Wait. Pacifiers Actually Promote Breastfeeding Now?

Did you catch the latest study calling the idea of “nipple confusion” into question?

In an effort to promote breastfeeding, OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital in Oregon literally put its pacifiers under lock and key. To get one, nurses needed a good reason, such as soothing post-circumcision. And they were required to enter a code as well as the patient’s name.

This practice did not promote breastfeeding rates. On the contrary. Breastfeeding rates declined by 10 percent.

“Despite the common belief among medical providers and the general public that pacifier use negatively impacts breastfeeding, we found limiting pacifier use in the Mother-Baby Unit was associated with decreased exclusive breastfeeding and increased supplemental formula feeds,” explained Kair [a resident in pediatrics at the hospital].


In an article on the study at Today Moms, The World Health Organization and United Nations Children’s Fund sticks to its guns.

“The primary reason for WHO’s policy on pacifiers is the potential for interference with suckling and establishing lactation,” says Dr. Chessa Lutter, a senior advisor in food and nutrition for the Pan American Health Organization/World Health Organization.

“There is some evidence to suggest that giving pacifiers or bottle nipples can interfere with suckling and getting a good latch on. It’s very important that the baby be able to properly latch on, which evolves over baby’s first week of life. Establishing a good suck is extremely important for the mother as well, so her own nipple isn’t irritated or damaged,” Lutter says.

Confused yet?

I confess to being a rule-follower, especially when it comes to my kids. If prevailing knowledge says to hold off on the pacifier for about a month to prevent nipple confusion, I hold off on the pacifier for about a month to prevent nipple confusion. Which is what I did. My 12-week-old now digs her pacifier. She also digs the boob. And the bottle. She’s quite equal opportunity, nipplewise.

I want people to continue to examine issues relating to my children, even if—especially if?— doing so shatters previously held beliefs. But it does get maddening when it’s drilled into your head to do things one way, for the clear health and well-being of your child, and then someone comes along with an, “Oopsie! Scratch that. Reverse it. Now carry on!” Tummy sleeping and drinking beer to promote nursing both come to mind.

My takeaway: Go with your gut. Even when experts are telling you one thing, if your built-in mama instincts are pulling you in the opposite direction, go there. (Within reason, of course.) Those instincts truly are worth trusting.

Were you a rule-follower like me, or one of those rebels that used a pacifier out of the gate? How’d that go for you and the kid?

Also: Check out my fellow Parents blogger Jill Cordes’ thoughts on the matter. (Hint: She’s less of a rule-follower than I!)


Image: Face of Adorable Baby with Pacifier in Mouth Looking at Camera via Shutterstock

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  1. by Danielle

    On May 1, 2012 at 10:53 am

    We ended up using the pacifier in the hospital. I didn’t want to, but LO had such a strong suck relex/need that I was in extreme pain from being used as a human pacifier 24/7. I finally gave in and let the nurses give him one, even to the dismay of my lactation consultant. Lucky for us, he was a champion nurser right from the start and had absolutely no issues with nipple confusion. We also introduced a bottle early (around 2 weeks) and he did fine. I think it really depends on the baby and how well they nurse.

  2. by Eve

    On May 1, 2012 at 10:54 am

    Such a good topic! I didn’t give my kid a pacifier. He wouldn’t take a bottle until he was 4 months. I dont know if they are related. It was a pain in the butt. Why? Because he went to day care at 3 1/2 months. I ended up going over to his daycare 3 times a day, pumping multiple times a day and feeding him most of the evening. I wept with joy the first time he took a bottle.

    Saying that, I’m still not sure I would push the pacifier if I have another.

  3. by Amy

    On May 1, 2012 at 11:07 am

    I had problems breastfeeding my little guy when he was first born, so I had to pump and then give him bottles. He also had a pacifier. After trying day after day to get him to breastfeed (I never gave up!), six weeks after he was born he finally (!) became a great breastfeeder. Not sure if he ever had nipple confusion, but I kind of don’t think he did. In the end it was great because he got a mix of bottle/breast feeding and also responded well to the pacifier. Lots of nipples for him to choose from. He seemed to adapt to them all.

  4. by Kerry

    On May 1, 2012 at 2:39 pm

    I wasn’t going to use a pacifier because of the nipple confusion thing and then while in the hospital after birth, my daughter was inconsolable and in walked a nurse and popped a paci in her mouth. And she was sooo happy with that paci that I let her have it. Breastfeeding didn’t work out for us because she was a lazy sucker and was losing weight, but I guess I never really felt like the two things were related. Although now at almost 3 and STILL in love with her “nukie”, I am slightly regretting the whole thing, just cause it’s going to be SUCH a pain to get rid of.

  5. by Angie

    On May 1, 2012 at 4:59 pm

    I waited a good 3 weeks before introducing a pacifier even though my baby was a great breastfeeder from day 1…It was quite demanding because my baby loved to comfort nurse (still does)! We’re still doing great breastfeeding at 2 months, although I have no idea if it’s because we waited on the pacifier. I guess I’m glad we didn’t take the chance. He now can take a bottle and his Nuk with no problems:)