CINCINNATI - While pacifiers can save the day when your little one is fussy, new research could have parents thinking twice about always turning to the pacifier, especially for baby boys.
A University of Wisconsin-Madison study in the journal Basic and Applied Social Psychology finds that pacifiers may stunt the emotional development of baby boys by not allowing them the opportunity to make facial expressions during infancy. Researchers say a baby is less able to mirror those expressions and the emotions they represent with a pacifier in its mouth.
"By reflecting what another person is doing, you create some part of the feeling yourself," Paula Niedenthal, a professor of psychology at UW–Madison and lead author of the study, said in a news release. "That's one of the ways we understand what someone is feeling — especially if they seem angry, but they're saying they're not; or they're smiling, but the context isn't right for happiness."
The researchers found that 6- and 7-year-old boys who spent more time with pacifiers in their mouths as children were less likely to mimic the expressions shown to them in a video.
"Probably not all pacifier use is bad at all times, so how much is bad and when?" Niedenthal said in the release. "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."
But even with more research planned to further explain the new results, Niedenthal is comfortable telling parents to consider occasionally pocketing the pacifier.
To read more information on the study go to: http://www.news.wisc.edu/releases/17545
Copyright 2012 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.