A blog by Dr Lin Day



Celebrating Father’s Day

In the UK this year, Father’s Day falls on Sunday 18th June. It provides a wonderful opportunity to honour dads and express gratitude for their love, care and support.

 

Fathers Make a Difference

Dads can add so much to their child’s development. For example, they can:

  • Encourage exploratory skills, which support the development of independence.
  • Engage in activities such as tickling, teasing, bouncing, wrestling and rough and tumble play, which increases confidence and self-control.
  • Add variety and dimension to their child’s experience of the world.
  • Expand their child’s horizons by playing with toys in non-traditional ways.
  • Challenge children to find different ways of doing things.
  • Influence development through direct teaching and daily interaction.
  • Encourage competition and independence.
  • Expand vocabulary and language skills through brief and directive talking.
  • Bring different strengths and styles to their teaching role than mum.

 

Girls who grow up with a loving, involved father are more likely to have healthy, emotionally balanced relationships with males in later life. Boys who grow up with a loving, involved father are less likely to be aggressive and more likely to make friends at school because they have learned how to channel their masculinity and strength in positive ways. 


Studies have repeatedly highlighted the positive role that dads can have in their children’s learning and development. As a result, many schools are pioneering ways to involve them in projects such as cookery, computing, reading, craft, sports, games, maths and other classroom work. Fathers are also being encouraged to contribute to their children’s out-of-school learning. In a world where television and computers often dominate children’s lives, showing an interest in what they do, and helping with homework and reading are more important than ever before.

 

Absent fathers

 Even if the father is unable to spend regular time with his children, they will still benefit from his attention, warmth and affection. He can take them on outings, attend school activities and spend quality time with them.


Giving children love, attention and richness of care is something that all dads can do regardless of whether they are in a committed relationship, single or non-resident. Children grow up so quickly and missed opportunities are lost forever.


Father’s Day

Father’s Day is celebrated all over the world. In the USA, Canada, Southern Ireland and Mexico, Father’s Day is celebrated on the third Sunday in June. In Italy and Spain, Father’s Day is celebrated in the third week of March. In Australia, Father’s Day is celebrated on the first Sunday of September.


In the UK, Sunday 19th June provides a wonderful opportunity to celebrate the unique contribution that dads make to all aspects of their children’s lives.

 

Happy Father’s Day!

 

By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

Safe Swaddling

Baby swaddling is a controversial subject. Read on to find out how to keep your baby safe. Peer reviewed article published in the Journal of Health Visiting (April 2015). 


Archaeological records show that babies have been swaddled since 4000 BC. Swaddling involved wrapping pieces of cloth and a band tightly around the baby’s body from the shoulders to the feet to in the belief that it helped them to develop a strong, straight back before they were able to walk. The swaddled baby was then placed horizontally in a cradle or cot, or strapped firmly vertically to a cradleboard to support the spine.
 
Due to the effect of tight swaddling on limb restriction, the practice fell out of favour in the mid-1960s, as new theories in baby development took hold. However, following the ‘Back to Sleep’ campaign in the 1990s, and popularisation in parenting guides, swaddling has made a comeback.
 
Some healthcare professionals recommend swaddling while others speak out against it. Advocates believe that swaddling replicates the confined conditions of the womb, and helps the newborn adjust to life in the outside world. Some studies (Gerard et al. 2002; Thach 2009) have shown that swaddled babies startle less, have a lower heart rate, sleep more deeply, and wake less spontaneously than when not swaddled. Swaddling also prevents babies from rolling over on to their tummies, which is a risk factor for Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) (Gerard et al. 2002).
 
Work by Blair et al. (2009) has linked swaddling to respiratory complications, prolonged deep sleep, and overheating, which are risk factors for SIDS. Other concerns include tight swaddling of the legs, which can lead to developmental dysplasia of the hip. There is also disagreement among healthcare professionals about the benefits of restricting the protective startle reflex in newborns. When the limbs are confined, babies are unable to startle themselves awake.
 
The effects of swaddling on SIDS are controversial. Until there is conclusive evidence that swaddling is unsafe, the practice is unlikely to become less common.
 
