There have been strong and often conflicting opinions on the merits and demerits of the pacifier. Some parents swear by them, others believe that they will somehow damage their little one if they use it. There has been recent evidence, however, that using a pacifier can significantly reduce the risk of one of the leading killers of infants between two and six months old: Sudden Infant Death Syndrome.

Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, or SIDS as it is commonly referred to, is when an apparently healthy baby dies during sleep, and no other cause can be discerned. While the exact causes are unknown, there are several things which medical professionals have determined to reduce the risk of SIDS. One of the most recent discoveries is that using a pacifier significantly reduces baby’s risk. Here are some other things you can do to reduce the risk of SIDS:

  • If you smoke, stop smoking inside the house or around your baby. Better yet, stop smoking altogether.
  • Leave a fan running in baby’s room. Face the fan so that it is parallel with baby’s crib. This provides air circulation which helps prevent SIDS.
  • Always lay baby down to sleep on his back. Never lay a baby down to sleep on her stomach. This has been found to be the leading cause of SIDS.

If you are breastfeeding your baby, don’t introduce the pacifier right away, as this can cause confusion for the baby and make breastfeeding difficult. Wait until baby is a month old before giving her a pacifier to sleep with. The risk of SIDS is very low before baby is a month old anyway. After baby is a month old, she should be well accustomed to latching on and breastfeeding.

Babies are at their greatest risk of SIDS between the ages of two months and six months old. Giving babies a pacifier (also called a dummy in some parts of the world) not only helps them fall asleep faster and soothe themselves better, but also helps keep their airway open, significantly reducing the risk of SIDS.

The bottom line with pacifiers is this: most of the objections some raise to them are based on anecdotal beliefs. There is no study which proves that using a pacifier can have any negative impact on a baby’s teeth later in life, or that pacifier use damages a baby in any other way. There is, however, significant evidence that using a pacifier helps reduce the chances that baby will die of SIDS.