Pacifiers and Breastfeeding

A big thanks to the mamas on the Waynesboro Breastfeeding Circle for helping me put this one together.

We all know babies have an innate need to suck that they are born with. Whether you are breastfeeding or bottle feeding, you will discover very soon after birth that your baby will want and need to suck quite a lot.

We also know that babies have a need for nutritive as well as non-nutritive sucking. In laymen’s terms, sometimes they want to suck to eat, and sometimes they want to suck just for comfort.

So, along the line, some tired mom or maybe some clever doctor came up with the idea to create an artificial nipple for babies to suck on. You can Google the history of the pacifier and find quite a bit of interesting information. First documented pacifier? A corn cob. It gave mama a little rest from nursing all the time. Over time, people used rags, bits of rubber, even silver to make something for baby to suck on.

There is quite a lot of evidence to suggest that pacifier use can interfere with breastfeeding, especially in the early days. You might be wondering whether it’s a good idea to use one. After all, something that can get your sweet baby to sleep a little longer, fuss a little less, and generally be happier, can’t be a bad idea.

So I did a very unscientific poll among the moms on the Waynesboro Breastfeeding Circle Facebook page, just to let me know what their experiences with pacifiers was. Here’s what they had to say:

Kelsey: Pacifiers: offered a nuk around 6 weeks. Not a taker. Took a Wubbanub around 6 weeks for only about 3 weeks. Never messed with a paci again & used me instead….and still does….erg…. (17mos).

Melanie: my older daughters stopped taking a pacifier around the same time that they stopped taking a bottle at 3 months. Beforehand they weren’t picky at all, but I tried all the brands and they wouldn’t take any. My two month old daughter started taking a pacifier a few weeks ago and it works wonders when she is fussy and tired. I have a playtex one that is supposed to mimic a real nipple and is in a cylinder shape. It was from about four years ago when my older daughters were little, so I have no idea if they even make it anymore!

Erika: My LO would only use MAM at first, now she will use that or nuk. She started taking them around a week because I was getting NO sleep with her needing to constantly be latched.

Desiree: We didn’t desire to introduce pacifiers to babies so to prevent nipple confusion. However, around 5 months I introduced pacifiers to both babies and they would use them to play with. They did use them from time to time to pacify with but they were mostly for play. I only purchased two for each child and it was the Soothie type. I chose both bottle (rarely used) and pacifiers according to which was most like me

Andrea: We didn’t try to use one until after 4 weeks old, but my son never really took one even when we tried. He sucked his thumb for awhile though. Now he is two and the thumb sucking has stopped on its own. We are still nursing and he is a frequent nurser. There were times I wished he’d take a pacifier but I’ve gotten used to being his comfort when needed. He won’t always need me this way.

Heather: Mine wouldn’t take one until about 6 weeks. Thats when we started introducing bottles. After she got used to the bottles she is much better at the pacifier now…except she only likes soothies

Brandi: I gave my LO a bink when he was 2 days old. All he wanted to was nurse & I couldn’t take it. He takes the gumdrop & the soothie. He never had a problem latching on & now that he is 4 months he will sometimes just play with it, more like a teething toy

Jennifer: I’ve breastfed all my babies and also ebf the last 2. We always use MAM never once did we have nipple confusion. I gave paci since birth! They were our savior!! All my kiddos had them until 3 and teeth were all fine!

So you can see, lots of mamas find them really helpful, and don’t seem to find them to interfere. So why do we really freak out about it?

Lots of pacifiers tout their similarity to mom’s design, saying they are the least likely to cause nipple confusion. But has anyone else notice that…. they basically all make that claim? The truth is that there is no real substitute for mom. So are pacifiers going to keep your baby from latching well? Well… the short answer… maybe.

There are going to be plenty of breastfeeding mother-baby dyads in which the use of a pacifier has absolutely no bearing on breastfeeding whatsoever. Baby will be fine, mom will have enough milk, there will be no nipple confusion, and the baby will have this excellent mechanism for soothing the need to suck and calming in general. Bonus – it may be linked to lower rates of SIDS.

But then…

Sometimes it’s a trap. SOMETIMES, pacifier use can completely undermine your latch. You will want to really reconsider pacifier use if:

* You are experiencing a struggle establishing supply

* You have nipple pain

* You struggle to keep your baby latched

* Your baby lost a significant amount of weight after birth

* Your baby is not gaining weight rapidly enough

Pacifying on an artificial nipple can trick a hungry baby into calming down when she would otherwise have nursed. It can make a baby’s mouth more used to the sucking movements she uses on a pacifier which may in turn make her latch on the nipple more shallow.

So should you use one? It’s a really really personal decision, but my personal recommendation is to wait AT LEAST two weeks, or the establishment of a terrific deep latch, whichever comes LATER. Lots of experts say a month. I think if your latch is great, two weeks may be a perfectly acceptable time to give a pacifier. But if you give one, and the latch starts to deteriorate, eliminate the use at least temporarily. You can always bring it back, but I promise you that establishing your latch will make you happier in the long run than the immediate relief a pacifier may bring.

Be careful, be discerning, and go with your gut. And by all means, do everything you need to do to protect your latch.

Questions? Contact Megan

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