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Pacifier Use Can Damage Emotional Development In Baby Boys [Study]

Boys may suffer emotionally from pacifier use

A new study found that the emotional development of baby boys may be damaged if they use pacifiers because the common device actually stops infants from experimenting with facial expressions when they are very young.

University of Wisconsin-Madison researchers performed three separate investigations into how pacifier use damages the emotional development in babies. The trial is the first of its kind to link psychological outcomes to pacifier use, reports Medical News Today.

As mimicry of body language, facial expressions, and movement helps babies learn to express their own emotions; pacifiers play a role in hindering a baby’s learning in this area, providing parents with yet another reason to limit pacifier use.

“We can talk to infants,” said Paula Niedenthal, lead author of the study, “But at least initially they aren’t going to understand what the words mean. So the way we communicate with infants at first is by using the tone of our voice and our facial expressions.”

The study showed that men of college age who reported using pacifiers when they were babies scored lower on common emotional intelligence tests than those who did not or who didn’t use pacifiers much. Curiously, girls are not hindered by the pacifier due to potentially developing earlier, differently, or regardless of pacifier use.

“What’s impressive about this is the incredible consistency across those three studies in the pattern of data. There’s no effect of pacifier use on these outcomes for girls, and there’s a detriment for boys with length of pacifier use even outside of any anxiety or attachment issues that may affect emotional development,” continued Niedenthal.

Interestingly, parental response to the study has been mostly negative.

“Parents hate to have this discussion,” said Niedenthal. “They take the results very personally. Now, these are suggestive results, and they should be taken seriously. But more work needs to be done.”

Still, Niedenthal says that pacifier use is not a bad thing; it’s just a matter of when:

“Probably not all pacifiers use is bad at all times, so how much is bad and when? We already know from this work that nighttime pacifier use doesn’t make a difference, presumably because that isn’t a time when babies are observing and mimicking our facial expressions anyway. It’s not learning time.”

She continued with some practical advice, empowering parents with discretion:

“I’d just be aware of inhibiting any of the body’s emotional representational systems. Since a baby is not yet verbal – and so much is regulated by facial expression – at least you want parents to be aware of that using something like a pacifier limits their baby’s ability to understand and explore emotions. And boys appear to suffer from that limitation.”

Do you have a baby boy? Does he use a pacifier?

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37 Responses to “Pacifier Use Can Damage Emotional Development In Baby Boys [Study]”

  1. Jenise Rauschek Miller

    This is a ridiculous article. Both of my sons had pacifiers. My youngest, especially, used his all the time. He is on a full academic scholarship in college. In high school, he was at the top of his class and an Illinois State Scholar. His first year of college, he made the Dean's list. My older son is happily married, a new father and has an excellent job where he just received a great promotion. Opinions expressed in this article are ludicrous.

  2. Kathy Marie Nowak

    This so-called study is stupid. Nothing better to do with your time huh? smh

  3. Donna Tarnef Pitzorella

    who does these stupid no sense studies,,, try to figure out how to feed the world, leave the babies alone,,, both my sons used binky's,, they are fine and very intelligent , I don't want to waste anymore of my time on this,,,

  4. Chris Musick

    My cat has a pacifier addiction, he will even open the cabinet door, or go in the sink to find them. Should I be worried about my cat's emotional development? by the way he don't just play with them he sucks on them. Please Help?

  5. Jamie Lechner

    They're called "dummies" for a reason. Neither of my children were allowed to use the nasty things and they are both well above their peers academically. Nothing saddens me more than seeing older kids (over age 1) with those nasty germy things stuffed in their faces!

  6. Angela O'Dell

    That has got to be the most stupid thing I have read all day.

  7. Jean Peterson

    What a stupid study this is, most babies need a pacifier even for a little while because it helps them soothe themselves. My kids all used them for a short time and they are all fine. I think this is yet another way for feminists to call men dumb, isn't it funny how it doesn't cause problems in women? Grow up and work on a real problem like hunger or being homeless.

  8. Kristine Fisher


  9. Charlene Jennings

    I let my children decide when or if they would use a pacifier. I introduced it early to my daughter because as my first child we had trouble with breastfeeding at first. She really only used it at night. Suddenly at about 6 months she refused to use it anymore. I tried to introduce it to my son but gave up at 6 months when I never found one he would take to. I personally believe that children's development is based on the parents. Pacifiers are what they are. Many people condemn the use of bottles, while I have had someone argue the negatives of breastfeeding. I know from experience that children, even babies will find a way to tell you what they want. So, no my son never used a pacifier, but he sucks on his fingers. Is there a study about that, because I don't care. LOL.

