Pacifiers, dummie, binky, paci…whatever you call it, the pacifier is one of the most controversial baby items. Some people say, “Never introduce one!” Others swear it’s the best thing since sliced bread…
I’d like to start by pointing out that pacifiers have been so well marketed, and so frequently used that it’s an item we unconsciously assume we’ll just have to get in preparation for the birth of our baby. The good news? You don’t have to give your baby a pacifier if you don’t want to. If you are going to introduce one, try to limit the use and wait until your baby is between 6-8 weeks old.
Why is this?
♥Establishing your supply in the early months is supported best when baby has unrestricted access to the breast, has all of their needs met through breastfeeding and avoids any artificial nipples. This is because research shows how baby’s actual sucking patterns change when using a pacifier (Batista et al. 2019). This can lead to bottle preference and less breastfeeding. Which is not ideal if you want to breastfeed exclusively. Remember the pacifier was invented to literally replace what a baby does at the breast…seek comfort!
♥Also, if your baby is having difficulty with their latch or you have concerns that they are not effectively and efficiently draining the breast, then it is best to avoid any dummies until you can figure out what is going on with the help of a lactation consultant (IBCLC) or breastfeeding counsellor.
♥Remember babies breastfeed for MANY different reasons other than hunger. Breastfeeding meets virtually every need they might have at any given time!
Does my baby have a “strong urge to suck”? It’s not uncommon for women to be told that their baby has a strong urge to suck so they should give their baby a pacifier. However when I talk to women about this advice they’ve been given, things start to stand out to me of the REAL REASON they are showing signs of this “strong urge to suck”. Here are some possibilities:
♥Your baby does not want to be put down. Human babies have the longest stage of infancy compared to every other mammal on the planet! Our childhood and adolescent stages are twice as long as other primates (Pulla, 2015). This means that they are in need of our comfort, touch and attention 24/7 for many years. You’re child has rapid brain growth and changes in the first five years. Your baby will want to be held all the time, they will want to breastfeed all the time and they won’t want to hang out by themselves. That’s not a baby who needs a pacifier, it’s a baby who needs a lot of cuddles and feeds.
♥The baby is not getting enough breastmilk. If your baby is what you would describe as a “constant feeder” who has a strong urge to suck ALL. THE. TIME. Then it’s important to make sure your baby is getting enough milk. When I am in a consultation with a mother who describes her day as “sitting on the couch and never getting up”, red flags appear next to her (well, in my mind not IRL ☺️). This is because your baby should have periods of time during the day that they are settled. If your baby is constantly at the breast it COULD be a sign that they are not effectively and efficiently draining your breast. If you have questions about this, read my article on how to know your baby is getting enough: CLICK HERE.
♥The baby is getting enough but needs extra due to growth spurt, illness, etc. so they are cluster feeding. Cluster feeding is a term that many of us are aware of but there remains a lot of misunderstanding of what cluster feeding is, and if it means the baby is hungry or just in need of some extra feeds (for whatever reason!) Is cluster feeding normal? Absolutely! However there are of course always exceptions to everything and in some cases, very frequent feeding coupled with unsettled behaviour MAY indicate a baby who needs more milk…not a pacifer! Here is how you can figure out if your baby’s cluster feeding is normal or not: CLICK HERE.
How do I “limit the use” of a pacifier? Always offer the breast first. Always allow your baby to breastfeed as frequently as they are asking for it. This is because the best way to ensure your milk supply will be established and you’ll be making as much as your baby needs. I will never forget a consultation I had with someone who said to me, “I know that I gave him the pacifier too much and that has affected my supply.” It is true that if you introduce a pacifier too frequently, then that means you’re breastfeeding less, so less milk is being removed from your breasts. If you remove less milk from your breasts…then you’ll make less! That’s how supply and demand works.
You might be now asking, “What about SIDS? I heard pacifiers reduce the risk of SIDS.” I have some good news people! So does breastfeeding on demand! If you are breastfeeding you do not need to introduce a pacifier to reduce the risk of SIDS. You’re already doing that by breastfeeding on demand 24/7. By breastfeeding your baby you are reducing the risk of SIDS by more than half (Thompson et. al 2017)! By breastfeeding exclusively for a longer period of time, you are increasing this protection against SIDS. Breastfed babies who are sleeping in the same room (or bed) as their mother will often wake more frequently to breastfeed. While exhausting for us, this is actually a REALLY GOOD thing as it is believed that this frequent waking to breastfeed and less likelihood of going into a really long deep sleep, is part of the reason breastfeeding is a protective factor against SIDS (McKenna, J. & McDade, T, 2005). Some of the other reasons researchers think this frequent suckling helps reduce SIDS include; baby being more likely to sleep in a prone position, increases arousal so baby wakes more frequently and less likely to fall into a deep long sleep and protective factors within breastmilk that decreases likelihood of infection (Red Nose, 2017).
♥So in a nutshell…don’t feel pressure to give your baby a dummy if you don’t want to! And if you do, just try to delay introducing it until your baby is at least 6 weeks old and always offer the breast first when your baby is unsettled. Remember that the pacifier was invented to take the place of the breast when women were not breastfeeding. Never let anyone make you feel guilty for breastfeeding “JUST” for comfort. Breastfeeding for comfort is just as important as breastfeeding for hunger, thirst or any of the million other reasons children breastfeed for! When in doubt…whip it out. ♥
*One topic that is extremely important (yet really needs it’s own blog post!) is pacifier use and how it can cause malocclusion which is the misaligned of teeth. People may experience discomfort or difficulty chewing because of this, or require braces to repair irregular teeth. This is one (OF MANY) studies that shows a link between pacifier use and misaligned teeth (Costa et al. 2018).
Batista, C. L., Rodrigues, V. P., Ribeiro, V. S., & Nascimento, M. D. (2019). Nutritive and non-nutritive sucking patterns associated with pacifier use and bottle-feeding in full-term infants. Early Human Development,132, 18-23. doi:10.1016/j.earlhumdev.2019.03.007
Costa, C. T., Shqair, A. Q., Azevedo, M. S., Goettems, M. L., Bonow, M. L., & Romano, A. R. (2018). Pacifier use modifies the association between breastfeeding and malocclusion: A cross-sectional study. Brazilian Oral Research,32(0). doi:10.1590/1807-3107bor-2018.vol32.0101
Mckenna, J. J., & Mcdade, T. (2005). Why babies should never sleep alone: A review of the co-sleeping controversy in relation to SIDS, bedsharing and breast feeding. Paediatric Respiratory Reviews,6(2), 134-152. doi:10.1016/j.prrv.2005.03.006
Pulla, P. (2017, December 10). Why do humans grow up so slowly? Blame the brain. Retrieved May 15, 2019, from https://www.sciencemag.org/news/2014/08/why-do-humans-grow-so-slowly-blame-brain
Red Nose (2017). Breastfeeding and the risk of sudden infant death in infancy. Retrieved May 15, 2019, from https://rednose.org.au/downloads/Breastfeeding-Safe_Sleeping-Information_Statement_Nov_2017_WEB.pdf