Binky, dummy, paci, soother, plug, buddy..... these are all names I have heard people call a pacifier. Pacifiers can come in all shapes and sizes. Whatever your need, I am sure there is a pacifier to fill it.
I know this can be a hot topic. I am not here to shame anyone, ever. That isn't the point of this article. I wanted to share a perspective that many do not even consider. The teeth.
Last week my kids and I were walking into the grocery store when a mom and kids where in front of us. The little boy was about 3-4 years old and walking in with a pacifier in his mouth. He wasn't even sucking on it, just had it in his mouth. They were just going about their shopping. My kids asked me why he had it. I didn't know what to say, they usually only ever see them with babies. Why do older kids need pacifiers?
Why Are Pacifiers Used?
Pacifiers have been used for centuries in some form or another. The first introduction in medical literature was in 1473, by German physician Bartholomäus Metlinger. You can see they have been around for a very long time, but weren't really used like they are now until the 1900's. "In about 1902 a Manhattan pharmacist by the name of Christian W. Meinecke patented the first "baby comforter". (source) Originally pacifiers were used to help calm and soothe a new baby. As a breastfeeding mother, I wish any of my 5 children would have liked a pacifier to help keep them happy between feedings. No such luck here. There have even been studies done to see if they help combat SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome). To date, there have been no definitive findings regarding whether it is beneficial or not.
Even before a baby is born, they have a need to suck or suckle. I remember seeing ultrasounds of my babies showing them sucking their fingers or thumb. Oddly enough, none actually sucked a thumb after birth. Sucking is a common, primitive reflex in babies. These reflexes originate in the central nervous system and tend to go away as we grow and mature. Sucking makes babies feel happy and secure. You don't generally see this behavior exhibited into adulthood.
Drawbacks of Pacifier Use
While pacifiers have their uses, there are some drawbacks. They include:
Middle ear infections
Nipple confusion when breast feeding
Tooth/mouth issues (cavities and overbite)
Strangulation - if tied to the child
Deterioration of the pacifier causing chocking issues
Crutch - can become a necessity where the child will not sleep without