Isn’t that the easy way out? What about nipple confusion? Let’s get real about popping a paci, because the benefits are worth a second look.
It’s no secret that pacifiers can turn an angry, screaming baby into the calm, sweet bundle you might’ve pictured yourself with during your pregnancy. But if you’ve committed to exclusively breastfeeding, resorting to one might make you feel like you’re doing something horribly wrong.
Pacifiers, after all, are often vilified for causing nipple confusion. The idea that your baby might decide they’re over the boob because an artificial nipple is more satisfying than yours can definitely be nerve-wracking.
There’s more. Popping a pacifier into your baby’s mouth can make you feel lazy for not comfort breastfeeding, bouncing your baby on a yoga ball for hours, driving in endless loops around the neighborhood, or otherwise expending every shred of energy you have to get them to stop crying.
Oh, and there’s the whole thing about your kid becoming addicted to their binkie until they’re, like, 13, at which point you’ll have to pay thousands of dollars for corrective orthodontic work.
All of which is to say, pacifiers get a really bad rap, and it’s easy to feel scared or shamed into not using one.
But here are the facts: When introduced correctly, pacifiers don’t interfere with breastfeeding. Just as important, the fact that they can make your life easier by helping to soothe your baby is a good thing. Not one to feel guilty about.
Despite what you might’ve heard about nipple confusion, giving a very young baby a pacifier isn’t going to make breastfeeding impossible.
“Babies are a lot smarter than we give them credit for, and for the most part, they should be able to get the hang of breastfeeding whether pacifiers are used or not,” says Jessica Madden, MD, a board certified pediatrician and neonatologist at Children’s Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio and Medical Director of Aeroflow Breastpumps.
Research appears to back this up.
A 2016 review looking at more than 1,300 babies concluded that pacifier use has no impact on whether an infant is still breastfeeding by 3 or 4 months.
Some findings even suggest that restricting pacifiers could have a negative impact on breastfeeding.
Babies are born with a built-in sucking reflex, which is why pacifiers can be so calming.
Popping a binkie in your little one’s mouth can help soothe them when they’re fussy or help them relax so they can fall asleep more easily. (Not to mention sleep more safely: Giving your little one a paci for naps and bedtime reduces the risk for SIDS.)
And guys, there’s nothing wrong with that.
Yes, you need to hold and cuddle and snuggle your baby. These kinds of things will help them feel safe and secure and sometimes even stop them from crying. But having an option other than your own nipples to help your baby chill out (and maybe even fall asleep!) can go a long way toward helping you feel a little more sane.
A pacifier can also be a tool for your partner or other caregivers to use to give you a physical and mental break from your baby.
“Especially in the newborn phase, mom can easily feel touched-out, a common sensation of being overwhelmed with the physical touch of your baby,” says Crystal Karges, IBCLC. So you can, you know, go take a shower or a walk around the block or even eat a meal with two hands.
Because even though your baby’s comfort and well-being might come first right now, it’s not the only thing that matters.
You deserve to do things that make you feel good too. And in fact, getting a chance to rest and recharge will help you be the best mom you can be.
As exhausting as those very early days with your little one can be, try to wait just a little bit before bringing out the binkie. It’s best to start using a pacifier after breastfeeding is well established, the American Academy of Pediatrics says.
That’s usually around 3 or 4 weeks postpartum, but your body might give off some cues as well.
“Typically when a woman’s breastfeeding is established, she might notice that her breasts begin to feel less full during nursing sessions. That’s a sign her supply has begun to regulate,” Karges says.
Going sans pacifier for those first few weeks can be tough. (But honestly, those first few weeks would be tough either way.) But it can up the odds for breastfeeding success in the longer term.
Basically, breastfeeding is all about demand and supply. In the beginning, your breasts need lots and lots of stimulation from feedings in order to get the message that, yup, it’s time to start making lots and lots of milk. (Newborns typically need to feed every 2 to 3 hours, or 8 to 12 times per 24 hours.)
But as you’re still getting to know your baby, it can be easy to misread their hunger cues and give them a pacifier instead of putting them on the boob. And “less opportunity for breast stimulation can mean that mom’s milk supply may potentially be hindered,” explains Karges.
Even after your milk supply has been established, the main rule is to avoid offering a binkie in place of a feeding when you suspect your baby is hungry.
“Many well-intentioned new parents will try to replace some middle-of-the-night feeds with a pacifier,” Madden says. That can potentially mess with your supply, even after the 3- or 4-week mark.
You might also want to steer clear of the paci if your baby is having issues breastfeeding well or doesn’t seem to be gaining weight, Karges notes. In those cases it’s worth meeting with a board-certified lactation consultant to figure out what might be going on and come up with a plan to help your little one feed more efficiently.
Nixing the pacifier also may be a good idea if your baby seems to have a lot of ear infections, since constant sucking may make the problem worse.
Same goes for if a child has thrush, since yeast on the nipple could potentially reinfect your baby. (Technically, you could disinfect the binkie before each and every use. But are you really going to remember?) But it’s fine to reintroduce the paci after the thrush has cleared.
Many lactation consultants recommend seeking out a pacifier that more closely resembles mom’s nipple. “You may want to look for a pacifier with a more rounded tip. Also look for one made of a soft silicone, as the material has a natural skin-like feeling and is easier for latching,” says Karges.
Still, there’s no official consensus on this. So if your baby’s favorite paci in no way resembles your nipple, it’s probably fine to go with it.
And if they reject the first (or even the first few) binkies you give them, don’t be afraid to keep offering other types. “You might need to try a few different options before finding one your baby will accept,” she says.
Lastly? No matter which paci you pick, be sure to use it safely. Keep it as clean as possible (in a pinch, maybe pop it in your mouth?) Choose one that isn’t too large or won’t come apart in their mouth. And never use pacifier clips or straps, since they can pose a strangulation hazard.