History of swaddling
 
Egyptian tomb reliefs from 2500 BC show babies swaddled with cloths and tied to the mother's back or hip. Sacred statuettes of infants in swaddling clothes have also been found in Ancient Greek and Roman tombs. History shows that Alexander the Great and Julius Caesar were all swaddled as babies. The practice of swaddling has been known for centuries over most of Europe, Asia, Canada, South and North America.
 
The most famous record of swaddling is found in the New Testament concerning the birth of Jesus.
  
And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn." (Luke 2:7).
 
After the birth, the newborn was washed, rubbed with salt and oil to thicken and firm the skin. To prevent cold air from touching the skin and to ensure that the limbs grew straight, the baby was wrapped in linen or cotton and over-wrapped with six metre long bandage-like strips or bands. Swaddling and salting became the model of infant care practice for some 1,500 years or more.
 
During the Tudor period (1485 to 1603), newborns were ‘salted’ and wrapped in linen bands from head to foot for up to nine months to ensure that they grew up without physical deformity. The legs were placed closely together, the arms were placed at the sides, and the swaddling cloth was then folded over the baby’s body, feet and arms. A swaddle band was wrapped under the baby's chin and over the forehead to secure the head, and then around the body all the way down to the ankles. The weight and heat of the swaddle wrap and band restricted movement, cramped the bowels, and increased body temperature.
 
In Medieval times, it was traditional practice to immobilise babies for up to nine months without washing or regular human contact. They were unable to reach out for objects or suck their fingers or toes for comfort. Infants were also left in their own excrement for days on end. Crawling, an important developmental milestone was often delayed or absent (Frenken 2011).
 
In parts of Canada, North America, and South America, babies were traditionally swaddled and attached to portable cradleboards constructed of dogwood or willow sticks, which supported the spine and constricted movement. However, studies (Chisholm & Cary 2009) demonstrated a very high prevalence of hip dysplasia. The frequency of hip dislocation decreased dramatically when cloth nappies, which slightly flexed and abducted the hips, were introduced in the 1950s (American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) 2011a).
 
In the 1800s, the medical profession recommended a less containing form of swaddling, which kept the arms and legs free. Nevertheless, most mothers continued to use traditional swaddling bands until the early 1930s. Swaddling eventually fell out of favour following concerns that it could overheat the baby, restrict growth, and displace the hips.
In recent years, swaddling has become increasingly popular as a settling technique in the Netherlands, some parts of the United States, and the United Kingdom (Frenken 2011). In the UK, about 19 percent of babies are swaddled in the first four weeks of life (Clarke 2013). However, modern swaddling allows ample room for hip and knee flexion.
 
Benefits of swaddling
 
Many parents say that swaddling provides comfort and security, limits the startle reflex, and helps their babies get to sleep and stay asleep. Gerard et al. (2002) found that babies were just as likely to startle when swaddled as when unswaddled, but returned to sleep more quickly. Longer sleep duration in swaddled infants is believed to be important for brain development.
 
Additional benefits include:
 
·         Helps babies to stay on their backs, which reduces the risk of SIDS.
·         Prevents the baby moving into dangerous situations.
·         Helps to settle an overstimulated or distressed baby.
·         Makes the baby feel secure.
·         Prevents uncontrollable flailing of the baby’s arms and legs.
·         Reduces crying, fussiness, and distress.
·         Helps babies sleep more deeply.
·         Promotes brain development by reducing stress.
 
When the baby sleeps better in the supine position, parents are less likely to use the prone position for sleep. Improved sleep means that mother is less likely to suffer from exhaustion, postpartum depression or stress.
 
 
Safe swaddling
 
Swaddling is standard practice in many neonatal intensive care units for premature and/or low birth weight infants. However, swaddling takes place very loosely. The arms and legs are held weakly against the baby’s body so that movement is possible. This form of swaddling is very different to traditional tight swaddling in the stretched position.
 
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP 2011b) recommends swaddling, when done correctly, to be an effective technique to help calm infants, promote sleep, and reduce SIDS. Mothers who swaddle are twice as likely to put their babies in the supine position, which reduces the likelihood of SIDS. Safe swaddling also prevents the baby rolling into the prone position or moving into a dangerous situation (Gerard et al. 2002). Additionally, swaddling reduces the chances of bedding covering the baby’s face and head, which can cause overheating or asphyxia. The baby’s hands can also be left free to self-comfort by sucking on the fingers or hand.
 
