The history, pros, and cons of the pacifier
Pacify: v. "quell the anger, agitation, or excitement of"
Pacifiers seem to be one of the number one baby items given to and accepted by new parents. Almost every baby you encounter has one in their mouth a vast majority of the time.
There is a time and a place for a pacifier, and there is a time when pacifiers can be detrimental and should be avoided.
The History of the Pacifier
The first soothing items used by parents for centuries were water or honey dipped knotted rags, "gum sticks" made of stone, coral, or bone, and wooden beads.
It wasn't until 1901 that a "new and original design for a baby comforter" was introduced by Christian W. Meinecke. This pacifier resembles most modern pacifiers, made of a rubber nipple attached to a shield.
These initial pacifiers were definitely not up to today's standards and were commonly processed with sulfur, tinted white with a lead-containing compound, and the disk shields were made of ivory, aluminum, and sometimes bone.
By the 1940's latex and silicone nipples with a plastic shield were the norm, produced primarily by Binky Baby Products of New York.
Babies experience a primal inherent need to suck. This need stems from the evolutionarily tuned desire to find the breast, nurse, and receive nutrition. This is a wonderful reflex that helps to bring in the mothers milk and sustain her supply.
Some babies do appear have a more persistent suck reflex than others, insisting on sucking for a soothing, comforting, non-nutritional purpose.
The Pros of the Pacifier
Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding a pacifier can be useful.
Breastfeeding - your baby has a seemingly insatiable need to suck. This can be exhausting to a nursing mother who's baby cries when not sucking on the breast. A pacifier can act as a replacement and allow the mother a break.
Bottle feeding - Bottle fed babies are at greater risk of being overfed, and therefore overweight if they are continually given a bottle of milk when their soothing suck reflex is confused with a hunger suck reflex. Pace feeding can help this issue, but if not, a pacifier at the end of a feed will continue to allow the soothing sucking reflex without overfeeding the baby.
The Cons of the Pacifier
There are times when a pacifier can be detrimental.
Breastfeeding - nipple confusion can be a reality and a challenge for some parents. Not every baby will have an issue going between breast and artificial nipple. Since we can not know which baby will or will not have a problem, it is best to err on the side of caution and wait until the baby is a least 4 weeks old, or better, until the mother's milk supply is well established at 6-8 weeks.
Artificial Nipple - Extended use of a pacier can deform the palate and cause oral and dental issues later in life. Additionally, pacifiers may contribute to an increase in ear infections.
You should never feel judged for using a pacifier. If it's what's working for you and your family, then you should certainly feel great using one! If issues arise, they can be dealt with and solutions can be proposed to move forward. You are not ruining your child forever by using one.
Nor should you feel pressured into using a pacifier so the baby "isn't pacifying at the breast." If you love snuggling with your baby all day, every day, and have no issue with the amount of time your baby is on you, then go for it! A baby does not NEED a pacifier. You are not ruining your child forever by not using one.