Objective: The risk of sudden infant death during sleep was postulated to decrease with the use of a pacifier and by conditions facilitating arousals from sleep. We evaluated the influence of a pacifier on arousal from sleep in healthy infants.
Study design: Fifty-six healthy infants were studied with polygraphy during 1 night; 36 infants used a pacifier regularly during sleep, and 20 never used a pacifier. Thumb users or occasional pacifier users were not included in the study. The infants were recorded at a median age of 10 weeks (range 6 to 19 weeks). To evaluate auditory arousal thresholds, the infants were exposed to white noise of increasing intensity during rapid eye movement sleep.
Results: Polygraphic arousals occurred at significantly lower auditory stimuli in pacifier users than in nonusers (P =.010). Compared with nonusers, pacifier users were more frequently bottle-fed than breast-fed (P =. 036). Among infants sleeping without a pacifier, breast-fed infants had lower auditory thresholds than bottle-fed infants (P =.049).
Conclusions: Infants using pacifiers during sleep had lower auditory arousal thresholds than those who did not use a pacifier during sleep. Breast-feeding could be a further factor contributing to lower arousal thresholds. These findings could be relevant to the occurrence of sudden infant deaths during sleep.