Do babies need soothers or are they an unnecessary baby accessory?
To understand the use and need of a soother we need to investigate a baby’s habits and needs when it is born.
Suckling reflex or the rhythm with which an infant suckles (on a mother’s breast) is developed in an unborn child when it is in mother’s womb. A 28 week fetus is able to suck and swallow but it is only 32-34 weeks of gestation that a fetus is able to co-ordinate the action of sucking and breathing, also called natural suckling rhythm. A fetus is often seen sucking its fingers and toes. In absence of any other stimuli (eyes and ears are not functional) inside the womb, a baby feels his way around with its mouth. Even after birth a baby first explores the world by putting everything in its mouth.
Suckling reflex becomes even stronger after birth, as after separation from mother, a newborn’s oral stimuli provides the attachment with mother in form of nutrition. Newborn often keeps suckling mother for comfort and all suckling is not for nutrition or milk. This is called non-nutritive suckling. It provides him with comfort and security. Non-nutritive suckling in an infant is universal and is considered normal.
As breastfeeding often does not completely satisfy the urge of an infant for suckling, pacifiers are often offered to bring additional satisfaction and comfort especially during sleep and pacifying an agitated baby. They are also used as an alternative so as to avoid baby sucking on his thumb or digits.
Pacifier habits are very dependent of cultural background. They are encouraged in some settings (Newborns with pacifiers are reported to have less SIDS deaths) while not so in other settings.
Any problems arising out of non-nutritive suckling, whether it is thumb sucking or soother sucking usually corrects itself as far as dentition is concerned if stopped before eruption of permanent teeth. So mothers, you are the best judge if your baby needs that soother.
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