Pacifiers and Breastfeeding Babies: Pros, Cons & Everything in Between

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If you have a newborn and are breastfeeding, chances are, you’re confused about pacifiers and breastfeeding. Some friends think it’s harmless to use pacifiers while breastfeeding, while some think you should get your baby settled on the breast first. Turns out, the AAP now recommends pacifier use be implemented after breastfeeding is established— usually by the time a baby is one month old. But it’s not always so black-and-white when it comes to pacifiers and breastfeeding. 

In this story, we’ll explain the use of pacifiers and breastfeeding, the pros and cons of pacifiers while breastfeeding, if breastfeeding ruins a baby’s latch, and what to do before offering baby a paci. It’s basically your guide to all things breastfeeding and pacifiers.

First thing’s first: Do pacifiers ruin latch?

Not necessarily, say experts. 

“A pacifier can be used by any baby that needs it, whether breastfed or bottle fed,” says Lauren Crosby, MD, FAAP and Bobbie Medical Advisor.

“Babies are born with the sucking reflex which is important so that babies feed. Sucking is also calming so a pacifier can be useful to soothe a fussy baby, help a baby fall asleep or tide the baby over while a parent is busy getting ready to feed the baby or finishing up on a task they need to get done.”

Pacis can also help soothe a baby at a doctor’s visit or on an airplane ride to keep baby’s ears from hurting, another pro. That being said, not all babies like pacifiers so they won’t all be soothed by using one. 

Why do doctors not recommend pacifiers for breastfeeding babies?

“Breastfed babies can have pacifiers,” says Dr. Crosby. “If breastfeeding, it is best to wait three to four weeks to make sure nursing is established and going well just to make sure there is no latch issue. Some babies will take any form of nipple and some are more picky or take time to get used to different ones.”

So nipple confusion is real! “This is because  babies could prefer a pacifier nipple which might make it harder for them to latch onto the breast,” she notes. Crosby also recommends waiting until the baby is latching well, mom’s milk supply is established and the baby is gaining weight. 

Newborns breastfeeding and pacifiers can be a tough call. But if you do decide to go the paci route, don’t be too quick to offer a paci if your newborn is fussy. “Parents might give a pacifier to calm a baby down when the baby is actually fussy from hunger and needs a feed, so it helps to get the hang of nursing and get to know the baby before offering one,” she explains. 

Pros & Cons of Pacifiers While Breastfeeding

Just like everything in life, there are pros and cons when it comes to using pacifiers and feeding your baby.

Pros of Pacifiers

Calming and soothing for baby

Decreased incidence of SIDS

Helps a baby fall asleep

Helps a baby learn to self-soothe

Can help reduce infant gas

Provide a distraction during procedures likes vaccines or blood tests

Provide ear comfort during a flight

Can decrease parental anxiety that may come from a fussy baby

Pacifiers can be thrown away when parents are ready for baby to stop using it, unlike thumb sucking which is harder to stop.

Cons of Pacifiers

Might interfere with breastfeeding, either latch or milk supply

Increase the chances of ear infections in some children

Could disrupt sleep: if a baby wakes up every time it falls out then it is best to either try to remove it once the baby is asleep or get rid of it

Habit that is hard to break

Could disrupt tooth alignment

How do you give a breastfed baby a pacifier?

So you’ve decided to use a paci for your breastfeeding baby. Breastfeeding and pacifiers can be intimidating, but experts say it’s OK to use them once breastfeeding is well-established, baby is about 3-4 weeks old, is gaining weigh and latch has been mastered, experts say it’s a go. 

“The  use of a pacifier can provide benefits to both the baby and the parent,” Crosby says. “There is a decrease in the risk of SIDS in babies who use pacifiers, babies who have a pacifier might be calmed during procedures, learn to self-soothe, and fall asleep more easily. A calmer baby can relax a parent, and this can help milk supply and also allow a nursing parent to get some rest.” So breastfeeding newborns and pacifiers can be a beneficial combination. 

Though there are some things to consider before giving your baby a paci, Dr Crosby notes. Make sure all baby’s needs are met first, such as feeding, changing, burping, and cuddling. 

“We don’t want the pacifier to replace those essential needs or for a parent to reflexively pop it into the baby’s mouth without making sure the baby is OK and not suffering from something else such as from a fever, rash or anything that could cause discomfort,” she explains. 

FAQs – Using Pacifiers While Breastfeeding

Is it OK to give a pacifier before feeding?

If a parent is getting ready to feed a baby and the baby is very upset, a paci can be used to calm the baby while the parent prepares to feed it. Though experts advise that parents make sure all baby’s other needs (feeding, burping, changing) are met before offering a paci. 

Do pacifiers reduce milk supply?

Only if a mom is using the pacifier to calm a baby who is crying or fussy when in actuality the baby is hungry. A pacifier should never serve as a substitute for a feed. 

How do you tell if your baby is hungry or just wants a pacifier?

If they are due for a feed, try to feed them.  If they had a really good feed and have been burped and changed and are still fussy and are not settling down then a pacifier might be helpful.

When should you not use a pacifier?

Some parents just let their baby have it in their mouths all the time, even when not needed, which may affect future vocalizing and speech development. If a baby is getting a lot of ear infections, it may be time to nix the paci, as well.

Why is my baby rejecting my breast after pacifier?

Some babies prefer sucking on a pacifier, sometimes because they just like that type of nipple or because it is less work for them than sucking on the breast, or a baby that’s used to a paci nipple may not be used to opening their mouth wide or deep enough to get a good latch. In this case, it is best to stop using the pacifier and continue to work on nursing. If you still cannot get baby to latch, it’s best to consult a lactation consultant. 

Do pacifiers help babies sleep?

Cathy Faraca, parenting expert for Chicco, says that pacifiers like the Chicco PhysioForma Silicone Pacifier features an extra-soft silicone nipple with satin-textured finish to help keep the paci in baby’s mouth for uninterrupted soothing. The soft shield is comfortable and breathable on baby’s soft, delicate skin while the soft handle of this one-piece construction is easy for baby to grab. Clinical studies show that these types of pacifiers actively support baby’s breathing by positioning the tongue forward to maintain an open airway, which is especially important during sleep. Physiological breathing improves quality of sleep and reduces irritability— better for baby & you.

Everything you need to know about pacifiers and breastfeeding

While breastfeeding babies and pacifiers can be confusing, you can give your breastfeeding baby a pacifier — as long as breastfeeding is well-established, baby is about 3-4 weks old, is gaining weight and latch has been mastered. Moms we spoke with preferred a Mam pacifier, a Chicco pacifier or pacifiers from Philips Avent.

And while a paci should not be used before baby’s needs are met, i.e. feeding, changing, burping, and cuddling, it can help soothe baby in other tough situations, like doctor’s visit or an airplane ride. Pacifiers can also help decrease parental anxiety, which can increase milk supply, another plus. Overall, the use of pacifiers and breastfeeding is a common question asked by many new parents.

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant's pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.

The content on this site is for informational purposes only and not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Discuss any health or feeding concerns with your infant’s pediatrician. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay it based on the content on this page.