With Gabriele Stenz, Midwifery Teacher
Most babies love sucking on a pacifier between feeding times. MAM-expert Gabriele Stenz explains how to use the pacifier correctly in order to establish a good breastfeeding relationship at the same time. She trains midwives and has gained extensive experience with pregnant women and nursing mothers over the course of many years.
Meeting for the first time
Right after birth, babies want one thing above all else: to get to know their parents. All the baby's senses are focused on smelling, feeling, and hearing them. After just a short time, the newborn is ready to feed for the first time: it seeks out the breast and begins to suck. However, a little more practice is needed before breastfeeding works perfectly. But with a little time and patience, mother and baby will soon be a well-rehearsed team, says Gabriele Stenz, reassuringly. A pacifier can have a therapeutic effect on premature babies and is therefore helpful in certain cases.
The beginning of a good breastfeeding relationship
The breastfeeding expert recommends: "For the first two to four weeks after birth, all sucking attempts by the baby are considered feeding."
After that, feeding becomes routine: the baby has mastered the technique and the parents can often tell when it is signaling hunger. The occasional use of a pacifier in an already established breastfeeding relationship without breastfeeding problems (sore nipples, blocked milk ducts, mastitis, etc.) does not seem to have a negative effect on breastfeeding. However, if breastfeeding problems already exist, the pacifier can make the situation worse.
"More often than feeding, relaxation and security are the reasons behind a child suckling."
(Gabriele Stenz, midwifery teacher)
Satisfying the strong urge to suck – even with a pacifier
A pacifier is the ideal aid to satisfy the non-nutritional urge to suck. Babies are experts at sucking: most babies can quickly distinguish between sucking on a pacifier and sucking in order to feed, says the MAM expert. And they like both – each has its place. International recommendations are provided by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) in its Policy Statement on Breastfeeding (2012): they are to use pacifiers specifically and with a therapeutic background, and to offer the pacifier to aid in sleep once breastfeeding is successfully established.
Research has shown that pacifiers and breastfeeding are compatible.
In a large-scale study, Dr. Alejandro G. Jenik, head of Neonatology at the Hospital Italiano in Buenos Aires (AR), and his team of researchers were able to show that pacifiers and breastfeeding work well together. The study involved over 1,000 mother and baby pairs at five different hospitals. The findings are clear: as soon as breastfeeding is established, the pacifier does not interfere with it. The researchers therefore recommend the use of a pacifier, because it can protect against sudden infant death syndrome. The pacifier has a protective effect against SIDS – however, this seems to be especially true for non-breastfed children. Furthermore, the protective effect only applies to use when falling asleep, not to use throughout the day.
Important: Anatomically-correct pacifiers
The correct use of a pacifier
A pacifier is a helpful aid in the following situations:
- When circumstances make the child restless or cranky, a pacifier has a calming effect.
- Tired babies find it easier to go to sleep with a pacifier (self-regulation).
- Sucking can be soothing during teething.
- Pacifiers can help parents to comfort their baby.
The perfect pacifier size
Pacifiers are available in different sizes, because there are big differences between tiny newborns and larger toddlers. The mouth and jaw are developing rapidly, and the pacifier needs to grow with your baby: the right-sized pacifier helps to support healthy development.
And another important tip from the MAM expert: "Age information provided on the packaging is for guidance only, as every child is unique. Big, strong babies go up to the next pacifier size earlier than small, delicate infants. In case of doubt, it is better to offer one that is a bit too small than one that is much too big."
Jenik, Alejandro (2009): Does the Recommendation to Use a Pacifier Influence the Prevalence of Breastfeeding? The Journal of Pediatrics.