Most modern swaddle wraps are produced in a triangular, ‘T’ or ‘Y’ shape, which may include ‘wings’ that fold around the baby's body and arms, and a pouch that allows the baby’s hips to move and the legs to spread apart naturally. Swaddle wraps are made from cotton, muslin, silk or a lightweight breathable fabric to prevent overheating. Some swaddle wraps are made from cotton spandex to reduce the risk of chest wall compression.
 
Swaddling should be stopped at three months-old (the peak age of SIDS risk) or when the baby shows signs of rolling over. Older babies may use a baby sleeping bag, which is less restrictive than a swaddle wrap. The sleeping bag keeps the baby warm, and it offers plenty of room for the legs and feet to move freely during the night. It is also sleeveless and without a hood to prevent overheating or asphyxiation.
 
Potential risks of swaddling:
 
·         Placing the swaddled baby in the prone position.
·         Reduced ability to arouse from deep sleep.
·         Overheating, if a heavy blanket is used.
·         Suffocation if the swaddle wrap covers the baby’s face.
·         Inhibited breathing if the wrap is too tight across the chest.
·         Developmental dysplasia of the hip if movement of the hips or knees is restricted.
·         Increased risk of SIDS if continued over the age of 3 months-old.
 
Blair et al. (2009) found that one in 4 SIDS babies had been swaddled. However, the sample used for the study was small and the risk was branded 'unreliable' by the National Health Service. Other studies (e.g. Thach 2009) have shown that swaddling increased the risk of SIDS when babies slept in the prone position, but not when they slept on their backs. 
 
Some studies (Thach 2009; Clarke 2013) found that swaddling babies slept more soundly. However this may not be a desirable outcome, as the pathogenesis of SIDS is thought to involve an impaired ability to arouse from sleep in response to a life threatening respiratory or cardiovascular challenge. Although newborns have an inborn survival mechanism, which enables them to wake up if the airway is obstructed; in deep sleep their well-being could be threatened.
 
The Royal College of Midwives (Clark 2013) advised against tight swaddling and heavy blankets in fear of overheating the newborn. Other concerns included restriction of the chest wall resulting in breathing difficulties or secondary complications such as pneumonia.
 
Hip dysplasia
 
If the baby is swaddled too tightly, developmental dysplasia of the hip (DDH) may occur (Mahan & Kasser 2008; Chisholm & Cary 2009; AAP 2011a). The risk is elevated in babies with:
 
·         A family history of DDH.
·         Breech positioning.
·         Congenital foot deformity.
·         Torticollis (asymmetrical head or neck position).
 
DDH occurs in about 1 in 1,000 babies. About 80 percent of cases are female. This is due to oestrogen produced by the female foetus, which increases elasticity of ligaments and causes the femoral head to move out of position. Treatment, which involves fitting a harness to keep the legs in a flexed, widespread position day and night for six weeks, is successful in about 85 percent of cases.
 
About 17 percent of newborns have some degree of hip dysplasia. Although the condition resolves untreated by 2 to 3 months-old, traditional tight swaddling may lead to late onset hip dysplasia and early arthritis (Clark 2013).
 
Conclusion
 
There is a significant difference between traditional tight wrapping and safe swaddling. If babies are placed on their backs to sleep, and they are loosely wrapped without hip or limb constriction, swaddling may be safe. However, swaddling could become a safety issue if blankets are used or when the baby becomes mobile. Care should be taken to ensure that the swaddle wrap does not restrict blood flow or breathing, or cover the baby’s face or head.
 
The association between swaddling and SIDS has been mainly limited to babies lying in the prone position. The risk of SIDS in supine swaddled babies needs more in-depth research.
 
Further information
 
Information covering all aspects of baby care, health and safety can be found in our Baby Sensory new baby course ‘Baby Foundations’. Please visit www.babyfoundations.com
 
By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)
 

 
This article appeared in the Journal of Health Visiting April 2015 Volume 3 Issue 4 and has been subject to peer review.
 
