My baby nurses so often that my nipples are getting sore. Is it okay to give her a pacifier?
Babies are born with an intense need to suck. Some infants even suck their thumbs in the womb. Babies not only suck for food, but they also love to suck for comfort. Pacifiers are just what they say they are–peacemakers, but there is no more satisfying pacifier than mother’s breast, as babies nurse contentedly off to sleep following a feeding.
There are good reasons for avoiding pacifiers, especially in the early weeks while baby is learning to latch on and suck at your breast:
• Pacifiers are artificial nipples. They require a different sucking motion at the breast and can lead to problems with nipple confusion.
• A baby who is given a pacifier instead of being offered the breast may not nurse enough to gain weight adequately.
• Without enough stimulation from baby’s sucking, mother’s milk supply may dwindle. Comfort sucking at the end of a feeding helps to build mother’s milk supply.
• A 1999 study reported in the medical journal Pediatrics showed that mothers who used pacifiers during the first six weeks after birth tended to wean their babies earlier.
What do you do when the human pacifier–mom–wears out or is not available?
We suggest offering the baby a clean adult finger to suck on if mother’s nipples are sore or her patience is wearing thin. Or try alternative methods of comforting your baby–walking, wearing baby in a sling or front pack, patting her back or skin-to-skin contact with dad.
Finally, realize that there’s nothing wrong with being a human pacifier. You want your baby to learn to seek comfort from people, not plastic. Your baby’s need to suck for comfort will diminish with time. Meanwhile, enjoy cuddling with your baby at your breast.