Obviously, pacifiers are designed to calm your baby down, and they mimic the shape of a mother’s nipple. They have been used for years now to pacify infants, and there has always been some controversy surrounding them. Some people say they are choking hazards, some people say they causes SIDS, and still others are very critical about when children should stop using them. While these claims are not supported by hard evidence overall, another controversy has arisen over the last five years or so. Some people claim that pacifiers actually interfere with breastfeeding. When you consider the act of a baby sucking on a pacifier, this theory does make sense. A baby might think that sucking on it replaces the process of sucking an actual nipple, and it might wrongly satiate his hunger. However, the results of a study designed to determine whether or not this was true proves it is not.

Though pacifiers do mimic the act of breastfeeding, they do not actually interfere with a baby’s desire to get milk from his or her mother. If you are hoping to get your baby on a consistent breastfeeding regimen, don’t feel as though you need to pass up the pacifier. Even if you add it to the breastfeeding routine, pacifiers make an excellent way to occupy your infant. Whether you’re grocery shopping, at a family event, or simply at the dinner table, pacifiers work to keep your newborn happy. In the study, any associations between pacifier use and decreased breastfeeding duration were caused by external factors, such as difficulty producing milk and weaning.

There are many nutritional benefits to breastfeeding your baby, and if you choose to do so, you shouldn’t hesitate using a pacifier as well. Pacifiers are actually considered safe, because they keep the airway open should a baby find himself in a situation that might cause suffocation. Additionally, breaking the habit of using a pacifier is much easier than breaking a similar habit, such as thumb sucking. Using a pacifier is also better for dental health than thumb sucking. Always consult your baby’s primary healthcare provider if you’re unsure about pacification, but keep in mind that a baby can certainly discern between a pacifier and a real breast, so there should be no breastfeeding interference. If you notice your baby has lost interest in your breast milk early on, there could be a more serious problem.

Source: Nina O’Connor et al: Pacifiers and Breastfeeding. Archives of Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Volume 163 Issue 4 pp. 378-382 April 2009

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