 
References
 
American Academy of Pediatrics (2011a) Improper swaddling a risk factor for developmental dysplasia of hip. Available from http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/32/9/11.1 [Accessed 11 October 2014]
 
American Academy of Pediatrics (2011b) Practice safe swaddling to protect baby’s hips. Available from http://aapnews.aappublications.org/content/32/9/11.2 [Accessed 11 October 2014]
 
Blair PS, Sidebotham P, Evason-Coombe C, Edmonds M, Heckstall-Smith EM and Fleming P (2009) Hazardous cosleeping environments and risk factors amenable to change: case-control study of SIDS in south west England. BMJ 339: b3666
 
Chisholm JS and Cary MC (2009) Navajo Infancy: An Ethological Study of Child Development. New Jersey: Transaction Publishers. p.187
 
Clarke NMP (2013) Swaddling and hip dysplasia: an orthopaedic perspective. Archives of Disease in Childhood 99 (1): 5-6
 
Frenken R (2011) Psychology and history of swaddling: Part two - The abolishment of swaddling from the 16th century until today. The Journal of Psychohistory 39 (3): 219-245
 
Gerard CM, Harris KA and Thach BT (2002) During rapid eye movement and quiet sleep spontaneous arousals in supine infants while swaddled and unswaddled. Pediatrics 110: e70
 
Mahan ST and Kasser JR (2008) Does swaddling influence developmental dysplasia of the hip? Pediatrics 121: 177-178
 
Thach BT (2009) Does swaddling decrease or increase the risk for sudden infant death syndrome?  The Journal of Pediatrics 155: 461-462
 
 

Christmas Bow


 And when she snuggles close to me,

Her nose against my cheek,

 The world she means to me,

 Far more than words can speak.

 

At 8 weeks-old, Bow bounced into my life and I fell in love with her. But she wasn’t meant for me. Bow was to be Howard’s new friend and companion.

 

Howard has always had dogs downsizing from elegant Great Danes to a fun-loving family Labrador, and intelligent, working collies. And then Katie had her own dog, ‘Tug the terrier’, who simply bulged with character. After we lost Tug, work took us away from home and we decided to wait a few years before bringing another dog into our lives. Four years later, Howard found Bow. But as she nestled into my arms on the homeward journey from Manchester to Salisbury, we bonded forever.

 

The puppy stage doesn’t last very long so we made the most if it. During Bow’s critical learning period (8 to 19 weeks), we went to puppy school together. Bow learned good manners, how to play with adults, children and other dogs, and how to respond to commands. Only patience and kind techniques were used to train her. I am sure this is why Bow is so gentle and loving and likes nothing more than being part of our family.

Bow is capable of intense feelings. Although I rarely leave her, our reunion lasts 20 minutes and she cries with emotion. Right now, she is curled up on my lap knowing that I am writing her blog. Her waggly tail gives everything away. She is also licking my hand furiously.

 

We have celebrated 2 Bow birthdays and each year, she has a new red collar. The one that Bow is wearing now is decorated with sparkly bows and her name. To celebrate Christmas this year, Bow has a new red and gold starred bow!

 

Bow’s résumé:

•Age: 2 years, 10 months (next birthday: 12 February).

•Mother: Jack Russell (white, tan and black).

•Father: Border terrier (tan).

•Distinguishing characteristics: tricolour with white chest, white right paw, silky soft ears and liquid eyes.

•Command words: over 100 including ‘Go play’, ‘Wait’, ‘Leave’, ‘Drop’ and ‘Stop’ (useful), plus the names of her favourite toys.

•Best friends: Charlie, Owen, Stanley, Dan, Ellie, Lyla, Eva, Leo and Arthur.

•Best doggy friend: Buster.

•Favourite toys: ball, Bear and Fox (soft toys).

•Favourite games: playing hide-and-seek with Charlie, Dan and Owen, and tug-of-war with Snake (soft toy) and Ellie.

•Responsibilities: looking after my grandchildren - Arthur (18 months) and Stanley (23 months). Checking they are entertained and happy.

