A sucking action can have a soothing effect for babies. A pacifier can create a sucking sensation to help calm a fussy baby, offer a distraction between feedings, or soothe a baby to asleep. Research has even shown that a pacifier may help to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). However, there is some concern that pacifiers may interfere with other important habits. Sucking on a pacifier is different from the action required to breastfeed. As a result, some worry that babies may become reluctant to breastfeed. Breastfeeding is the best nutrition for babies, can provide important advantages for the immune system, and helps the mother and baby bond. Since breastfeeding is so beneficial, it is important to understand what, if any, relationship there is between the use of a pacifier and breastfeeding.
Researchers from Beunos Aires examined the effect of pacifier use on breastfeeding success. The study, published in the Journal of Pediatrics, found that recommending a pacifier to mothers highly motivated to breastfeed after the baby was 15 days old did not interfere with breastfeeding.
The trial included 1,021 women who were highly motivated to breastfeed their newborn babies. The babies were at least 15 days old, and breastfeeding had been well-established. The women were randomly split into a group that offered pacifiers to their babies and a group that did not offer pacifiers to their babies. About 60% of the women were in the pacifier use group, and 40% of the women were in the non-use group. The women and babies were followed for 12 months. Throughout the 12 months, researchers recorded the number of babies that were still breastfeeding exclusively.
After 3 months, 85% of women in the pacifier-use group were still breastfeeding compared to 86% in the non-use group. There was no difference in breastfeeding between the two groups over the year-long study period.
The 1% difference between the groups at 3 months was not found to be significant. This means that the difference is likely only due to chance. The difference would need to be at least 7% before it could be considered significant. There were some problems with compliance in the study. Some mothers that were assigned to the non-use groups may have used pacifiers, and some mothers that were assigned the pacifier-use group did not use a pacifier. These changes could interfere with the strength of the outcome and make the two groups appear more similar.
Breastfeeding is the best way to provide nutrition for your baby. It is important to avoid steps that may interfere with this option. Although this study did have some problems, it suggests that pacifier use beginning 15 days after birth will not interfere with the baby's desire to breastfeed. In addition, pacifier use is associated with a reduced incidence of SIDS. This combination and its ability to soothe a cranky baby makes the pacifier a valuable tool for mothers with new babies. It is important to note that this study did not begin pacifier use until 15 days after birth to make sure that breastfeeding was well-established.
Jenik AG, Vain NE, Gorestein AN, Jacobi NE, Pacifier and Breastfeeding Trial Group. Does the recommendation to use a pacifier influence the prevalence of breastfeeding?J Pediatr. 2009 Sep;155(3):350-4.e1. Epub 2009 May 21.
Last reviewed 10/12/2009 by Brian Randall, MD