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Health & Baby

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Pacifier Use Hurts Newborn Breastfeeding

Causes Infants to Feed Less, Hurt Moms More, During First Few Weeks
WebMD Health News

March 3, 2003 -- The use of pacifiers may help calm newborns, but new research indicates that it could lead to breastfeeding problems that hurt both mother and child -- although researchers aren't sure why.

Still, they note that the use of pacifiers and other artificial nipples during an infant's first month decreases the likelihood that the child will nurse exclusively on breast milk, which most researchers say provides optimal nutrition. In addition, newborns who use pacifiers typically breastfeed for shorter periods and consume less breast milk -- requiring supplemental feedings with infant formula. And they are more likely to hurt their mother's nipples and breast milk production.


"There are a lot of theories, and we looked at all sorts of these problems related to the use of pacifiers, but couldn't come up with definitive answers," says researcher Cynthia R. Howard, MD, MPH, of the University of Rochester School of Medicine and Dentistry. "Based on our study, we can't explain why pacifiers impact breastfeeding, but it does."

Her study, which involved some 700 healthy, full-term breastfed newborns, also found that supplemental feedings with nipple-clad bottles or cups provided no benefit to their breastfeeding, but it did appear to help infants who were delivered by cesarean section.(Infants in the study born by cesarean section who received supplements by cup breast fed significantly longer.) These findings are published in today's issue of Pediatrics.

The use of pacifiers in newborns has long been debated, as many researchers believe that they impair the ability of babies to properly learn how to attach and suckle at their mother's nipples during their first few weeks of life. The World Health Organization discourages the use of pacifiers, as well as supplemental bottle-feeding, but solid scientific evidence to support this advice is lacking.

The authors write that these findings, are worrisome, as both the intensity and duration of breast feeding are tied to infant health, including a reduction in ear infections and diarrhea.

Some experts believe pacifiers lead to "nipple confusion," a term used to describe the mechanical differences between a pacifier and a mother's nipple.

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