Pacifiers and Breastfeeding

How Using Pacifiers Can Cause Trouble With Breastfeeding

Pacifiers can affect breastfeeding

A pacifier can retrain a baby’s jaw muscles so that he can no longer breastfeed efficiently. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

If your baby has recently started taking a pacifier, your milk supply for breastfeeding could be affected. Here’s how it can happen: Over time your baby will get used to the feel of artificial nipple on a pacifier. You baby may even begin to prefer how that nipple feels in his mouth. The different shape of the pacifier nipple, works different jaw muscles and given enough time with the pacifier, it could lead to a condition called nipple confusion which basically means that baby forgets the best way to latch on and draw out the breast milk. This less efficient breastfeeding can lead to lower milk production because whenever milk is left for a long time in the breast, it signals the body that it is making too much milk and that milk production should be reduced.

The other problem with giving a pacifier while you are still breastfeeding is that your baby doesn’t know it’s a fun toy. Babies brains are programmed to think that if they suck long enough, they’ll get milk and nourishment. Most demanding babies will only give the pacifier a minute or two, and if it doesn’t produce milk they’ll spit it out and cry for something to eat. Other babies are born with a strong work ethic – they’ll keep sucking and sucking on the pacifier hoping that eventually it’ll give them some milk. They can go for hours at a time.

While it can certainly keep baby quiet for a long time, this action can artificially lengthen the time between breastfeeding sessions by both satisfying the baby’s need to suck and by confusing their hunger signals. Subconsciously they may think, “Gosh I’ve been eating for two hours straight how can I possibly feel hungry. Ah well, maybe this feeling means something else.” If pacifiers cause longer gaps between breastfeeding sessions, the result is less nipple stimulation, which results in less prolactin (the milk-making hormone) production, less prolactin production results in lower milk production. Ultimately, all of this can harm your breastfeeding relationship.

Are There Any Acceptable Uses of Pacifiers When Breastfeeding?

Of course! Pacifiers can be a great tool for keeping a baby quiet during an important phone call or during church. And if there are no concerns about your milk production, feel free to use pacifiers as you see fit. Just keep close tabs on your milk supply.

If your milk supply is low-normal – meaning it’s meeting baby’s needs but could be better, go ahead and continue to use pacifiers during critical quiet times. But if baby doesn’t need to be quiet, baby shouldn’t have a pacifier. It also never hurts to offer breastfeeding an extra time or two each day to keep baby’s breastfeeding skills up.

If your milk supply is low it’s best to avoid all fake nipples – that’s pacifiers and bottles. Try offering the breast instead of the pacifier and if you’re giving bottles, try an SNS System instead. Give it a week or two and you may just find that your milk supply increases just from these simple changes. Remember, when low milk supply is a concern, pacifiers and breastfeeding are two things that don’t go well together. heart-logo

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