Using a pacifier or soother is often thought to be a normal part of a newborn’s experience. Whether given to soothe, put the baby to sleep or to keep the baby quiet, these artificial nipples come in all different shapes and sizes. It sometimes comes as a surprise to new parents that using a pacifier may negatively influence the breastfeeding journey for 2 reasons.
Using a pacifier frequently may stretch out the time between breastfeeds, as early feeding cues will often go missed. This may lead to less feeds in a 24 hour period, leading to a decreased breast milk supply, as the overall frequency of breastfeeds will be reduced. As a result, weight gain patterns may also change if the baby is feeding less frequently in a 24 hour period.
If pacifiers are introduced too early in the breastfeeding journey, these artificial nipples could create a challenge for the baby’s latch and suck at the breast. Therefore pacifiers should not be routinely used until breastfeeding is well established, or 3-4 weeks post birth.
When to use pacifiers?
Pacifiers can be used to calm the baby or to help with pain management (such as digestive discomfort) if breastfeeding or finger sucking is not a possibility. The latter can be just as or even more helpful to soothe a baby than using a pacifier. The baby is usually held when doing finger sucking which can also be comforting and provide a sense of security to the baby.
To do finger sucking, a parent or caregiver can offer their clean finger to the baby, finger pad positioned upwards. Place the finger to the baby’s upper gum line and allow the baby to draw the finger into their mouth. Avoid simply inserting your finger into the baby’s mouth.
Research concerning SIDS and the use of a pacifier during sleep is often cited as reasons to use artificial nipples. There have been several studies done on the topic and it is best to speak to your baby’s healthcare provider regarding the use of pacifiers during sleeping hours.
For questions on how artificial nipples, including pacifiers and bottle feeding, can fit into your breastfeeding journey, you can book a consultation with Melanie Jacobson ND IBCLC on Tuesdays, at Dupont Naturopathic Family Centre.
Melanie Jacobson is also the creator of the Complete Breastfeeding Blueprint, a breastfeeding education course for expecting parents. For more information, check out https://thrivebeyondbirth.com/online-prenatal-course.