Pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups: Handle with care
May 14th, 2012
12:01 AM ET

Pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups: Handle with care

When babies are on the verge of walking, their parents know it's high time to baby-proof the house or apartment. But in all the preparations, they may forget to baby-proof their child as well - not by wrapping their little one in bubble-wrap, but by removing potentially dangerous objects from their child's mouth.  

Pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups serve an important purpose in calming and feeding a child but used improperly, they can also hurt a child.

In a study published Monday in the journal Pediatrics, researchers looked at data from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System and reviewed 20 years of records of children age 3 and under, who were treated in emergency rooms across the country.

Between 1991 and 2010, they found 45,398 children were treated for injuries that involved pacifiers, bottles and sippy cups - that's about 2,270 cases per year.

In 86% of the cases, falling down contributed to the injury and two-thirds (65.8%) of the accidents involved bottles. One in five (19.9%) injured children had a pacifier in their mouth, and in 14.3% of the cases, a sippy cup was involved.

Some of the reported injuries included lacerations to the mouth, cuts and bruises to the lip or tongue and a variety of dental injuries.

"Teeth were either knocked out, chipped, pushed back up into the gums or knocked sideways," says Sarah Keim, lead study author and a researcher at the Center for Biobehavioral Health at The Research Institute at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Columbus, Ohio.

The study also found that one-year-old children were injured the most often.

Dr. Garry Gardner is a pediatrician in Chicago and chairs the Injury, Violence and Poison Control committee for the American Academy of Pediatrics. He's not surprised by the results of this study, especially that the majority of children injured were about 1-year-old.

"They toddle along and they're not very coordinated and it's amazing to see these kids trip over nothing - and they do it all the time."

If there's anything in a child's mouth, he says, it's going to cause an injury to the mouth or hurt a tooth.

Dr. Joanna Cohen, a pediatric emergency medicine specialist at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, says the study results are pretty consistent with what she sees in their emergency department.

"Usually these injuries seem to be minor lacerations in the face... or minor facial trauma."

Keim points out that fears of BPA and other chemicals in plastic bottles has led to a renaissance for glass bottles, which can add another layer to the types of injuries toddlers can sustain.

The researchers believe this is the first study to provide a nationwide picture about how many of these injuries occur. Keim points out that the data only reflects the number of children who were actually taken to an emergency room. It doesn't include any visits to the pediatrician, dentist or Dr. "Mom" or Dr. "Dad."

When should you take your child to the ER? Cohen says if the injury is "a deeper laceration that might require sutures, or an associated dental injury," or if the child hurts his or her head in any way.

It's impossible for any parent to keep an eye on their child every second of their waking hours.  But there are some simple steps that can help parents reduce the number of these types of injuries.

Keim, who is also a mom has this sage advice: "Getting your child in the habit of drinking while seated rather than walking around can help prevent some of the injuries."

She also refers to the AAP guidelines, which recommend transitioning your child from a bottle or sippy cup at about 12 months of age and teaching your child to drink from a cup without a lid.

The AAP already recommends weaning your baby off a pacifier in the second 6 months of life to reduce the risk of middle ear infections.

Keim and Gardner both make the point that if toddlers no longer use a pacifier by the time they start walking and running, a parent doesn't have to deal with taking it away from them to reduce the risk of injury.

Another benefit to not having your child attached to a bottle or sippy cup for long periods of time: You reduce your child's chance of getting cavities.

Gardner adds one more reminder: "Kids shouldn't run around with food in their mouth either."  That's just adding the risk of choking. He points parents to the AAP's website healthychildren.org for additional advice and parenting tips.

soundoff (134 Responses)
  1. Jen

    Some kids are just clumsier than others. My nephew is 15 months and he never falls. My daughter is 3 1/2 years old and she's always falling and tripping because she jumps so much. Even trips over her own feet alot. She's a clutz.

    May 14, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Karen

      If she really is clumsy (and not just playing around), you might get her vision checked and an occupational therapy evaluation (available through school districts)–we found out our daughter had poor vision with almost no depth perception and weak torso muscles/fine motor skills at age 4–it was a suprise. She was also very clumsy, but very active. Good Luck!

      May 14, 2012 at 16:03 | Report abuse |
  2. Argonaut

    Birth...it's a terminal illness.

    May 14, 2012 at 14:20 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. anna

    I think there is nothing worse than seeing a 2year old or older walking with a pacifier in their mouths.

    And by that age too they should be drinking from a cup.

    May 14, 2012 at 14:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Really?

    Next Report: Children Scrape Knees on Sidewalks at Alarming Rates!

