatrician for advice.



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