Pacifiers linked to stunted emotional growth

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A new study finds pacifier use is linked to stunted emotional growth in boys. Read the story here and find out the pros and cons of giving a pacifier to your child. Think before you “plug them up with a pacifier”. Take our poll below...

shutterstock 54686236 Pacifiers linked to stunted emotional growth

Do pacifiers stunt emotional growth?

The pacifier, dummy or binky might seem like an easy way to soothe a cranky baby, but new research seems to suggest that heavy usage might do more harm than good.

The study conducted by Professor Niedenthal from the University of Wisconsin found that six and seven year old boys with heavy pacifier usage, when they were babies, were less likely to react to the facial expressions of the people appearing in the video shown during a test.

The study also included a group of college students who participated in written exams testing emotional intelligence such as empathy. Amongst the tested group, the ones who recalled heavier pacifier use had lower scores than those who were not as dependent on the pacifier.

Frozen expressions
The reasoning behind this study is that a pacifier acts as an obstruction in the mouth causing the baby’s ability to mirror expressions to diminish with prolonged usage. What is interesting is the study only found this hindrance to emotional development to be the case for boys and not girls.

Girls getting more attention?
Professor Niedenthal has a unique take on this disparity saying, ‘It could be that parents are inadvertently compensating for girls using the pacifier, because they want their girls to be emotionally sophisticated. Because that’s a girly thing [and] since girls are not expected to be unemotional, they’re stimulated in other ways. But because boys are desired to be unemotional, when you plug them up with a pacifier, you don’t do anything to compensate and help them learn about emotions.’

shutterstock 9721702 Pacifiers linked to stunted emotional growth

What do you think of using a pacifier for your baby?

However, her analysis is not grounded in scientific evidence and Niedenthal and her team will be doing more research to figure out why girls seem to not be affected (or how they may compensate) for prolonged pacifier use.

To pacify(er) or not?
If you’re still unsure whether you should chuck out that dummy despite the screaming of your baby, we give you a list of the pros and cons of using a pacifier.

Pros
1. A pacifier could soothe a fussy baby in between feeds. Some babies are most content when they’re sucking on something and it might free you to run your errands.

2. It offers temporary distraction especially during high stress situations such as doctor’s visits or long car rides.

3. It might ease the discomfort a baby feels in a flight such as blocked ear drums. Sucking on a pacifier might help.

4. It might help reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) as prior research has found an association between pacifier use during sleep and a reduced risk of SIDS.

5. It’s disposable. You can always throw out the pacifier when you feel it’s time for your baby to stop. However, it your child prefers sucking on his or her thumb, it would prove more of a challenge to break the habit.

Cons
1. Early pacifier use might interfere with breastfeeding as a baby is actually sensitive to the differences between an artificial nipple and a real one.

2. Your baby might become dependent on the pacifier and reject breastfeeding altogether.

3. Pacifier use might increase the risk of middle ear infections.

4. Prolonged pacifier use might lead to dental problems. If your child is still using the pacifier regularly after he has turned two, it might cause his or her top front teeth to slant outward or not grow properly.

 


 

For more related articles on your baby and pacifiers, see:

Pacifiers: the good, bad, how and when to wean

Are pacifiers good for your baby?

Stop your toddler from putting everything in her mouth