    May 14, 2012 at 14:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  5. Janet

    This is the most ridiculous thing I have ever read.

    May 14, 2012 at 15:33 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Really2?

    I agree with Really?. Every one of my kids had their umbilical cords cut at birth, how do we stop this madness???

    May 14, 2012 at 15:34 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. The Truth

    My Grandmother's and Mom's rule, pacifiers are only to help get a baby to sleep and for nothing else and should be gone before 18 months. Anything else is overuse and in turn makes the baby/child dependent/addicted to it.

    Nowadays I see kids that have to be at least 3 walking around with them in their mouths. Those parents are failures. Thats right, there may be no correct way in raising a child but there are wrong ways. A walking child with a pacifier is a clear sign the child is in control and the parents took the easy road instead of what is best for the child.

    May 14, 2012 at 15:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  8. Exma

    Breastfeed your children until they go to school...no accidents with sippy cups, pacifiers and binkies, no allergies, no orthodontic bills, and all this breastfeeding experts rave about. Problem solved. CNN, who ever wrote this should get fired. You could ask my grandma to write common sense articles.

    May 14, 2012 at 15:57 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cynthia

      Ahhh, no thanks. Each person has their own ideas, I breast fed my daughter, but when the teeth started arriving, she was weaned!!! At 34 she is a happy, healthy, well-adjusted success. She hasn't suffered medically or emotionally.

      May 14, 2012 at 16:06 | Report abuse |
    • Exma

      Cynthia, please read my message again. It was meant to be sarcastic: I breastfeed my kids until they were 10 years old, I burp them up too afterwards. The lady from Time magazine is phony, that should have been me! Her breasts are look too nice and not sagging to be breastfeeding all those years!

      May 15, 2012 at 06:00 | Report abuse |
  9. cynthia

    When my daughter was little she was in love with her 'gar' (her word for pacifier), we never left the house without a few, clean 'gars' in a bag. She slept better with her 'gar' AND this was one of the happiest babies ever!! Not just my opinion, she would show it everyday in all her actions. She had her 'gar' in her mouth all the time, if she liked you she would 'offer' to share...We were a little worried about the day she started getting teeth and the pacifier would have to go, to avoid bite problems. Well, one day SHE decided no more, took the 'gar' out, gave it to me and that was the end of that. If parents' are ignoring those 'signals' for their own purposes (easier), it's selfish, but don't push a little person to stop something they are so attached to, we wouldn't handle it well, why should children be any different just because they are smaller??

    May 14, 2012 at 16:04 | Report abuse | Reply
  10. Sheila

    So how come they are still allowed to sell binkies, bottles and sippy cups. Things that cause far fewer accidents are taken off the market immediately.

    May 14, 2012 at 16:14 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kitty

      Because its common sense to not run with something in your mouth. Pacifiers were meant to soothe a baby, not to act as a cork to shut the baby up, bottles are meant to feed babies, do you run and eat at the same time? A sippy cup is used to drink from, not for them to run and drink at the same time. It is NOT the companies fault that parents are to stupid and to lazy to teach there kids common sense. Did neither of your parents teach you NOT to run with scissors??

      May 15, 2012 at 09:37 | Report abuse |
  11. doc

    this is a sick article and sick people will adjust their lives and toddlers lives to these kind of stupid research and a waste of my time your time and our money.........you know what? why don't you breast feed them as was hyped all over TIME magazine!!!!
    or, just bring back the glass bottle and throw away the"sissy cups"!!!! better yet-do some better parenting!!!!!!
    i have been a flight physician for 20+ years. i never saw or heard of an accident in all my life taking care of and operating kids all my life!!!!!! those children are perfectly healthy and not spoiled.......

    May 14, 2012 at 16:24 | Report abuse | Reply
  12. upstateny

    OMG...isn't this just common sense. It's kind of running around with a pair of scissors. When I was a baby my mother used glass bottles (no other choice), she either used common sense or she didn't give a crap about me. She also had enough sense to wean us all off the bottle from 18-24 months. She let us have our favorite stuffed animal or blanket when we went to sleep and that's where it stayed (unless we were sick) she didn't let us carry around the house, in the car store, etc. Whatever...I think alot of today's problem is that parent's find it easier just to give in or feel guilty when the childr cries for their binky or bottle/sippy cup.

    May 14, 2012 at 17:11 | Report abuse | Reply
    • Kitty

      Agreed! None of my kids used a pacifier, and they all stopped using a bottle at a year and started using a sippy cup, which they were taught to keep at the table. I never had to worry about them running around with things in there mouths. Apparently "not running with things in your mouth" is no longer common sense if they needed a news article about it. Sad times..

