Pacifiers don’t interfere with breastfeeding: study

Sofi Papamarko
Shine On

Soothe your minds, new parents. Pacifiers may not be so bad for your baby's breastfeeding habits, after all. In fact, they just might be be beneficial.

According to the results of a new study, breastfeeding rates fell at the Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) after the removal of pacifiers and the usage of supplemental formula increased.

"In the lore of our community and some of our medical literature, pacifiers are said to negatively impact breast-feeding," the study's author and medical director of OHSU's Mother-Baby Unit, Carrie Phillipi, tells MSNBC. "I think that's not always the case."

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The study tracked 2,249 babies born between June 2010 and August 2011 at the hospital.

Researchers discovered that the rates of exclusive breast-feeding dropped to 68 per cent from 79 per cent of infants during the time period where pacifiers were removed, and the use of formula to supplement feedings increased by ten per cent.

"As pediatricians and mothers who have breastfed our own children, we know first-hand there are a variety of opinions on pacifier use," Phillipi tells the Huffington Post.

Well-informed mothers know about this conflicting information first-hand. Not only have pacifiers been linked to "nipple confusion" -- which this study may help to de-bunk -- but they have also been blamed for dental problems and speech development delays.

Toronto public health nurse Rachael Markovsky gave pacifiers to both of her children for comfort, but only after they had first established their breastfeeding routines.

"It worked for both of my children," she says, noting that she had to ween her youngest off of his pacifier at the age of three after their dentist recommended it.

Markovsky says it should be up to moms to decide what works best for their children.

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Helen, a Toronto music teacher and mother-of-two, agrees.

"When I had my first kid I read all kinds of cautionary tales about pacifiers interfering with breastfeeding, and even with the mother-child bond," she says. "At the time, I was rather dogmatically following the edicts of attachment parenting, and all of these books regarded pacifiers as akin to the devil."

Helen resisted offering a pacifier to her first-born, but her second baby was an excellent feeder, so she was much less reluctant to occasionally offer him a pacifier as comfort.

"Every baby is so different, so I think a blanket policy on everything from soothers to co-sleeping to sleep training makes no sense," she says. "North American parents need to chill out and recognize what works for one baby may be useless for another."

Watch the CBC video below about a disabled Ontario couple who are fighting to keep their newborn son.