Pacifiers and Breastfeeding – not a friendly combo

Believe it or not, pacifiers are little plastic evils that cause more damage than poor teeth alignment. It can shred your breastfeeding goals. Breast milk is the best food for your baby – not only is it the best nutrition for your infant, it has superb immunological and emotional benefits as well. Ideally, in the first 6 months of life your baby should not receive anything else but breast milk. Exclusive breastfeeding in the first 6 months is recommended by both the American Academy of Pediatrics and the World Health Organization. Once solids are added to your baby’s diet at 6 months (or later) AAP recommends continuing breastfeeding until at least one year of age or longer (as long as mutually desirable), while WHO recommends continuing breastfeeding until at least two years of age. The biggest obstacle in achieving your breastfeeding goals in the USA is poor breastfeeding support and awareness accompanied by the sad non-existence of a significantly long and paid federal maternity leave (more on this topic later). Besides these large-scale factors, there’s a tiny little thing that can do the same. Meet the pacifier – the breastfeeding destroyer.

The Baby Friendly Hospital Initiative recommends that breastfeeding newborns should not be given pacifiers while in the hospital after birth. Now seriously, how many US hospitals stick to this recommendation? Not that many, unfortunately. Newborns who need to suck should practice suckling at the breast – the more frequent suckling at the breast will increase prolactin production which will increase breast milk production. Now it should be more transparent that your baby suckling on a pacifier will not only NOT help your milk production, in fact, it will do the very opposite as it will cause a decrease in your milk production. Giving term healthy newborns pacifiers while still in the hospital has been associated with stopping of breastfeeding before 6 weeks of age.

The results of various studies on this topic all show that early pacifier use is associated with a shorter duration of breastfeeding. Daily pacifier use starting before 4-6 weeks of age was associated with a shortened duration of exclusive breastfeeding. Daily pacifier use was also associated with decreased maternal confidence in breastfeeding, difficulty with breastfeeding and concern about poor milk supply. Sounds familiar? If so, then get rid of the pacifier. Mothers who want to breastfeed should avoid giving a pacifier to their baby until breastfeeding is well established or until the baby is about 4-6 weeks of age. Personally, I would avoid it completely. Which I did. My son has never had a pacifier and he was successfully breastfed until 18 months when he weaned naturally, gradually and on his own (he was exclusively breastfed in the first 6 months of his life).

Interestingly, many people love pacifiers despite their obvious negatives. Sure, it may stop the baby from crying (temporarily). But that’s about it. Besides completely compromising your breastfeeding goals (hence compromising your baby’s diet and immunity/health), it cannot be good to constantly suck on some kind of plastic. Who cares it says it’s BPA-free, it’s still a piece of nasty plastic. Plus it doesn’t look cute. And it is much less cuter on a big 3-year old child (or even worse – a 4-year old). Actually, it’s pretty gross. If it talks like a big kid and dresses like a big kid, then it is a big kid and a pacifier should not be in his/her mouth.

{baby boy and Suri Cruise – cute}

{her coat – also cute}

{the pacifiers in their mouths – NOT cute}

pacifier breastfeeding baby toddler Suri Cruise

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Photo credit:

Baby boy with a pacifier (left) via www.cbsnews.com

Suri Cruise with a pacifier (right) via www.rookiemoms.com

Featured image via www.babble.com

Facts resource: via www.breastfeedingbasics.org

5 thoughts on “Pacifiers and Breastfeeding – not a friendly combo

  1. A 2012 Cochran review showed pacifiers did not decrease breast feeding rates. In addition there is a 60% reduction in SIDS in infants who used pacifiers for their “last sleep”. SIDS is the leading cause of infant death between one month and one year of age. Also, SIDS is about four times as common in non white infants.
    I recommend pacifiers and I believe the protection from SIDS, without compromising
    breast feeding are compelling arguments.

    • Thank you for your feedback. I always value what my readers have to say. However, I would like to clarify one thing – first, pacifiers do not prevent SIDS (they may prevent accidental suffocation since their surface keeps the baby’s face away from other surfaces, and accidental suffocation is often mistaken with SIDS). But they do not prevent SIDS. Unfortunately, some babies that died due to SIDS had pacifiers in their mouths. If pacifiers prevented SIDS, these babies would live. The fact that the number of SIDS victims without pacifiers is larger than those with pacifiers does not justify one to say pacifiers prevent SIDS. It is just like saying majority of children that fell in the playground didn’t wear a hat, hence wearing a hat prevents your children from falling.
      Additionally, SIDS experts haven’t recommended the use of pacifiers to reduce the risk of SIDS because of several problems associated with pacifier use, like increased risk of otitis, gastrointestinal infections and oral colonization with Candida species.
      Secondly, “scientific studies” will always try to tell us chemicals are good for us and our babies – for one reason and that is not our well-being, but their profit. They try to tell us to let our children suck on a piece of plastic loaded with chemicals to prevent SIDS. They try to tell us that the bizarre powder called formula is better than breast milk. That we should not potty train our children until they turn 3 or else they will suffer psychological problems. That our babies should sleep behind bars or they will be suffocated by their own mothers. That our bodies fail to start the process of labor spontaneously and labor has to be induced with Pitocin. That laboring mothers cannot handle the “excruciating pain” of contractions and have to be put on Epidural. Manufacturers want us to buy pacifiers and formula and diapers. Hospitals want us to get the drugs, they want to cut out bodies open – the more interventions during labor & birth, the more money they get from the insurance companies. Sometimes, trusting nature and our instincts is best.

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