The Pros and Cons of Pacifiers


When I was a new mom, I nervously avoided introducing a pacifier to my daughter. I was focused and determined on successful breastfeeding and I worried that the introduction of a pacifier would interfere with her ability to nurse.

Her grandmother clucked her tongue at me when I shooed away the pacifier she tried to shove in her mouth.

“Well,” she huffed. “My babies always took a pacifier—it’s really too bad for you that you won’t let her have one.”

As it turns out, there is evidence that she may be right and that my worrying was really not necessary.

It has long been believed by many that pacifier use may interfere with breastfeeding for newborns, that an artificial ‘teat’ may turn the baby toward a bottle—and formula. However, A study released by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) found that delaying or prohibiting pacifier use in the hospital for newborns in the first few days of life actually correlated with higher incidences of formula use. What, what?

Lead researcher Laura Kair, MD of the Oregon Health & Science University said, “Our goal with publicizing this data is to stimulate conversation and scientific inquiry about whether there is sufficient evidence to support the universal recommendation of not offering pacifiers to breastfeeding infants in the first few days to weeks of life.”

I can tell you that from my own experience as a labor and delivery nurse, for the most part, pacifier use is fine. Some babies simply need that little extra sucking action to calm them down. I have yet to see a baby that couldn’t breastfeed simply because of a pacifier. In fact, most of the babies who are really good at breastfeeding also seem to like having a pacifier— something I wish I would have known before I became my children’s human pacifier. Sigh. The fact is, the very act of sucking releases the same calming hormones, oxytocin, in the brain that makes baby calm and happy.

As you can tell by now, pacifiers are a ping pong type of topic—even for nurses. And now, we are going to going to serve it back the other way. Although everyone loves a calm and happy baby, the fact that pacifier-using babies are able to self-soothe more easily and can be kept happy by popping in that pluggy, some researchers are concerned that parents inadvertently are interfering with babies’ feeding times by literally plugging them up.

Instead of crying and getting fed when they need it, babies may be soothed enough to skip a feeding with the pacifier or want that instant gratification and skimp on nursing.

The biggest argument in support of pacifier use is that they have been proven to reduce the risk of SIDS in infants. The official study on the subject says it is a “consistently reduced risk.” As for WHY, research theorizes that the sucking motion and reflex activates the brain enough so the breathing receptors aren’t turned off.

Honestly, when I read that, I wanted to go back to my new mom self and smack some sense in to me; I was so busy trying to prove I was “too good” of a mom to use a pacifier with my kids that I may have actually endangered them. In my mind, the benefits of pacifier use clearly outweigh the risks, but if you are concerned, check out some tips from the APP on pacifier use:

• Pacifiers do not cause any medical or psychological problems.

• Never buy two-piece models that may come apart or tie a pacifier around a child’s neck.

• The best benefits from pacifier use are for infants up to age one; above that, talk to your pediatrician about weaning.

• If you are breastfeeding, always offer the breast first.

• Some doctors recommend establishing breastfeeding first before introducing the pacifier.

• If your baby doesn’t accept a pacifier at first, it is recommended to try again.

• Never coat a pacifier in anything sweet, like sugar or juice.

Pro…con…pro..con… where do you stand?

Did you use pacifiers for your kids? Would you? Will Princess Kate?

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