A pacifier is an artificial nipple designed for babies to suck on for comfort.
Infants have an intense need to suck that is separate from their need to eat. Fetuses may suck their thumbs before they are born, and some newborns begin to suck immediately. Infants suck when they are tired, bored, or in need of comfort. Some babies have a stronger need to suck than others and—next to eating and being held—sucking may provide the most comfort to an infant. Babies who do not suck their thumbs or fingers often rely on pacifiers.
In Western societies 75 to 85 percent of children use pacifiers. Hospital nurseries commonly give them to newborns. Premature infants seem to grow better when they suck on pacifiers. Professionals refer to a pacifier as a transitional object that helps children adjust to new situations and relieves stress.
Most infants cry because they do not yet have methods for soothing themselves. Some newborns do not have the coordination to suck their fingers or thumb. Although breastfeeding is the most effective way to calm infants, and their hands or thumbs can be placed in their mouths, pacifiers can be very helpful for discontented babies who cannot or will not suck their thumbs or fingers.
Margaret Alic PhD, Thomson Gale, Gale, Detroit,