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If you’ve had a baby, you’ve asked the question: When is it ok to introduce a pacifier to your newborn? This is particularly important if you are breastfeeding. The reason you have to carefully consider this question is that the shape of the breast is very different from that of a pacifier.
So, the fear is that if a pacifier is introduced too early or before breastfeeding is well established, babies can get nipple confusion. This means that they have a hard time remembering how to suck at the breast to release milk. Breast feeding requires baby to use a very different sucking motion with their mouth that takes quite a bit more work than it does to suck on a pacifier or bottle. To avoid a tanking milk supply, sore nipples and a hungry baby, you want to carefully consider when to pop a pacifier in baby’s mouth.
Why Is It Important?
With that said, babies have a natural instinct to calm themselves down and be comforted by sucking. Sometimes a baby can get most of the sucking they desire when they feed, but other times they need a bit more. Some babies need significantly more sucking than others, also. Either way, it’s a natural part of newborn life and can be used to help baby calm down when they are upset or as they fall asleep.
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When To Introduce?
The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests waiting 3-4 weeks before introducing a pacifier to your new little nugget. They suggest that by this age, breastfeeding is well established.
Others recommend waiting until after 6 weeks because, while it can take some moms and babies 3-4 weeks, it can take others longer to establish a good breastfeeding routine and rhythm. So, sometimes it isn’t until 6 weeks when a mom may feel like breast feeding is well established. This can also you prepare for the 6 week growth spurt when baby will need more milk coming in!
Within the first week
Still another mama I know who is a mom of two, a labor and delivery nurse and a lactation consultant had this to say:
“As a lactation consultant: When breastfeeding and learning to latch we always tell people to wait 24 hours at a bare minimum to introduce any artificial nipples, including a nipple shield. Then it’s best to wait until latch is well established to give any pacifiers or bottles.
For myself: I didn’t feel the need to offer a pacifier until my babies were a couple weeks old. My personal thought was that before my milk came in I should just nurse the baby if they were fussy. I do this to promote the milk coming and a healthy supply. Then there’s a period of a week, or sometimes up to two, when the supply and demand relationship is being established. I felt while that’s happening, again, it was probably just best to put the baby to breast rather than offer a pacifier. After about two weeks, I started trying to establish a bit of routine as well as organize feeds and naps. Then I would offer a pacifier between feeds. I did this particularly if it was going to be a while till the next feeding or to help the baby fall asleep if needed.”
So, as you can see, there are a few different thoughts on when it’s best to introduce a pacifier. You have to do what is best for you and baby, keeping in mind baby’s need for milk, your sanity and baby’s need for comfort. It also may be worth noting that babies reach a peak fussiness at 6 weeks. This is totally normal. So, the weeks leading up to this time may call for some extra comfort. This could be in the form of allowing baby something to suck on.
What To Keep In Mind
- According to pediatric dentists, you do not risk messing up baby’s teeth by using a pacifier before age 2 or 3.
- The desire to suck for comfort can start to wane after 3-4 months. So, around this time you can consider offering another form of comfort or being selective with a pacifier. For example, you could consider keeping it only in the crib to use as baby is falling asleep.
- Try to comfort baby in other ways before replacing pacifier to return to sleep. This saves you from having to get up many times in the middle of the night to replace it!
- A pacifier is easier to get rid of than a thumb or finger!
- According the lactation consultant Kelly Bonyata, studies have shown that babies who use pacifiers wean earlier. They get their need to suck met by pacifiers and are then less likely to seek the breast for sucking. Once they are eating solids plus using the pacifier for pleasure sucking, they want the breast less.
What To Avoid
- Using a pacifier to stretch feeding times. Offer the pacifier between or after feeding when you know baby isn’t hungry.
- Using a pacifier clip while baby is sleeping, which could risk strangulation.
- Using a pacifier if baby is having trouble gaining weight or is not eating well at the breast.
It’s Up To You
The decision of when to introduce a pacifier has to be made by you, mama. You are the one who will know baby best. Also, you are the one who has to deal with the practical side of your baby wanting to suck on a regular basis. The reality is, breastfeeding can be painful for some. A pacifier may be the only way to keep baby happy while giving mom a break or letting nipples heal. As long as baby is gaining weight and breastfeeding well, a pacifier may be your answer to having a content baby!