By Alan Viau
Soother display. Photo by Alan Viau
A baby’s cry is amazing. I don’t know if it is the pitch or decibel level— but it can pierce your ears like nothing else. Centuries of evolution have fine tuned this call for attention so that we can take notice and save them from the saber tooth tiger. But sometimes you look at your darling cherub with a deep desperation. “Look. I fed you. You’ve burped. You have a clean diaper. You just got up from a nap. For the love of Pete, what do you want?” I asked this more than once in my children’s lives. In comes the soother or pacifier to the rescue. Pop that little thing in their mouths and peace and quiet returns to Camelot.
My wife and I heard all the precautions about using a soother. Don’t put them on a rope around their necks. Sterilize them often. Sure thing, that’s straight forward safety.
Claims that soothers can cause overbite issues and ear-infections make me wonder. The problem is that there is no scientific evidence for these assertions. You can’t have clinical trials on babies! How can it be proven? If you do a little research, you will find the dangerously overused term “linked.” “Linked” does not mean one causes the other. For example, ice cream sales can be linked to drownings. However, ice cream sales don’t cause drownings. They are linked because they both mostly occur during the summer!
I found a great publication that looked at all the evidence. It supports the use of soothers as a preventative measure against Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) based on good studies. Another publication refutes the association between soother use and increased ear and gastrointestinal infections, as well as any implication for dental misalignment. Basically, the idea that soothers cause bad teeth is an “old wives tale.”
This research conducted in 2005/6 is reassuring. As new parents, my wife and I were such rebels. All of our kids used soothers. It took some time to find the right soother for each of the kids. Our eldest son preferred a long narrow type. Our daughter found a preference for the cherry type of nipple. When our younger son was born the orthodontic ones had been introduced. He really didn’t like those ones. He found his thumb to be the best. It was always there when he needed it; we didn’t need to find it when it came out of his mouth; and it was cheap. A thumb is a little more of a challenge to sterilize though.
Their use of soothers disappeared with weaning. For us that meant at about the time their first teeth came in. The soothers gave way to teethers as they grew. And peace still reigned in Camelot.