As a new mother, it’s natural to want to cater to your baby’s needs. So you may wonder, should you give your baby a pacifier? Is that something you should do to help comfort your baby? Sometimes, they may seem like they are nursing a lot, which is normal. This may be due to a growth spurt, cluster feeding, or just wanting to be comforted. Maybe they are in a different situation or sense stress. All of these circumstances are normal for your baby to want to breastfeed.
Giving your baby a pacifier has negative implications for their overall success with exclusively breastfeeding. A study published in a Turkish Pediatric Journal showed that “The use of pacifiers was associated with shortened duration of exclusive and of any breastfeeding.” However, there have been other studies that show contradictory evidence. Some research indicates pacifier use didn’t significantly affect the prevalence of the duration of breastfeeding up to 4 months of age.
The use of pacifiers may indicate underlying issues occurring with your breastfeeding relationship. Why do you need to give your baby a pacifier? Are you experiencing sore nipples? Is your baby hungry as a result of the pacifier use? Does your baby cry a lot? Is your baby having problems sleeping?
So instead of resorting to a pacifier to fix some of the mentioned issues, you should seek out a lactation counselor or consultant who can help you assess your breastfeeding situation. You can learn how to work with me here to get to the root cause of your issues, so you don’t have to rely on a pacifier!
Things to Consider Before You Give Your Baby a Pacifier
Your breastfed baby may be deterred from learning how to suckle correctly on your breast if you introduce a pacifier too soon. If your baby is struggling to learn how to breastfeed, your milk supply may suffer also. Ideally, you should not introduce any artificial nipple, including pacifiers, to your baby to ensure your baby learns how to suckle to maximize your milk production.
Here are some questions to consider before you consider using a pacifier.
- Is your breastfeeding relationship well established?
- Do you respond to your baby’s cues right away for feeding?
- Are you using a pacifier in place of a feeding?
- Are you breastfeeding 10-12 times in 24 hours, in no particular pattern? This is totally normal, by the way!
- Is your baby over 3-4 weeks of age?
- Is breastfeeding not an option?
The use of pacifiers has other negative consequences, including:
- Increased risk of diarrhea in your baby’s first three years
- Increased risk of repeated ear infections in your baby
- Nipple confusion caused by the use of pacifiers
- Issues with weight gain due to the pacifier use in place of a feeding session
- Decreased breast milk supply because you’re not putting your baby at your breast as often to trigger more milk production.
- Some babies are more prone to thrush, which is an oral yeast infection.
- Babies tend to wean earlier if they are using a pacifier because they are getting their sucking need met with the use of a pacifier. They no longer need your breast for food either because they are already eating solid foods by this point. So, it’s a better idea to ensure your baby’s sucking needs are being met by breastfeeding.
- Your chances of ovulation increase, and thus, menstruation may return earlier if your baby is using a pacifier in place of breastfeeding.
- Older babies still using pacifiers may experience speech issues and misalignment of their teeth
Benefits of Giving Your Baby a Pacifier
There are benefits to premature babies using pacifiers while in the hospital. Some of these benefits include an earlier hospital discharge and faster weight gain among tube-fed babies, in particular, due to the improved behavioral responses of sucking on a pacifier.
Research indicates the breastfeeding rates among premature babies using pacifiers were not affected (which is a good thing!).
The only benefit to giving your full-term baby a pacifier that I’ve encountered was published in the Academy of Pediatrics in 2012. The policy statement reads:
Given the documentation that early use of pacifiers may be associated with less successful breastfeeding, pacifier use in the neonatal period should be limited to specific medical situations. These include uses for pain relief, as a calming agent, or as part of structured program for enhancing oral motor function. Because pacifier use has been associated with a reduction in SIDS incidence, mothers of healthy term infants should be instructed to use pacifiers at infant nap or sleep time after breastfeeding is well established, at approximately 3 to 4 weeks of age.
If you choose to give your baby a pacifier, that is a personal choice between you and your family. Keep in mind, a baby breastfeeds to eat and suckle; both of these are associated with helping them feel calm and pacified. If you think you should give your baby a pacifier because they’re undergoing a painful procedure when breastfeeding isn’t an option, use it sparingly, and only after a breastfeeding journey is well established, after 3 to 4 weeks of age. As the website, KellyMom says, “The breast was the first pacifier and remains the best.”