Pacifiers – are they harmful to boys?

Recently, an article published By Sarah B. Weir, Yahoo! blogger (Parenting – Wed, Sep 19, 2012 12:37 PM EDT) caused plenty of discussion in the parenting world. The article titled “Pacifiers May Stunt Boys’ Emotional Development” caused the world to ask, “Do pacifiers really stunt the emotional development of boys?”

It’s important to note: it is natural for a baby to suck, as it produces a calm, soothing effect. Babies will suck on anything – their thumbs, fingers, whole hands, elbows, the crib, whatever they can get their hands on.

Weir’s article refers to a recent study published in the Journal of Basic and Applied Social Psychology by researchers from the University of Wisconsin. Allegedly, the pacifier prevents a child from using their mouths to mirror non-verbal communication, which is normally passed along by adults. According to the study, baby boys who heavily used pacifiers were unable to mimicking the emotional cues of those around them, thus stunting emotions connected to those facial expressions. This research reaches the conclusion that boys are then prevented from emotionally articulating themselves as easily as their girl counterparts. This then leads some to conclude that this may be the reason why some adult men seem to be more “immature” than others. “Females tend to be more precise both in both expressing and reading emotional cues,” lead author Paula Niedenthal, PhD, tells Shine. This may explain why girls are less affected by the pacifier laterin life.

Also in Weir’s article, “Pacifier use in general is a controversial topic. The World Health Organization says that any artificial nipples can inhibit breastfeeding and the Journal of the American Family Physician adds that pacifiers may encourage ear infection and eventually lead to dental problems. However, the American Academy of Pediatrics says they are okay as long as you don’t offer one to a hungry baby instead of nourishment. Pacifiers sucked during naps and bedtime may even reduce the risk Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).”

So should you chuck the sacred “binky”? The verdict is certainly still out within the medical and parenting communities. Whether you buy the above claims or not, every child is different, so every tactic for calming or preventing a meltdown will vary in your family. If you are really unsure about whether pacifier use is the way to go, ask the opinion of your pediatrician. There are always other alternatives that can be tried to sooth your little one such as swaddling, rocking, singing, music, toys, a favorite blanket, etc. In the end, you have to decide on your own how to handle the situation as it’s best for your child.

In closing, here are some pros and cons provided by the Mayo Clinic when considering “when to say when” on the pacifier.

The pros

For some babies, pacifiers are the key to contentment between feedings. Consider the advantages:• A pacifier might soothe a fussy baby. Some babies are happiest when they’re sucking on something.

• A pacifier offers temporary distraction. A pacifier might come in handy during shots, blood tests or other procedures.
• A pacifier might help your baby fall asleep. If your baby has trouble settling down, a pacifier might do the trick.
• A pacifier might ease discomfort during flights. Babies can’t intentionally “pop” their ears by swallowing or yawning to relieve ear pain caused by air pressure changes. Sucking on a pacifier might help.
• Pacifiers might help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Researchers have found an association between pacifier use during sleep and a reduced risk of SIDS.
• Pacifiers are disposable. When it’s time to stop using pacifiers, you can throw them away. If your child prefers to suck on his or her thumb or fingers, it might be more difficult to break the habit.

The cons

Of course, pacifiers have pitfalls as well. Consider the drawbacks:

• Early pacifier use might interfere with breast-feeding. Sucking on a breast is different from sucking on a pacifier or bottle, and some babies are sensitive to those differences. Research suggests that early use of artificial nipples is associated with decreased exclusive breast-feeding and duration of breast-feeding — although it’s not clear if artificial nipples cause breast-feeding problems or serve as a solution to an existing problem.
• Your baby might become dependent on the pacifier. If your baby uses a pacifier to sleep, you might face frequent middle-of-the-night crying spells when the pacifier falls out of your baby’s mouth.
• Pacifier use might increase the risk of middle ear infections. However, rates of middle ear infections are generally lowest from birth to age 6 months — when the risk of SIDS is the highest and your baby might be most interested in a pacifier.• Prolonged pacifier use might lead to dental problems. Normal pacifier use during the first few years of life doesn’t cause long-term dental problems. However, prolonged pacifier use might cause a child’s top front teeth to slant outward or not come in properly.

SOURCES:
http://shine.yahoo.com/parenting/pacifiers-may-stunt-boys-8217-emotional-development-163700328.html (article and photo)
http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/pacifiers/PR00067
http://www.healthopedia.com/infants-and-pacifiers/
http://www.who.int/nutrition/topics/exclusive_breastfeeding/en/