I was told before having my first baby that you need to be cautious about using a pacifier too early to avoid nipple confusion. So I researched to understand which pacifiers are best for a breastfeeding baby. Personally, I never had a nipple confusion issue with either of my kids and honestly don’t know of any friends who did either. In fact, while I was in the hospital with Caden, the nurse commented on how great his sucking motion was and encouraged pacifier use right there in the hospital. With Willow, she didn’t have much interest in the pacifier to begin with, and to this day really only uses it to soothe herself in the middle of the night.
The best pacifiers for breastfed babies strike a perfect balance with baby's comfort and mom's peace of mind. Let's delve into this topic and pacify (pun intended) those lingering questions new parents might have.
- Pacifiers and Breastfeeding: What do I need to know?
- What are the benefits of using a pacifier?
- What are the risks associated with pacifiers?
- When to Introduce a Pacifier to a Breastfed Baby
- How to choose a pacifier for a breastfed baby
- Our picks for the best pacifiers for breastfed babies
- Safety considerations for using pacifiers
Pacifiers and Breastfeeding: What do I need to know?
Can breastfed babies use pacifiers?
Well, yes and no. It's not a simple black-and-white answer. Some experts suggest waiting until breastfeeding is well established (usually around 3-4 weeks) before introducing a pacifier. This helps prevent any potential nipple confusion. Other experts argue that pacifiers do not interfere with breastfeeding. Every baby is different and what works for one might not work for another.
Do pacifiers affect milk supply?
This is also a bit of a mix, both yes and no. No, pacifiers don't directly affect milk supply. But, here's the scoop: breastfeeding is a supply-and-demand process. The more your baby nurses, the more milk your body produces. If your little one is using a pacifier instead of nursing, it could potentially affect your milk supply. But hey, don't stress! You don't have to toss out all of your pacifiers. Just be mindful of when and how often you're using them.
Although replacing breastfeeding sessions with a pacifier might reduce your milk supply, moderate pacifier use can actually support breastfeeding. Oftentimes, babies have a need for non-nutritive sucking—that's when they want to suck on something for comfort, rather than for food. In such instances, a pacifier can be a real sanity-saver for a breastfeeding mom. Pacifiers will provide your baby with the comforting sucking sensation they crave while also giving you a break. Win-win!
Do pacifiers ruin a baby's latch?
Some experts explain that introducing a pacifier too early can interfere with latching. The mechanics of sucking on a pacifier are different from breastfeeding, which could lead to a shallow latch. A good latch is crucial for successful breastfeeding and while pacifiers can be a lifesaver for some parents, they can potentially interfere with a baby's ability to latch properly.
A poor latch can also negatively impact the mother, leading to issues like engorgement, sore nipples, or mastitis. Securing a correct latch is important to avoid these problems and ensures your breastfeeding journey is comfortable and successful. Again, this doesn't mean you should avoid pacifiers completely. Closely monitor your baby's latch if you decide to use one.
Will my baby have nipple confusion?
Ah, the big debate about the dreaded nipple confusion! It's a term that can make any new breastfeeding mom a bit jittery. But is it something to genuinely worry about? While, some babies can switch between a pacifier, bottle, and breast without any issues, others might get a little confused since the sucking pattern and milk flow vary.
Nipple confusion is a real concern because it could lead to your baby rejecting the breast, resulting in insufficient milk and nutrient intake. The trick is to pay attention to your baby's signals and reach out to a certified lactation consultant if you have concerns.
What are the benefits of using a pacifier?
Using a pacifier comes with tons of perks. Not only do they have the ability to calm a fussy baby, but they also play a crucial role in reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Pacifiers provide a valuable break for moms, offering a chance to catch their breath and recharge for a few moments amid their hectic schedules. Let's chat about it a bit more:
- Self-soothing: Pacifiers are a fantastic tool for promoting self-soothing behaviors in babies. By mimicking the instinctive sucking reflex, pacifiers provide a comforting and familiar sensation for babies, helping them relax. This isn't just handy for calming them during tough moments; it's also a game-changer at naptime and bedtime, nudging them toward falling asleep on their own. As babies grow, they'll become pros at grabbing and adjusting their pacifiers all by themselves.
- Risk of SIDS: A major plus point is the pacifier's role in reducing the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). While the exact mechanism is still unclear, some experts suggest that the use of pacifiers improves the airway or it might be that babies who use pacifiers don't enter as deep a sleep as those who don't.
- Break for mom: Despite the beautiful bond that breastfeeding creates, let's face it – it can be both physically and emotionally exhausting, especially in those early months. Pacifiers satisfy a baby's urge to suck, offering comfort and giving moms a precious few moments to recharge, handle other tasks, or just take a well-deserved breather.
What are the risks associated with pacifiers?
Despite being a godsend in many ways, pacifiers aren't without their potential drawbacks. These risks can vary from minor to slightly more serious, so it's important to stay informed.
- Latching and nipple confusion: As we discussed earlier, this is a major concern, especially for breastfed babies. Human and artificial nipples vary in shape, feel, and milk flow. Introducing pacifiers too early may result in a preference for artificial nipples over breastfeeding, leading to challenges in nursing and poor growth. Breastfeeding experts recommend waiting 3-4 weeks until breastfeeding is well-established before introducing a pacifier.
