What You Need to Know About Pacifiers and Breastfeeding
Wondering whether you should introduce a pacifier to your baby? Find out, along with the best pacifiers for breastfed babies, when and how to wean from the pacifier, and more.
Pacifiers are excellent for soothing your little one, offering them an opportunity to fulfill their need to suckle, and sometimes even providing you or your partner a stress-relieving break when your little one is fussy. However, it’s common to wonder if giving your breastfed baby a soother will somehow disrupt nursing or cause nipple confusion. After all, you’ve learned how to nurse together and worked hard to maintain that breastfeeding relationship, so we understand that you might be apprehensive about anything that could come between that special bond! Medela is here to help by addressing your concerns and guiding you with facts, so you can make the best choice for you and your baby.
Is It Okay to Give My Baby a Pacifier if I'm Breastfeeding?
Good news, mama - It is definitely okay to give your breastfeeding baby a pacifier! Studies have shown that pacifier use in breastfed babies has little to no impact in either the short or long term. There are many positive benefits of pacifier use, including:
- Decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) when given at naptime or bedtime.
- Satisfying baby’s instinctive need to suckle.
- Pacifiers can be sterilized and are cleaner than baby sucking their thumb or fingers.
- It is easier to wean your baby off a pacifier than it is to wean them off thumb sucking.
- Pacifiers can provide relief for babies who are sick or who may be dealing with colic.
- Pacifiers can be used as a way to soothe a fussy baby.
Of course, you know your baby best, so the decision to give your little one a pacifier is yours and yours alone. Just be very careful not to offer your newborn a pacifier during times when he or she should be fed instead, because pacifiers can actually pacify a hungry baby - as well as a baby seeking comfort. Understanding when your little one needs to be fed versus when he or she simply wants to suckle or seek comfort is important to ensuring the best pacifier experience possible for you both!
When Should I Introduce a Pacifier to My Baby?
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that you wait to introduce your baby to a pacifier until after your milk supply is well established, nursing is progressing smoothly, and your baby has learned to latch correctly. Typically, this is when your little one is around 3 to 4 weeks old, but every baby is different.
You’ll know what works best for you and your baby, or you can always reach out to a lactation consultant with questions or for guidance!
Are Orthodontic Pacifiers the Best Pacifiers?
There are a variety of pacifier styles available, but most dental experts recommend using an orthodontic pacifier. This is because they are ergonomically designed with an orthodontic teat to better accommodate the natural movement of baby's tongue and mouth muscles. A study published by BMC Pediatrics found that babies who use an orthodontic pacifier before three months of age are less likely to become thumb-suckers or develop poor oral health habits. It’s also important to ensure you have the correct size pacifier for your baby. Age recommendations are usually specified on pacifier packaging.
When Should I Stop Pacifier Use?
You can begin gently weaning your little one off their pacifier at around six months of age and no later than age 2. It will likely be a gradual process, but you can start by keeping the pacifier out of your baby’s sight and reach and only allowing it at naptime or bedtime.
With older children, you can have a conversation about saying goodbye to their pacifier, play games to distract them, read picture books together about the subject, and give lots of extra snuggles. While weaning may not happen in one day, both you and your little one will get through it eventually!
- Jaafar SH et al. Effect of restricted pacifier use in breastfeeding term infants for increasing duration of breastfeeding. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2016; (8):CD007202. https://www.cochranelibrary.com/cdsr/doi/10.1002/14651858.CD007202.pub4/full
- SIDS and other sleep-related infant deaths: Updated 2016 recommendations for a safe infant sleeping environment. Pediatrics. 2016;138(5):e20162938. doi:10.1542/peds.2016-2938
- Pillai Riddell R, Racine N, Gennis H, et al. Non-pharmacological management of infant and young child procedural pain. Cochrane Database Syst Rev. 2015;12:CD006275. doi:10.1002/14651858.cd006275.pub3
- Breastfeeding and the Use of Human Milk | Pediatrics | American Academy of Pediatrics (aap.org)