Breastfeeding and Pacifiers

The Pros and Cons of Pacifier Use In Breastfed Babies

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Is It Ok To Give A Pacifier To A Breastfed Baby?

The use of pacifiers in breastfed babies is controversial. There are so many strong opinions both for and against it but, ultimately it's a personal decision. Each child is different, with unique needs and abilities. Some babies can go back and forth between breastfeeding and a pacifier without any problems while others will develop a preference for one or the other.

Premature infants and babies with colic or an overactive desire for non-nutritive sucking may benefit from the use of a pacifier. However, pacifiers can be very problematic for newborns, sleepy babies, and infants who have difficulty nursing. The use of a pacifier could also affect your milk supply if your baby isn't breastfeeding as much as he normally would because he is using the pacifier instead.

You and your partner will know your child best. Together, you can determine if using a pacifier is right for your situation and your baby. You can also consult your baby's doctor to help you make that decision.

The Pros of Pacifier Use

  • The use of a pacifier has been shown to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
  • Pacifiers can help to soothe a baby with reflux or colic.
  • Premature babies who use a pacifier may gain more weight and leave the hospital sooner.
  • The use of a pacifier may be comforting to your child during stressful or painful situations.
  • Many babies have a need to suck even when they are not hungry. A pacifier can satisfy the desire for non-nutritive sucking.
  • Pacifiers are helpful during travel on an airplane. Sucking can relieve painful pressure in the middle ear.

The Cons of Pacifier Use

  • The early use of a pacifier can interfere with the development of your milk supply. The more your baby nurses, the more it triggers your body to produce breast milk. If your baby sucks on the pacifier instead of nursing, it could have a negative effect on the amount of milk that you make. This could also lead to weight loss issues in your child.
  • Some studies show that the use of a pacifier is linked to an increased risk of ear infections.
  • Pacifier use may lead to early weaning.
  • Sucking on a pacifier could further tire out a sleepy baby making breastfeeding more difficult.
  • Younger babies who use pacifiers tend to cry when the pacifier falls out of their mouths. You will have to keep putting it back in. Babies who do not use pacifiers often find other ways to soothe themselves by sucking on their hands, fists or fingers.
  • The overuse of a pacifier during the day could prevent your baby from getting enough milk at daytime feedings. This can cause the baby to wake up more often during the night to eat.
  • The long-term use of a pacifier can cause some problems with your child's teeth.
  • Children can become very attached to their pacifiers. It may be difficult for your child to give up using the pacifier when the time comes.

If You Choose To Use A Pacifier

Many recent studies show that pacifier use should no longer be discouraged in breastfed infants. However, it is recommended to wait to introduce a pacifier to a healthy, full-term infant until breastfeeding is going well and your milk supply has been established. This would be at approximately 4 to 8 weeks after your baby is born.

If you do decide to use a pacifier, be sure to use it safely.

General Pacifier Safety

Avoid pacifiers that are not one continuous piece. Two-piece pacifiers can become a choking a hazard if they separate.

Clean your child's pacifiers every day to prevent thrush or bacterial infections from developing. Follow the manufacturer's instructions for proper care. Some pacifiers can be cleaned in the dishwasher, or you can wash them with warm, soapy water and rinse them well.

Never hang a pacifier around your baby's neck or use any kind of string or ribbon to tie the pacifier to the crib, car seat, stroller or infant seat. Your baby could become strangled in any type of cord that is within his reach.

Do not use the nipple from a bottle as a pacifier. It is not safe and may cause your baby to choke.

Many brands of pacifiers specify the size of the pacifier for the age of the baby. Use the proper size pacifier for your baby. An older child could choke on a newborn pacifier since the entire pacifier may fit into the older child's mouth.

Check the pacifier for signs of wear and breakdown regularly. Replace them when they become discolored, broken or damaged.

When your child begins to get teeth, take him to the dentist for regular exams. Talk to the dentist about your child's pacifier use and discuss the age at which he recommends pacifier use to end.


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