- Dental issues: Prolonged pacifier use might lead to dental problems such as misaligned teeth or or poor oral development. Although this may not be relevant for toothless babies, it is crucial to be mindful as they begin teething.
- Dependency: Babies can become quite attached to their pacifiers (and who can blame them?). The weaning process might be a bit challenging, with some tears involved (theirs and maybe yours too!). But remember, every baby is different, and with patience you'll find the right approach to help your baby part ways with their cherished binky.
When to Introduce a Pacifier to a Breastfed Baby
After weighing all your options thoughtfully, you've decided to bring a pacifier into the mix. But when is the ideal time to do so? Timing is everything.
Breastfeeding experts recommend waiting until breastfeeding is well-established before introducing a pacifier. This typically happens around 3-4 weeks, but it could take longer for some moms and babies. This waiting period ensures your baby has learned how to latch correctly, won't have nipple confusion, and is gaining weight steadily. But remember, it's not a race. Some babies might need more time to adjust to breastfeeding before a pacifier is introduced. Trust your instincts and your baby's cues.
How to choose a pacifier for a breastfed baby
Finding the right pacifier for your baby is definitely trial and error. Both my kids ended up preferring the same brand, but you really never know until your baby arrives. Definitely purchase a couple to get started, and keep experimenting until you find one that works for your baby.
Shape and design
When choosing a pacifier, consider shape and design. Choosing a design that works best for your baby can lead to a smoother transition. Here are a few more things to consider:
- Nipple Shape: Look for a pacifier with a nipple shape similar to a breast, which will mimic the shape of the mother's nipple during breastfeeding. This helps the baby latch onto the pacifier in the same way they would latch onto the breast, reducing the risk of nipple confusion. You may also want to consider a pacifier with a flattened nipple, which can reduce dental issues.
- Nipple size: The nipple of a pacifier should fit snugly and comfortably in your baby's mouth. Nipples that are either too small or too large can cause discomfort and will not help soothe or comfort your baby.
- Pacifier design: Make sure the design is baby-safe, with ventilation holes for air circulation and a sizable shield to prevent the risk of choking. Pacifiers that are too small can be accidentally swallowed and are a choking hazard.
When choosing a pacifier, the material is an important factor to consider. Pacifiers are typically made of silicone or latex. Silicone is a popular choice because it's eco-friendly, durable, easy-to-clean, and often dishwasher-friendly. On the other hand, latex pacifiers offer a softer and more flexible texture, which some babies prefer. It's worth considering both options and observing which type your baby responds to best.
Our picks for the best pacifiers for breastfed babies
These NUK pacifiers are specially crafted with an orthodontic shape to support oral motor development and feature a nipple designed to resemble a mother's breast. Crafted from medical-grade silicone, these pacifiers are heart-shaped to easily fit under your baby's nose for better breathability.
The MAM pacifier is incredibly lightweight and specifically designed to help babies keep the pacifier in their mouth. Its symmetrical design ensures a comfortable fit without the need for constant adjustment. It also fits perfectly under the nose for easy breathing.
The Chicco PhysioForma nipple has a lateral curve to help evenly position tongue pressure. The nipple also has tiny ridges to help babies properly place their tongue for a better latch.
Created from rubber latex for a more natural feel, the Bibs Anatomical Nipple pacifier features a rounded shield designed to turn away from the face to protect the sensitive skin around the baby's mouth. This design minimizes contact to reduce moisture buildup from saliva, which can be a common cause of rashes.
The Nanobebe pacifiers feature an ergonomic design that guarantees it stays securely in your baby's mouth, eliminating the need for constant readjustment. This saves you the trouble of repeatedly popping it back in place.
Crafted in Italy, the Natursutten Butterfly Shield Round pacifier is made from 100% natural rubber and free from BPAs, phthalates, and chemical softening agents. This pacifier boasts a seamless one-piece design, ensuring effortless cleaning and making it a preferred option among parents.
Safety considerations for using pacifiers
Even though pacifiers have their perks, it's crucial to keep an eye on safety aspects. Let's go over some key safety tips:
Tips for safe pacifier use
- Always check the pacifier for any signs of wear and tear before giving it to your baby. Cracks or tears in pacifiers can cause pieces to detach, which poses a choking hazard. Replace it immediately if you notice any damages.
- Make sure to switch out pacifiers regularly since they tend to wear out over time.
- Don't dip the pacifier in honey or any other sweet substances. It might sound like an enticing way to get them to take it, but this can lead to cavities and not a safe practice. Offering honey to babies under one year of age poses a significant risk because honey can contain Clostridium botulinum spores, which can lead to infant botulism.
- Make sure the pacifier is the right size for your baby. Pacifiers that are too small pose a choking risk.
- It is crucial to never tie a pacifier around your baby's neck or attach it by a string to your baby's crib. This behavior poses a significant risk and should be avoided at all costs.
When to avoid or stop using a pacifier
Sometimes, even the best pacifiers for breastfed babies might need to be set aside. When your baby is sick, for instance. If your baby has a cold or an ear infection, it might be a good idea to temporarily pause pacifier use until they fully recover. Using pacifiers has been linked to a higher risk of ear infections.
Another example is when your baby begins teething. Once those tiny teeth start to appear, it could be a signal that it's time to part ways with the pacifier, as it can impact oral development.
Feature Image by Cemal Taskiran