As a lactation consultant, one question that often arises during consultations is about the use of pacifiers. New parents are eager to understand the impact of pacifiers on breastfeeding, oral development, and more importantly, their role in preventing Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Let's explore the research to provide clear answers to these questions and share some practical lactation tips.
Pacifiers: The Balancing Act Between Breastfeeding and SIDS Prevention
Pacifiers have been the center of a long-standing debate among medical professionals and parents. While some voice concerns about their potential to interfere with breastfeeding, others argue their role as soothing tools and their protective role against SIDS.
A comprehensive review in 2016 published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews found that pacifier use in the early post-birth period might lead to a condition known as 'nipple confusion,' potentially reducing the duration of breastfeeding. However, once breastfeeding is established (usually by 3-4 weeks), the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests that pacifiers can be introduced at nap or bedtime, which may reduce the risk of SIDS.
My advice as a lactation consultant is to ensure that your baby is breastfeeding effectively before considering pacifier introduction. Signs of effective breastfeeding include good latch-on techniques, regular feeding times, and consistent weight gain.
Pacifier Shape: Nurturing Oral Development
Moving on to the design of pacifiers, you may have heard about the growing interest in cylindrical pacifiers. These are specially designed to mimic the shape of a human nipple during breastfeeding, encouraging the baby to adopt a similar sucking motion, thereby promoting healthier oral development.
The benefits of cylindrical pacifiers:
Promotes proper latch: The design of cylindrical pacifiers can better support the baby to practice and maintain a good latch – a key aspect of successful breastfeeding.
Boosts oral development: A 2020 study in the Journal of Pediatric Dentistry reported that the cylindrical shape enables better tongue positioning and muscle activation, fostering correct oral development.
Reduces "nipple confusion": Cylindrical pacifiers' closer resemblance to a mother's nipple can help facilitate a smoother transition between breastfeeding and pacifier use.
Pacifiers, SIDS and Lactation Tips: Bringing It All Together
Introducing a pacifier to your breastfeeding baby is a decision that needs to be well thought through. With the evidence we have, it seems wise to introduce a pacifier once breastfeeding is well-established and to opt for a cylindrical pacifier to promote healthy oral development.
Crucially, pacifiers have been linked to a reduced risk of SIDS. A 2005 study in the British Medical Journal found that pacifier use during sleep could reduce the risk of SIDS by up to 90%. While the exact mechanisms are still not fully understood, pacifiers seem to alter sleep patterns, making babies less prone to the deep sleep stage where SIDS is most likely to occur.
Remember, there's no one-size-fits-all solution in parenting a new baby. Maintaining open lines of communication with your lactation consultant and other healthcare providers can help guide you to the best strategies for your baby.
About the author: Kellie Green is a certified and licensed Speech Pathologist, as well as an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), who specializes in infant feeding. She operates a private practice in Columbus, OH, Green Living & Wellness.