•Interests: walking along grassy tracks, sitting in my bike basket, swimming (river or sea), and watching Paul O’ Grady: For the Love of Dogs.

•Special talents: sniffing out lost toys, and waiting patiently for ‘Mr. Taupe’ to appear from his French molehill.

•Places travelled: all over the UK and France.

•Fears: loud bangs (fireworks), and objects that are out of context. For example, a man carrying a fishing rod or an empty car seat sitting on the pavement.

 

The love and fear of losing Bow makes me think that she should have puppies. One I shall keep, but then there’s the worry of finding loving homes for the others. I already have names for her puppy - Bear or maybe Fox?

 

When I asked our 9 year-old granddaughter Ellie to sum up Bow, she said:

 

“I love Bow so much because she is very pretty, has silky, floppy ears, loves kissing and she is very cute. She is a joy to have in our family!”

 

Bow means the world to me and I wanted her to look her best for the photograph. It was well worth the three hour trip to see our expert Baby Sensory and Toddler Sense photographer, Mark Fletcher, who was very sensitive, caring and kind. You can contact Mark at mark@photo-sensory.com  or 07714 797730 or www.photo-sensory.com

 

Bow’s red and gold starred Christmas bow arrived in a beautiful box from Tracy at the Distinguished Dog Co (www.theddcompany.com). Bow loves it and so do I!

 

By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

 

Happy Christmas Bow!




 


 


16 Interesting Christmas Facts


It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas

Toys in ev'ry store,

But the prettiest sight to see is the holly that will be

On your own front door.

In the Western world, Christmas Day is generally celebrated on 25 December. Some historians believe the date was chosen to correspond with the Roman winter solstice or the birthday of the Persian god Mithras, who was born in a cave on 25 December long before the appearance of Christianity.

Many traditions, such as the giving of presents, are linked to the Nativity. Pagan traditions, such as decorating the home with evergreen, were adopted by early Christians to celebrate Christmas. Non-Christian traditions, such as crackers and cards, were added much later.

 

Read on to find out more……..

1.            Cards

The first Christmas card was produced in 1846 by Sir Henry Cole, director of the Victoria and Albert museum. With the introduction of the ’halfpenny post’ in 1870, Christmas cards were produced for the mass market.

2.            Carols

It is thought that Saint Francis of Assisi brought carols into the church during Midnight Mass in Italy in 1223. However carols did not become Christmas songs until the 16th century. The custom of carol-singing in the streets dates mainly from the 19th century.

3.            Crackers

Christmas crackers were invented by an enterprising baker, in the late 19th century. To encourage children to have a tug-of-war over his confectionery, sweets were wrapped in coloured papers, which contained a miniature explosive charge. Miniature toys, riddles and hats were incorporated later on.

4.            Christmas pudding

The Christmas pudding originated in Roman times as a mix of meat and vegetables. In medieval times, the savoury content was replaced by 13 ingredients, which included dried fruit (known as plums), sugar and spices, which represented Jesus and the 12 Apostles. To honour the Wise Men, every family member stirred the ingredients from east to west. Christmas pudding in its current form was introduced to the table by Prince Albert.

5.            Christmas star

Astronomers know that there was no supernova star at the possible time of Jesus’s birth. However, in 6 BC the planets Mars, Jupiter and Saturn were close enough to form a triangle in the group of stars known as Pisces. If the Wise Men had studied the stars and planets, they would have interpreted the event as a great sign.

6.            Christmas tree

The Christmas tree originated in Germany and was associated with a legend about a Devon monk (Saint Boniface), who used its triangular shape to describe the Holy Trinity.

The first decorated tree appeared in Riga (Latvia) in 1510 and was strewn with paper flowers and then burnt on a bonfire as part of a religious ceremony. In the 16th century, Martin Luther decorated a small fir tree with candles to show his children how the stars twinkled in the night. In the 18th century, Christmas trees arrived in England with the Georgian kings, but they did not become popular until the Victorian era. After Victoria’s death, Christmas trees became traditional in almost every British and American household.  

7.            Evergreens

In the pre-Christian era, homes were decorated with evergreens to ward off evil spirits, witches and disease and to encourage the return of Saturn, the harvest god.

