Lifestyle & Belief

Pacifiers and breastfeeding: Study says they may help


A baby sucks her pacifier while laying in her crib. (Photo by Daniel Berehulak/Getty Images)


Daniel Berehulak

A new study is turning conventional wisdom on its head, suggesting that pacifiers may actually help newborns learning to breastfeed.

Researchers from Oregon Health & Science University found that newborns in one hospital that were restricted from having pacifiers were less likely to exclusively breastfeed and instead turn to formula. The findings were presented Monday at the Pediatric Academic Societies meeting in Boston, ABC News reported.

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Previous studies have suggested that increased pacifier use may cause infants to wean off breastfeeding earlier. 

“In the lore of our community and some of our medical literature, pacifiers are said to negatively impact breast-feeding,” study author Carrie Phillipi, an associate professor of pediatrics and medical director of the hospital’s Mother-Baby Unit, told MSNBC. “I think that’s not always the case.”

The university's Doernbecher Children’s Hospital implemented a new pacifier policy starting in December 2010, only giving them to babies who needed soothing during procedures such as circumcision.

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Between December 2010 and August 2011, exclusive breastfeeding at the hospital dropped from 79 percent to 68 percent, ABC News reported.

Prior to the pacifier lock-down, about 80 percent of babies born in the hospital were exclusively breastfed, according to the study.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends avoiding pacifiers until at least 1 month old so infants are comfortable breastfeeding. Even the World Health Organization advises against pacifiers, saying that they can interfere with breastfeeding, according to ABC.

The authors of the new study admit they don't yet understand why pacifier use may encourage breastfeeding, and advised against a radical shift in hospital policies until further research is done, The Huffington Post reported.