First off, I want to start this post by saying that deciding whether or not you use a pacifier is a very personal choice. I believe that in order to make a choice, you must be educated. If you read this information and decide you would still like to use a pacifier, I’m all for it. For me, this is the information that made me decide not to use one.
Pacifiers. They’re a symbol of babyhood, just as much as bottles or diapers. I honestly can’t come up with a parent-friend off the top of my head that doesn’t use them, but that might just be because minds don’t really remember the lack of something as much as it being there. Anyway, I thought I’d use pacifiers when I had Peanut. She wanted to nurse so often that I was begging for relief and I tried to give her one at around 2 weeks old (which is way before recommended, by the way) with the justification in my mind that breastfeeding was going great, so why wait to introduce it? She did not like that thing one bit. My mother-in-law even bought a few different ones to try, but she never caught on.
Part of me was sad that I couldn’t have a different way to soothe her and part of me was happy that she wouldn’t take anything but me. Soon though, the latter really took hold. I found out the risks of pacifiers and decided that my future children would never have one.
So, in order to help you people out in internet-land make an educated decision when it comes to whether or not you want to use pacifiers, here is my list of reasons why I specifically said no pacifiers for Twig and thanked the universe that Peanut decided she wasn’t for them.
- Pacifiers can interfere with breastfeeding. Nipple confusion is a real thing. Any sort of nipple can do it, bottle or pacifier. The fact is that a breast and a pacifier are shaped differently, no matter how hard they try to make a pacifier imitate a breast. Really, if you think about it, a pacifier is shaped like a really big nipple. If you’ve ever had a baby with a bad latch, you can attest that the nipple is the last place you want that baby latching on. Babe needs the whole aerola in their mouth, which is an entirely different shape. If you introduce a pacifier too early, your baby will learn to suck on that shape, which can most definitely cause breastfeeding problems.
- Pacifiers can reduce the duration of breastfeeding. Even eliminating all other possible factors (right down to bottle introduction), pacifiers reduce the duration of breastfeeding. And it’s not just that your what-would-have-been 4 year old weaner is at 3 years old, but rather under 2. That means you’re not making it to the WHO recommendation of at least 2 years. For me, that’s too early to wean.
- Pacifiers are not compatible with ecological breastfeeding. I try to stick with the seven steps of ecological breastfeeding, though I often don’t get the nap that I should. Regardless, if you’re trying to delay menstruation returning, nipple stimulation is key. 24 hours a day and frequently. Introducing a pacifier means that you’re not getting that nipple stimulation that you would have otherwise and that will bring your fertility back sooner.
- Pacifiers can reduce milk supply. Breastfeeding is a supply and demand process. The more you nurse, the more milk you’ll make. This is why whenever you’re experiencing a dip in supply, the best thing you can do is just try to nurse as often as possible. If you’re not nursing, your body isn’t being told to produce more milk. Especially if you use pacifiers to delay a nursing session, you are lowering your supply.
- Pacifiers can hinder mouth development. The Academy of General Dentistry recognizes that pacifiers cause mouth development issues. The recommendation is that you stop pacifier use before age 2, where in which the development of the mouth will correct itself within 6 months. How many kids have you seen that are obviously over 2 and still use a pacifier? I can think of many that I’ve seen. The problem is, have you tried getting something that is adored away from a 1 year old? I can specifically remember a dog that absolutely hated my toddler being chased around the house no matter how much I tried to prevent it. They’re persistent little things. Then what does it do to them mentally if you take away their sole (assuming they weaned early because of the first point) source of sucking comfort?
- Pacifiers have not been proven to help prevent SIDS. Pacifiers are always touted as the recommendation to prevent SIDS, but the AAP has specifically said that there is no causation, only correlation. Beyond that, they can cause the problems mentioned above (and more).
- Pacifiers add complication to my simple life. I’ve joked around here that many of my parenting choices are made on the basis of laziness, but it’s more about simplicity. I don’t like to complicate things. Pacifiers are just one more thing to buy, clean, watch for recalls on, clean again because the baby dropped it, take away from the dog who thought it was hers, clean again, hand back to the fussing baby who dropped it again, and clean some more. Not to mention trying to get the kid to give up the thing when it’s no longer deemed suitable for use. I just don’t want to deal with that extra hassle when I can just stick my boob in their mouth and the baby will shut up.
There are many more reasons I could list here, but for me this was enough.
Side note: if someone wants to soothe the baby momentarily, a clean finger inserted into their mouth upside down will do the trick without all the hassle. Or, my preference, just give that baby back to their mama!
And while I’ve got you on the topic of pacifiers, I must tell you my pet peeve about the association with a baby “using their mom as a pacifier.” This does not make sense. Breasts were around long before pacifiers, so how can you use the former like the latter? A pacifier is an imitation breast. Then, there is no such thing as “lazy sucking” at the breast. As stated above, breastfeeding is a supply and demand system. Even if you’re not in active letdown, the baby suckling is still sending your body the signal to make more. Maybe baby needs more milk so they are working to increase your supply. Maybe baby is just in need of some comfort. Why does mama equaling comfort have to be considered a bad thing? I am incredibly grateful that my children trust me enough to feel comfort and safety from me. Anyway, I’m off my soap box.
Sure, pacifiers are a convenience, but they don’t have to be a given. As with so many things that are seen as a given in parenting, there’s a choice. If you don’t want to give your babe a pacifier, you don’t have to. There are reasons to and reasons not to. Only you can decide if it’s worth it for you.