The practice of removing greenery from the home on the twelfth night of Christmas (5 January) originated from the belief that tree spirits were released back into the countryside to regenerate the vegetation. According to superstition, it is unlucky to leave decorations in the home after the twelfth night.

8.            Gifts

The giving and receiving of gifts originated in ancient Rome, and northern Europe, as part of the year-end celebrations, but started in earnest in the late 1800s. Today, the exchanging of presents is central to most cultures.

In the Western world, the traditional time for giving presents is Christmas Eve or Christmas Day. However, in some countries, gifts are exchanged on 6 December, which is Saint Nicholas Day. 

9.            Holly

The Druids believed that holly protected the home from evil spirits. In later times, holly was placed around beehives to encourage bees to hum in the honour of baby Jesus. Decking the halls with ‘boughs of holly’ was thought to cure coughs and other ailments. Today, the plant signifies peace and joy.

10.         Mince pies

Mince pies filled with meat, fruit and spices were brought from the Middle East in the 13th century by European crusaders. During the English Civil War, Cromwell banned them as indulgent foods, but they were later restored by the English monarchy in 1660. In the Victorian era, mince pies became sweeter. They have continued to be a popular Christmas tradition ever since.

11.         Mistletoe

Mistletoe was revered by the Druids, who used a gold sickle to cut it from an oak tree. The plant was hung in homes to ward off evil spirits. In later times, kissing under the mistletoe signified friendship and goodwill.

12.         Saint Nicholas

Saint Nicholas was a Christian bishop who lived in Myra (near the city of Anatolia in present-day Turkey) in the 4th century. After his death, Saint Nicholas became best known as the protector of small children. In many countries, Saint Nicholas Day is celebrated as a feast for children and without any religious overtones.

13.         Santa Claus

In 1868, Thomas Nast combined Saint Nicholas with a merry-making medieval figure to create the traditional image of Santa. Although an American invention, similar likenesses also evolved in France and Italy. The traditional sleigh and reindeers came from Scandinavian Christmas myths.

In many Latin American countries, Santa makes the toys, but they are delivered to the children’s homes by Baby Jesus. This helps to reconcile religious beliefs with modern ones.

14.         Santa’s home

Santa’s residence was originally established at the North Pole following the publication of a sketch in ‘Harper’s Weekly’ in 1886, which showed two children tracing his journey from the North Pole to the United States. However, in 1952 newspapers revealed that he actually lived in Finnish Lapland. Today, Santa receives thousands of letters from children all over the world.

15.         Stockings

The Christmas stocking can be traced to legends about Saint Nicholas. One version tells of three sisters who could not marry because they were so poor. Saint Nicholas took pity on them and threw gold coins down the chimney. The coins landed in stockings hung over the embers to dry.

The first mention of stockings being hung by the chimney was made by Clement Moore in his story about a visit from Saint Nicholas.

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,

In hopes that Saint Nicolas soon would be there.

Today, children all over the world hang up their stockings in the hope that they will be filled with small gifts while they sleep.

16.         Twelve Days of Christmas

The twelve days of Christmas date back to the pagan feast of Yuletide, which lasted 12 days. The religious significance lies in the story of the Wise Men who arrived from the East with their gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh to attend the infant Jesus on the 12th day, which is traditionally 5 January.

Throughout history, celebrating the birth of Jesus has been an important part of Christmas. However, the Christmas that we celebrate today is largely a secular event that contains Christian, pagan and cultural elements. Whatever beliefs are held, Christmas is a special time for children and for families, who will be immersed in it, whether at home, preschool or church.

 

By Dr. Lin Day (www.babysensory.com)

 

Step into Christmas at The Baby Sensory Shop (www.babysensoryshop.co.uk) where you’ll find exquisite nativity figures, Christmas puppets, sparkly lights and other innovative gift ideas and stocking fillers.

Pacifier – Good or Bad?

Pacifier – Good or Bad?

David Beckham hits back at criticism over 4 year-old Harper’s pacifier.

Experts claimed that the pacifier risked stunting her speech and put her teeth at risk of damage. Beckham blasted back saying:

Everybody who has children knows that when they aren’t feeling well or have a fever, you do what comforts them best and most of the time it’s a pacifier. So, those who criticize, think twice about what you say about other people’s children because actually you have no right to criticize me as a parent.”

