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 written by Elizabeth Damato, assistant professor of nursing at Case Western Reserve University's Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing, neonatal health care practitioners should counsel new parents in 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 one year of age.
"It's important to note that the AAP's pacifier recommendations are not unique," Damato said. "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 than the age of one month in breastfed infants to avoid the disruption of regular feeding habits," said Damato. "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 explained. "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."
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