The question of pacifiers (and for that matter bottles) arises when there is a new baby. In the case of Huxley, he will be breast milk fed if possible, but that involves bottle feeding at some point. Also, since our society does not practice cross nursing all Western babies go through a risk period when they begin to starve while the mother’s milk is not yet in. Sometimes that is a couple of days, sometimes longer.
In any event, the question comes up, do you let a baby anywhere near a nipple that is not attached to a human breast, and a related question is do you use a pacifier if the baby seems to like the idea of sucking on absolutely everything?
My sense as both as a parent and as a biological anthropologist with the occasional PhD student doing a thesis on something related is that opinions have changed on these issues. I was very surprised to hear one lactational consultant say that “Nipple Confusion” (where a baby is exposed to bottle nipples and thus becomes bad at nursing because of that) is not an issue.
In general, I started to get the sense that more professionalized, more degreed-up, more academic types … like our pediatrician who actually started out life in Feminist Studies and who has thus had an interesting and complex academic career …. are less la-la La Leche like, while many RN’s and NA’s are more likely to be breast milk purists.
So I made up some data [yes, I'm into climate studies as well ] to express the sense I’ve been getting lately, and put it in the following table. This is a (made up) cross tabulation of reactions I get when I tell people Huxley’s name and when I ask the same people about pacifiers.
|“Huxley! What a cute name.”||“Huxley? TH or Aldous?”|
|“Nipple confuzun will Ruinz the Babie!!!11!!||11||0|
|“Scientific studies have shown that you have very little to worry about”||0||14|
It turns out that pacifiers probably do not mess up breast feeding competence or induce higher failure rates, but according to one study there is a link between early pacifier use and cessation of breastfeeding.
Pacifier use was independently associated with significant declines in the duration of full and overall breastfeeding. Breastfeeding duration in the first 3 months’ postpartum, however, was unaffected by pacifier use.
However, it seems that the proximate mechanism is in overall behavior by the mother, and that if individuals want breastfeeding to be more successful and last longer (which includes sufficient milk production as an objective) that this can be achieved with good breastfeeding practices, and by keeping track of feeding schedules. Perhaps the pacifier is linked to a cash-rather-than-carry strategy.
Cynthia R. Howard, Fred M. HowardDagger, Bruce Lanphearp, Elisabeth A. deBlieck, Shirley Eberly, & Ruth A. Lawrence* (1999). The Effects of Early Pacifier Use on Breastfeeding Duration Pediatrics, 103 (3)