Pacifiers can have many benefits, including reduced risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), shorter hospital stays for preterm infants, and a calming effect on the child. Pacifiers may also lead to ear infections in children, several studies suggest.

One study conducted at the University of Oulu in Finland found that infants who continuously sucked on a pacifier had higher rates of ear infections. Researchers are not totally sure why using a pacifier leads to more infections. One theory is that the sucking may alter the pressure in the Eustachian tubes, which connects the inner ear to the nose and throat. Another theory is that the continuous sucking brings up bacteria from the throat into the ear canal, causing it to become infected. Some doctors simply believe that the pacifier is a harbinger for bacteria and causes the infections by bringing loads of bacteria into the child’s body.

The study researchers recommend starting to wean a child off of the pacifier after 6 months, using occasionally to soothe the child to sleep, and discontinuing use after 10 months. For children who are prone to ear infections, some doctors recommend discontinuing pacifier use altogether as soon as possible.

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