      May 15, 2012 at 09:40 | Report abuse |
    • anon

      I AGREE!!!! We grew up in the 1960's – did not have all this plastic stuff, did not have to breast feed till we were ready to begin kindergarten, and were not pacified with objects in our mouths. We had favorite "stuffies" or "blankies" while sleeping. Our parents watched us, and we ate at the table, not all over the house or town. We are alive today. ( -:

      May 15, 2012 at 11:50 | Report abuse |
  13. Katie

    Ah yes, the overprotective parent and the article that nutures insecurity.

    First of all, can we adults stop calling things by the names babies have placed on them? Let the kid call it a binkie, but the parent should use the correct term. There's nothing worse IMHO than an entire family talking baby talk especially after anyone in the house is a baby.

    Second of all, there shouldn't be any hard and fast rule about when to do or to stop whatever is going on. If a pacifier is something that calms a baby down, no parent should feel guilty because their child uses one at the age of three. (We had a thumb-sucker, and he probably did it while he was developing in the womb. Try taking that away!!) Allow a parent to trust their common sense – I'll bet they'll figure out really quickly that a kid just walking around with a bottle hanging from his mouth isn't eating or drinking, so time to take the bottle and tell the kid he can have it back if he's going to sit down and use it.

    And for God's sakes – accidents happen. Sometimes a kid falls. Sometimes a kid gets a bump or a bruise or a cut. You can't shield them from everything. You can watch them, you can be with them, you can let them know what kind of behavior is appropriate when or where they are, but accidents happen. Articles like these just make parents feel guilty and inadequate.

    May 14, 2012 at 17:12 | Report abuse | Reply
  14. wathhl

    I thought it said bikinis and bottles...

    May 14, 2012 at 17:27 | Report abuse | Reply
    • cpc65

      I am sure you are far from alone. I was curious myself and was looking for some hot beach photos. Letdown!

      May 14, 2012 at 17:50 | Report abuse |
  15. AJD13

    A kid can get hurt with just about anything. It's just life. Things that can cause major injuries or life threatening injuries I can see devoting a whole article to, but this, no. My son who's 3 was playing one of those plastic recorders the other day. He went to follow his dad inside while playing it. My husband didn't see him behind him and closed the door just as my son got there and the end of the flute hit the door and caused the flute to give him a little cut on the roof of his mouth. No biggie, had him rinse his mouth out with water, gave him a cold drink and some kid's ibuprofen. He was fine. A kid could trip over their own feet and fall on a hardwood floor or hit their mouth on the edge of a piece of furniture and chip a tooth or cut their mouth or lip open too. Do we get rid of all our furniture or wrap them in all in bubble wrap and cover every square inch of our hardwood floors with squishy mats? Kids get hurt, that's just life. Guess they couldn't think of anything better to write an article about today and needed to fill the space. BTW, where in the heck are people getting glass bottles from nowadays? I've never seen one in any store and most of the plastic bottles now are labeled BPA free.

    May 14, 2012 at 19:47 | Report abuse | Reply
  16. mmi16

    It's not how many times you fall – it's how many times you get up and keep going!

    May 15, 2012 at 03:49 | Report abuse | Reply
  17. djw17

    I don't normally comment on these things, but I found this to be rather ridiculous and it reminded me of a book I once read called "The Culture of Fear". In it the author discusses how the media and/or government takes stories and blows them completely out of proportion in order to scare the general population. The numbers here are simply astounding. An average of 2270 cases per year out of the 76.1 million children gives a percentage of .003%! (Not .3%, but actually .003%.) How can this even be a "news" story?!?!

    May 15, 2012 at 09:14 | Report abuse | Reply
  18. anon

    Children and babies should be fed at the table, and monitored while doing so! They should not have something in their mouths while running or crawling around! Each parent has the right to use any "feeding" or "pacifying" device they choose, i.e., "binky," plastic bottle (although I would vote for BPA free), glass bottle, breast feeding.

    I agree, this article is absolutely ridiculous.

    May 15, 2012 at 11:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  19. Mallory

    I dont think binkies are dangerous unless they are being used completely unsupervised.

    May 21, 2012 at 15:07 | Report abuse | Reply
  20. Jon

    Actually saw a kid one time ask his mother for his "paci" in the store...he had to been at least 3. When you have to ask for it, it's time to give it up.

    May 30, 2012 at 18:38 | Report abuse | Reply
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