When to Give Your Baby a Pacifier—Two Experts Weigh In

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A number of Mommybites readers have asked, “Should I give my baby a pacifier?” We thought we’d seek the answer from two experts, Dr. Gina Lamb – Amato MD, and Marsha Greenberg M.S., M.S. W. Here’s what they had to say about the use of pacifiers to soothe babies.

Dr. Gina Lamb – Amato MD: There are many different opinions about babies and pacifiers. Initially when you have a crying infant, they can help soothe your baby. However they can also cause nipple confusion for breastfeeding infants. According to the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) you want to wait until your baby is breastfeeding well – meaning she latches onto the breast well during feeding – before you start using a pacifier. Babies need and want to suck – and pacifiers help soothe and comfort infants.

Pacifiers have been shown in the pediatric literature to be associated with decreased SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). Other studies show an increased incidence of ear infections in babies who use pacifiers. Also, the long-term use of pacifiers can cause dental problems for your baby in the future, and could be the cause of speech delays in babies and toddlers who use a pacifier regularly.

I recommend using pacifiers when infants are young and breastfeeding well until around 6 months of age. That way your baby gets the comfort of the pacifier, while not becoming dependent on it, which often leads to pacifier use into toddler years. Once infants are older or toddler age, it is much more difficult them to stop using the pacifier, which can lead to possible ear infections, dental problems and possible speech delays. Babies who always have a pacifier in their mouths are less inclined to vocalize and develop speech.

Marsha Greenberg M.S., M.S. W: Most dentists recommend that toddlers stop using a pacifier during their second year. When you make the decision to help your toddler say good-bye to their pacifier, it is important you are ready to to give up what has probably been a life saver. Talk with your toddler first about what is going to happen. Have a plan and help her get ready for the day the pacifier will go in a special box that your toddler can help prepare.

Remember, out of sight is not out of mind, and a toddler might want to take a peek so he can relax. The first week, let your toddler have a moment or two with his pacifier. If he asks for the pacifier, name the feeling. Try saying, “You are missing the pacifier now. It helps you feel better. It is hard to say good-bye to it. Can we rock instead.”

This process takes a little time for some toddlers, especially if it has been a tool to help them sleep at night. Give it time and your toddler will make the adjustment.

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Expert: Dr. Gina Lamb – Amato MD

Gina is a general pediatrician and developmental pediatrician who works at Village Pediatrics and Agho Medical practices both in Manhattan, NY. She has a masters in child therapy and works with a child psychologist Rosa Vasquez PhD performing office and home consultation for newborns and parents, office and home developmental assessments, school consultations and parent child playgroups where play and art along with baby massage and other techniques are used to help parents bond and support their child’s development. Formerly, Gina was the Director of Pediatric Special Medical Needs before she went into private practice where she cared for medically fragile infants and children. She is also a Early Intervention Pediatrician for Early Intervention which assesses and treats infants from age zero to 3 years. She has extensive experience in Early Head Start programs which work with infants from prenatal to 3 years of age. She is the mother of a beautiful daughter who is 3 years old and the joy of my life. Her husband is an artist, producer and owns Synchronicity Space, a non-profit arts organization that supports emerging artist in fine art and theatre. Finally, she is also an artist who paints mainly babies and children.

Marsha Greenberg M.S., M.S. W

Marsha is a therapist in New York City. She is the author of the newly released book, Raising Your Toddler, by Globe Pequot Press. She has masters degrees in Child and Family Development and Social Work from the University of Michigan. As the Director of the Health Systems Child Care Program for over 14 years, she was responsible for over 250 children between the ages of 6 weeks and 6 years of age. Marsha teaches in the Early Childhood Special Education department at NYU and has a private psychotherapy practice in NYC. Marsha is the mother of three grown sons and has three grandsons (aged 4 and 18 months and 4 months) with a new grandchild on the way.


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