How might non nutritional sucking protect from sudden infant death syndrome

Bruno Zavala Abed, Sabrina Oneto, Alexandre R. Abreu, Alejandro D. Chediak

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Epidemiology has identified an association between the use of pacifiers and protection from sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). The use of pacifiers for SIDS prevention fails to gain adoption partly because there is no widely accepted physiologic mechanism to explain the epidemiologic association. Additionally, the scientific literature available on pacifier use focuses largely on the probable adverse effects. We hypothesize that pacifier use and all other forms of non-nutritional sucking (specifically digit sucking, also known as thumb sucking) is a life saving defense mechanism meant to splint open and stabilize the collapsible portion of the upper airway in infants. The main objective of this review article is to propose a mechanism to explain how pacifiers might help prevent SIDS. If the medical community accepts this mechanism, it can help promote pacifier use by the public and potentially reduce the incidence of SIDS.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number109868
JournalMedical Hypotheses
StatePublished - Oct 2020


  • Digit sucking
  • Obstructive
  • Pacifier
  • Palate
  • Sleep apnea
  • Soft
  • Soother

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Medicine(all)


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