Sometimes Babies Suck {Pacifiers}!

newborn baby pacifier cincinnati dayton

Does your baby really suck? I mean, really L. O. V. E. to suck? I am here to tell you that this is normal!

All healthy newborns are born with a primitive reflex that enables them to latch and suck. Obviously, this is a survival reflex: it's how they get milk to grow after birth! You may notice, though, that sometimes your baby wants to suck. And suck. And suck. Well past the point of fullness after eating.

This is because sucking isn't just for feeding. For most newborn babies, sucking is also very comforting and soothing. For babies with a strong desire to suck, it becomes an individual decision for each family to decide how to best meet that intense need.

Options for Babies Who Want to SUCK

If your baby loves to suck, there are basically two options:

  1. If you are breastfeeding, let your baby use your nipple to suck for soothing beyond regular feedings.
  2. If you aren't breastfeeding, or if you are breastfeeding but are getting touched out/worn out from all the sucking, you can introduce a pacifier.

Benefits of Pacifiers

  • Pacifiers offer pain relief.
  • They are very soothing and calming.
  • Help babies with low tone or who are born prematurely to gain muscle strength {the suck reflex begins around 32 weeks gestation, but doesn't mature until around 36 weeks}.
  • May reduce SIDS risk.

Risks of Pacifiers

  • May become a habit.
  • Can cause an issue for breastfeeding, especially if it is being used to replace or delay meals.
  • May be linked to higher rates of ear infections after 1 year.
  • Link to dental malformation if used beyond the first 2-4 years.

Are Pacifiers OK If I am Breastfeeding?

The short answer is, yes. 

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends waiting until week 3-4 of life, when breastfeeding is well-established, before introducing a pacifier. This recommendation, however, isn't strongly backed. For many babies using a pacifier earlier doesn't create any extra confusion, so long as you are careful not to offer a pacifier in place of a feeding when your baby is actually hungry.

A recent study at Oregon Health & Science University which was presented to the AAP actually found that not offering a pacifier at birth reduced breastfeeding rates, which was interesting! It wasn't totally clear why, but I have a few guesses, number one being that breastfeeding moms can get very overwhelmed by all the sucking! 

More research needs to be done on this, but the point is, that offering a pacifier should be an individual decision for each family. If your sanity will be saved {and you will be able to continue breastfeeding successfully} by using a pacifier between feeds, then by all means, go for it!