Two researchers from the Universitat Jaume I of Castellón, Spain, reviewed 1,897 scientific articles on the harmful and beneficial effects derived from the use of pacifiers in newborns and infants. Their study collects evidence-based recommendations to provide parents and caregivers adequate information so they can freely decide whether to use it or not.
The use of the pacifier has been associated to the appearance of oral malformations, an early abandonment of breastfeeding, the appearance of otitis media, the maintenance of digit sucking habit, a decrease in the production of speech sounds, and the establishment of smoking in adolescence and adulthood.
The beneficial effects associated with its use are a protective factor against sudden infant death syndrome during sleep and decrease risk overweight and obesity in adolescence, analgesia produced during stressful situations, and stimulation of the reflex of suction when it is underdeveloped.
“We have made a series of recommendations with the aim of providing mothers, fathers and caregivers with the best information,” says Desirée Mena, from the Predepartmental Nursing Unit of the Jaume I University of Castellón (UJI).
To carry out this review, published in the journal Nursing Role, a scientific quality filtering was previously carried out and the articles obtained were subjected to an analysis focused on the study design, population, sample, follow-up period, evaluation, results or conclusions, depending on the design. In the same way, a descriptive analysis of the variables was carried out, classifying them as favorable, unfavorable or non-influential effects.
“We have made a series of recommendations with the objective of providing mothers, fathers and caregivers the best information that allows them to deliberate and freely choose what best suits their needs, beliefs or expectations,” Mena explains.
Advantages and disadvantages
- In case you opt for breastfeeding, it is suggested not to use the pacifier, because the use of pacifiers is associated to the difficulty in establishing a good latch and early abandonment of breastfeeding.
- On the other hand, to avoid teething problems, specifically, oral malformations, its use is recommended from six months of age. However, it is also related, especially from this age, with the appearance of otitis media.
- Another reason why it is discouraged is because its use is associated to persistent digit sucking in childhood, the onset of smoking in adolescence and adulthood and with a decrease in the production of speech sounds.
- It is advisable to use the pacifier if the baby has not developed the nutritional suction reflex, since it can be used to stimulate it. It is also recommended to calm the baby in stressful or painful situations.
- The use of the pacifier during sleep is recommended to prevent the onset of sudden infant death syndrome.
In the case of using a pacifier, the recommendation is to wash it with a 0.12% aqueous chlorhexidine solution or immerse it in boiling water. In addition, periodic dental check-ups are advised to monitor the growth of the temporary dentition and detect the appearance of malformations. In the case that breastfeeding is carried out, the study indicates that it is convenient to make periodic visits with the midwife or pediatric nurse to supervise it in order to be able to detect early possible problems derived from the use of the pacifier.
Finally, the UJI researchers point out that the study has also detected possible future lines of research aimed at having stronger evidence on the use of the pacifier regarding the prevention of sudden infant death syndrome and the appearance of otitis media.