  10. Louise Reeves

    Sucking on pacifiers has NOTHING to do with intelligence. If they did, it would be fairly obvious you had one. My twins both were gifted, are both doing great in college and the girl didn't use one, the boy did. Suck on THAT for awhile…

  11. Jamie Lechner

    I see them as lazy and detrimental to the formation of their mouths. It's been proven to negatively affect teeth, speech and cause emotional issues. Sorry but my kids deserve better than that. Guess yours didn't. Not my problem. Sounds like someone is feeling a lil guilty for not being a better parent.

  12. Amy Gill

    What you are describing is two instances, they are testing in large numbers and their results are based on the majority not the exception and not the small percentage that are not affected. They are not saying that your boys aren't going to lead great and wonderful lives. What they are saying is that when it is learning time parents might want to remember what was stated here and limit the use of the pacifier during that time so as to help their sons emotional growth. There is nothing wrong with that, is there?

  13. Louise Reeves

    you are? don't feel guilty, you didn't know any better…

  14. Heather Johnson

    Also, you are confusing intelligence with emotional development.

  15. Heather Johnson

    My daughter does not use a pacifier. However, one anecdotal story does not evidence make.

  16. Heather Johnson

    Intelligence is not the same as emotional development.

  17. Heather Johnson

    Emotional development is not the same as intelligence. However, you are correct in stating that pacifiers negatively impact the physical development of the mouth.

  18. Donna Tarnef Pitzorella

    my children are adults with children and they are very emotionally stable,,and they sucked their thumbs and a pacifier,,,next

  19. Donna Tarnef Pitzorella

    guess nursed babies are confused adult,,,there's another study for ya,,,

  20. Tony Storino Sr.

    So,these people have to much time and money to waste on studies like this? Why don't they put it to better use.I'm going to check out the official results now,from a study on how long it takes for a bottle of hienz ketchup to empty out…unbelievable!

  21. Anne Kerney Valencia

    Can't say as I agree with this. My son wa adopted and the hospital gave him a pacifier whle he was in the nursery. He's 10 now and there is nothing wrong with him.

  22. Jamie Lechner

    No child NEEDS a dummie to learn to soothe themselves. That's sort of backwards anyway. SELF-soothing would be WITHOUT the use of an outside item.

  23. Jamie Lechner

    What a mature adult thing to say. I hope your children know better or they'll be jailbirds just as you should be by your choices.

  24. Sylva Smith

    Can't stand to see these things sticking in any kid's face! My son never used one… my mother tried and he spit it out. End of that. I especially dislike seeing kids with chapped cheeks from using these sooo much. Terrible! Lazy parents just trying to shut the kid up.

  25. Carol Gernon Hunter

    MOST babies do NOT need a rubber, commercially produced and marketed breast substitute. ALL babies need mother's breast. Which was created to be a substitute for which? And why?

  26. Jenise Rauschek Miller

    I feel emotional development is absolutely enhanced by the pacifier. The world is a difficult place to navigate, there are levels of stress involved even for small children. I feel the pacifier is a comforting emotional aid. Whatever means a child develops to combat stress, should be embraced by parents. Feeling comfortable and secure is huge for emotional development. Giving your children love and guidance nourishes their emotional growth. A pacifier does not figure into this equation.

  27. Jenise Rauschek Miller

    Amy Gill @ Amy: When you say "learning time" I'm not sure what you are referring to. For an infant or toddler "learning time" is whenever they are awake. They absorb information like sponges at this age. Every situation is (or should be) construed as a "learning time". @ Heather: Intelligence you are born with. It can be expanded, but the seeds are already present (or absent) at birth. Emotional developments are learned by bonding with your parents and observing how they act or react in certain situations. Whether or not they have a pacifier during these times makes no difference.

  28. Marge Fisher Pisauro

    It's amazing the bullshit they come up with these days!

  29. Erica Miller

    Children have a limited capacity to manage stress and anxiety. The early years of a child's life are the years in which the brain is still developing very rapidly, which means the brain is particularly sensitive to environmental influences.

    If a child in distress is not allowed access to the mechanism he finds most comforting, his brain will produce excess cortisol and adrenaline. Since a toddler's brain is still developing, a high concentration of cortisol and adrenaline carried across a long enough timeline can impact the structure of his brain in a way that will affect him for the rest of his life.

    I'm guessing that hitting a child is much more likely to damage him than allowing him access to a source of comfort. In fact, I'd be willing to wager that if you were to go to a prison this afternoon and conduct a question and answer session with the inmates, the bulk of them (if not all of them) would tell you they were subjected to corporal punishment as children. I'm not sure very many of them would say, "You know, when I was two, my mom let me keep my pacifier, and it really messed me up."

  30. Kristine Fisher

    Paul had the pacifier, Liz had her thumb – I bet most of these asses don't even have or like kids!!

  31. Jamie Lechner

    I just KNEW I couldn't be alone in thinking so! They are nasty germ-infested mouth deformers. I cannot believe people shove them on their children. It's so sad.

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