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Should You Use a Pacifier?

Susanna Donato never planned on giving her child a pacifier. Then Lydia was born and couldn't get enough of her mom's breast. When a baby nurse finally popped a paci into Lydia's mouth, Donato, of Denver, applauded and never looked back.

"Pacifiers can be a godsend because babies have an innate need to suck that is often painful for a nursing mom," says Karen Breach, M.D., a pediatrician based in Charlotte, NC. Research also suggests that infants who use them have a reduced risk of SIDS.

The downside: They can get in the way of breastfeeding, and long-term use can cause dental issues. (Plus, parents constantly have to pick them up off the floor.)

So, should you use one or not? These questions may help you decide:

Is it okay to give my baby a pacifier if he'll be breastfeeding?
Yes, but it's best to wait until he has the hang of nursing  -- generally after the first two weeks  -- to help prevent any conflicts. (Bottle-fed babies can use a pacifier from day one.)

Do some infants need a pacifier more than others?
Yup. "Fussy babies have an especially strong need to suck on something to comfort themselves," Dr. Breach says.

Do pacifiers prevent thumb sucking?
No, though they may delay it.

Could using them lead to braces down the road?
Only if a kid were to keep sucking after age 6, when adult teeth come in. Then it might cause problems, such as an overbite, that would require braces.

Is it hard to wean a baby off the pacifier?
Some kids give it up easily; others cling to it like a first love. If yours gets attached, wait until he's about 3 to initiate a breakup. Your child may not part willingly with it, but at least he'll be more capable of listening to reason than he is now.