They have been called a parent’s best friend. The pacifier, that little piece of plastic and latex that your baby sucks on to help soothe herself, not only allows you a little extra peace and quiet, but it can actually be good for your baby as well.
Studies have shown that babies who sleep with a pacifier are at a significantly reduced risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome). The pacifier not only helps them to soothe themselves so they can fall asleep faster, but it also helps ensure that their airways stay open.
Babies have a natural inclination to suck just about anything that gets close enough to their mouths. Most babies, if not given a pacifier, will suck their thumbs, fingers, toes, or whatever else they can get to their mouths. Many parents offer pacifiers to their babies anytime of the day or night when they are fussy.
But if your little one is having trouble sleeping through the night once she’s reached an age where she should be able to (6 months or so), you might want to consider saving the pacifier for bedtime and offering your baby an opportunity to nurse instead when she’s fussy and wants to suck on something.
Some breastfeeding proponents go so far as to suggest keeping pacifiers from your baby altogether. With recent findings regarding the reduction of crib death, we’re no so sure that’s a great idea, but it does make sense to feed your baby more often rather than offering the pacifier during her waking hours. If your baby eats more during the daytime, her stomach will be more full when you lay her down for bed at night, and everyone can get a better night’s sleep.
Of course, this might lead to less napping during the daytime. If your little one has a harder time nodding off to sleep without a pacifier, it’s fine to give her one, either at night or for daytime naps. But if you want your baby to sleep longer at night, the main things you need to do are have her sleep a little less during the daytime and make sure that she’s had plenty to eat.
Offering a feeding instead of a pacifier is a great way to do just that, since most babies will fall asleep while nursing if they are tired and (obviously) will have eaten more if they nurse instead of using a pacifier.