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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


"The theories are that a baby conforms his mouth differently to artificial nipples, and when they try to breastfeed, they're more ineffective," Howard tells WebMD. "They may not extract as much milk, or they attach to the nipple in a wrong way and end up hurting their mothers, traumatizing their breasts. What is known is that when parents introduce pacifiers at this early age, the baby doesn't spend as much time at the breast because it may get its suckling needs taken care by sucking on pacifiers."

Her study did not examine the use of pacifiers in infants older than one month. However, Howard says that previous research suggests that those babies who routinely use pacifiers are more prone to ear infections, as well as later tooth problems that may require orthodontic braces. Still, she notes that other studies indicate that the use of pacifiers helps premature babies increase their suckling ability.

Whether their children are born full-term or premature, many parents introduce pacifiers to help calm babies between feedings.

"For parents who aren't sure they want to use pacifiers, I would say, don't. But if you're set that you want to use a pacifier, it does it make a difference on when introduce it," says Howard. "You should wait at least one month from the child's birth."

There are other ways to calm newborns without relying on artificial nipples. "Being held close -- especially skin-to-skin contact -- is very effective," she tells WebMD. "So is carrying the infant, or wrapping him tightly in a blanket."

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