So should a 4 year-old be using a pacifier? At present, there are mixed opinions as to whether a pacifier in the pre-school years is good or bad. From the child’s viewpoint, the pacifier offers comfort and contentment at a time of need. From the parent’s viewpoint, pacifier use is up to them.

Health professionals argue that prolonged pacifier use may lead to speech delays and dental problems in some, but not all children, if continued after 4 years of age. Problems, if any, depend on the frequency of sucking (how often), duration (how long) and intensity (can you hear it across the room?). However, if the pacifier is taken away too soon, the child will find the fingers or thumb to suck on, which is a much harder habit to break. About 12% of adults still suck their fingers or thumbs.

There isn’t a gold standard in the literature about an ideal age to eliminate pacifier use. Expert opinions also vary greatly (visit:http://www.asha.org/About/news/Press-Releases/2010/pacifier-speech-skills.htm).

Removing the pacifier before your child is ready can create a great source of anxiety. Most children give up their pacifiers on their own, and when they are ready, before they go to school.

 Benefits

 Babies have an innate desire for non-nutritive sucking, but the need for continued sucking can linger for years because it provides the following benefits:

Gives rise to feelings of well-being and contentment.

  • Offers emotional security during periods of isolation or separation from the parent (e.g. during naps and at bedtime).
  • Provides comfort when unwell or distressed.
  • Triggers the calming reflex, which induces sleep.
  • Provides temporary distraction in stressful situations.
  • Prevents finger or thumb sucking.

Sucking on a pacifier is a much healthier means of seeking comfort than eating a packet of crisps! However, pacifiers also have pitfalls. The drawbacks may include:

  • Interference with breastfeeding and milk production in the first 3 to 4 weeks after birth.
  • Night-time crying when the pacifier falls out of the child’s mouth.
  • Increased risk of middle ear infections after 6 months-old (continuous sucking allows secretions from the throat to seep into the middle ear).
  • Skin irritation from excess saliva that may collect behind the base.
  • Contamination by bacteria if not washed or sterilised frequently – latex pacifiers are more significantly colonized with Candida andStaphylococcus than silicone pacifiers.
  • Possible teeth misalignment and/or speech delays from consistent or prolonged use.
  • Dependency on the pacifier.
  • Difficulty in breaking the habit.

In 2006, the International Journal of Orthodontics, and the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association, argued that prolonged use of a pacifier could negatively affect speech skills by interfering with the development of tongue tip movement needed for the production of certain sounds. Instead of making an attempt to use sounds and words, the child may point to objects to have their needs and wants met.

Pacifier use after 4 years-old has been associated with a higher incidence of dental problems (http://www.aafp.org/afp/2009/0415/p681.html). However, thumb or finger-sucking can also alter tongue and teeth positioning. Even slight alterations can affect speech production.

Currently, about 75% of pre-school children in Western countries use a pacifier. Therefore, you can take comfort from the fact that you are not alone. You may wish to consider an orthodontic pacifier, which can help reduce dental problems than a traditional round one (for more information, visit: http://www.aapd.org/assets/1/25/Adair-14-01.pdf).

If you do have concerns, seek the advice of a dental specialist, who will recommend techniques to help your child break the habit. Early orthodontic management may prevent more extensive treatment later on.

Breaking the habit

Methods may include distraction with activities, toys and other objects of affection, putting unpalatable substances on the pacifier, cutting it short to reduce sucking satisfaction, restricting use to bedtime only or stopping the habit abruptly. Social pressure when the child goes to school can also put a stop to the habit. However, the pacifier may be replaced by the fingers or thumb.

Some parents find that agreeing with the child to donate the pacifier to the dummy fairy or to the Christmas elves works best. They will be sure to find a good home with a child who really needs it.

 

By Dr. Lin Day: www.babysensory.com

Baby Foundations classes cover everything you need to know about your baby before and after the birth including pacifier use and alternative techniques to soothe and comfort your newborn baby.

Visit: www.babysensory.com/en/babyfoundations