March 22, 2007
The risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS), the third leading cause of infant death, may be lowered through the use of a pacifier. According to an article in Nursing for Women’s Health, neonatal health care practitioners should counsel new parents on the potential benefits of using a pacifier.
This advice follows the release of updated recommendations from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Task Force on SIDS, suggesting that pacifier use be encouraged for children less than 1 year of age. “It’s important to note that the AAP’s pacifier recommendations are not unique,” said the article author, Elizabeth Damato, PhD, RN. “A variety of studies have indicated that pacifier use lowers the risk of SIDS, and several other countries have made similar recommendations.” She stresses, however, that parents must be counseled on how to use pacifiers safely.
“Pacifiers shouldn’t be used before the age of 1 month in breastfed infants to avoid the disruption of regular feeding habits,” Damato said. “Also, infants should not be forced to take a pacifier and parents should not reinsert it once the infant falls asleep.” Parents should also avoid using homemade pacifiers, avoid strings or cords to secure the pacifier to the child, and regularly clean and replace pacifiers.
Even though evidence is mounting that pacifiers help to prevent SIDS, no one knows why. “Because SIDS happens so rarely, it is difficult to do large-scale controlled studies to determine why pacifiers might help,” Damato said. “However, because the risk for serious side effects is greatly reduced if pacifiers are used properly, they are a safe and sensible option in the battle against SIDS.”