Nearly every new mother I see asks the question, “Is it ok for my baby to use a pacifier?” Here is the simple answer: Yes and no!
The concern addressed in that question is whether pacifier use will interfere with breastfeeding. I can say with confidence that I have never seen a baby prefer a pacifier over a breast filled with nummy milk! In addition, in over 20 years of helping resolve breastfeeding issues, I have never named the pacifier as the source of the problem.
Even though pacifiers are not necessarily the cause of breastfeeding difficulties, they should be used with caution—especially during the first few weeks of life. Newborns don’t necessarily know when they are hungry or thirsty. Thankfully, they don’t need to figure that out. All they know is they need to suck! Frequently! When that suckling is at the breast, it ensures that babies get plenty of milk and moms have an abundant milk supply.
Conversely, when a baby uses a pacifier to get her sucking needs met, there is a danger that she will not spend enough time at the breast. My primary concern about pacifier use is this: All that sucking requires energy. A baby worn out from sucking on a pacifier may not have the energy to obtain nourishment from the breast. In addition, she may “fool” her parents into thinking she is getting enough to eat, as she falls asleep while using a pacifier.
Occasional pacifier use for short periods of time will not likely interfere with breastfeeding. But keep in mind that a pacifier is a breast substitute and use with caution. If your newborn baby needs to suck, she probably needs to eat!
Written by Renee Beebe, M.Ed., IBCLC. Renee is a lactation consultant in private practice in Seattle, Washington. She is available for home/hospital visits and phone consultations. Renee can be reached at www.second9months.com