Why do pacifiers work?

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Why do pacifiers work?

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They satisfy the infant’s need to suck in order to self-soothe. They obviously don’t provide any nutrition like breast or bottle, but the suckling action has a calming effect nonetheless.

A lot of babies who aren’t offered a pacifier chose to suck their thumb for the same reason.

The pacifier simulates sucking on a nipple. This is calming because babies are programmed to find “sucking on a nipple” to be great since that’s how they get food.

How did this programming happen? Evolution. Any babies that randomly happened to enjoy suckling more would have gotten more food and grown up bigger and stronger, while any babies that were uninterested in suckling starved and grew up weak or just died in infancy. Fast forward a few million years and we’re all descended from the babies that had a strong instinct for suckling.

So put a nipple-like thing in a baby’s mouth and it thinks it’s suckling. Its brain gives it a nice serotonin/dopamine hit for doing a good behaviour and it calms down.

(This is a lot like adults masturbating. Your body thinks you’re doing sex and gives some reward chemicals, using a system that evolved to make us want to do sex, because any bloodlines that *don’t* care about sex are more likely to get bred out of the population and die off.)