The Health Ministry will soon prepare an advisory on the use of pacifiers (dummies), which have been shown to be linked to a significantly lower risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) according to a recent California study.
Prof. Yona Amitai, head of the ministry's Department of Child, Adolescent and Mother's Health, commented to The Jerusalem Post after reading the research article that the scientific evidence was convincing enough to recommend pacifiers for small babies, but would be "put in perspective" in instructions to doctors and nurses, given their possible negative side effects.
The current online edition of the British Medical Journal published the study by researchers at the Kaiser Permanente Health Fund of Southern California and the US National Institute of Child Health and Human Development. The researchers interviewed the mothers or caregivers of 185 children who died of SIDS, and compared them with 312 randomly selected controls matched for race, ethnicity and age.
Controlling for factors involved in SIDS, such as parental smoking and sleeping prone (face-down) or on soft bedding, researchers found that the SIDS rate among babies with a pacifier in their mouths was 90 percent lower than in babies who did not use a pacifier. The reduced risk was consistent across a wide range of social and economic characteristics and risk factors examined.
Infants who sucked their thumbs also had a lower risk of SIDS, but pacifier use was linked with a reduced risk of SIDS regardless of whe ther the baby sucked its thumb.
The researchers stressed that their study was not proof of a "causal relationship" between pacifier use and SIDS risk, but that it provided "support for the protective effect of dummies... Use of a dummy is associated with a substantial reduction in the risk of SIDS.
"Our results also provide some evidence that use of a dummy may reduce the impact of other risk factors for SIDS, especially those related to adverse sleep conditions."
A symposium on pacifier use was held at the Hadassah-University Medical Center on Jerusalem's Mount Scopus in June of last year before evidence about SIDS reduction was released.
Doctors, dentists and other specialists said there were no statistics on how many Israeli babies regularly use a pacifier, and that estimates in the US ranged from three to seven out of 10 babies and toddlers.
Previous studies here and abroad have shown that giving a pacifier to premature babies in neonatal units does not affect the success of breastfeeding..