Posted by: babybumper | October 21, 2010

Pacifiers hamper Breastfeeding

One of my favorite activities at work is helping mamas and babies breastfeed. I have failed 4 times. The pacifier is my greatest enemy.

My Enemy

When a baby won’t latch on to the breast, it is distressing to moms who are already apprehensive about their capability to provide nutrition for their child (even though they did a great job for 9 months!). As they dutifully offer the newborn a fountain of healthy nutrients, the little one tries and cries. The mom suffers feelings of inadequacy, and the bambino gets distressed.

3 of the 4 babies whom I could NOT get to latch on had already sucked on a pacifier. (The other had a traumatic birth). Pacifiers are designed for sucking, not eating. Although they mimic the breast, they cannot mirror the breast, as the breast is also for feeding. The technique for sucking on a “soother” is different. Therefore, the babies who had received a pacifier JUST ONE TIME were unable to achieve a good seal on the breast. This lead to frustration for the baby, mom, and me!

“He’s just using me to pacify himself.”

I often hear breastfeeding women complain.  Yes, parenting is a balance between your needs and the baby’s needs. Having a babe to the breast can get in the way of the way you want to do life. Consider, though, that for the first 6 weeks, using your breasts to pacify, or sooth, may not be such a bad thing!

  1. Every time the nursling is on your breast milk production is encouraged. The first month is crucial for establishing enough milk for the entire breastfeeding relationship (Ideally 1-2+ years). It seems that the actions during these first few weeks impact your milk supply at 6 months, at 1 year, etc. When the baby is soothing himself at the breast, even if not drinking milk, he is ensuring he will have milk in the months to come. Pacifier use leads to inadequate weight gain when used as a breast-substitute.
  2. Breastfeeding actually affects the way the oral cavity develops. The kid’s mouth grows differently depending on what they suck on. Pacifiers do not help the ideal shape of the airway and oral cavity develop. Bottles and pacifiers increase the risk for need for orthodontic work and sleep apnea.

Pacifiers don’t Sooth Me

I abhor pacifiers. Because I see them prematurely used. I have seen a major impact on the ability for a newborn to breastfeed after using a pacifier in the first stage of life. This has led to a loathing of pacifiers for those who are newly born!! I wish they were banned from the hospital! I highly recommend delayed pacifier use. The lifelong health resulting from breast milk is more important than the soothing qualities of a pacifier. Research has proven that pacifier use before 6 weeks of age leads to less breastfeeding, earlier weaning, and more breastfeeding problems. After 6 weeks, breastfeeding is well established with milk supply, and the baby has learned to latch well. At this point the pacifier is highly useful for calming, and that’s something I can’t despise!! Truthfully, I am only hostile to pacifiers when given in the first 6 weeks.

Commit to establish breastfeeding in the first 6 weeks of your child’s life. This time period is crucial toward breastfeeding success, which is crucial to optimal life-long health. During the first 6 weeks, the little one will learn how to best latch to remove milk from the breast, and the mother’s body will send strong signals to kick up the milk production, both preventing later heartache. After 6 weeks the benefits of a pacifier more so outweigh the risks, but before, that thing is an enemy!!

What do you think? Could you have gotten through the first 6 weeks without a pacifier? What alternate techniques can be used? Have you noticed a difference in a baby pre- and post-pacifier use? Who loves pacifiers? Any other haters?



  1. This written by my only “never pacifier” kid! :~)
    I didn’t use pacifiers in the first weeks, trying to never use them (but ultimately did). Sure, the babies pacified themselves on me, but we’re talking 6 weeks here — standard recovery time for Mom’s body. Modern expectations are for Mom to jump back into her pre-birth life asap, which doesn’t fit well with those leisurely nursing sessions that the new-born needs.
    Like so many other things in parenting, you can spend more time in the beginning and save yourself time, money, and general grief later on.

  2. My son was forced to go to and stay in the NICU after birth (despite apgar scores of 9 and 9) because he had a completely non-threatening rare birth defect and the floor nurses weren’t “comfortable” with the idea of having him on the regular post-partum floor. Of course, he got to the NICU well before I was able to follow, and as soon as he got there they gave him a pacifier. So, literally, the first suckling he ever did in his life was on a pacifier. However, this had no impact on our breastfeeding whatsoever. He had a good strong latch, was a frequent feeder, and we’re still nursing at 16 months (and he still loves pacifiers 🙂 ). So, I think it’s got to be some combination of factors that lead to nursing difficulties, not just the pacifier alone.

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