Before Bowie was born I was in the anti-pacifier camp and was determined to avoid them at all costs. However, my mind was changed fairly quickly as it was clear we had a suckler.
Normally for sucklers, it is great if they can suckle at the breast continuously if they so choose. It keeps them happy and calm and helps with stimulating and maintaining milk supply. Unfortunately, this isn’t always feasible. I had a lot of pain when I started on our breastfeeding journey and despite numerous checks for tongue ties and correct latches I had continuous pain for 11 weeks. For me, there was no way I could have Bowie suckling constantly during that time. The pain was so intense I often cried and dug my heels into the floor. It didn’t take me long to accept a pacifier (we call it binky) and even though it took about 3 months for Bowie to keep it in her mouth it really helped all of us.
We were determined not to use a binky prior to 6 weeks as this can be detrimental to breastfeeding and instead allowed Bowie to suck on one of our fingers when she needed. Her extremely powerful vacuum suck seemed to be the cause of the pain I was experiencing, and well there is nothing one can do about that! It is recommended to avoid using a binky before 6-8 weeks, as up until this point breastfeeding isn’t completely established and needs to adjust for the 6 week growth spurt.
So how can a pacifier be detrimental prior to 6 weeks of age? A cohort study of 650 mothers and infants found that infants that frequently used a pacifier before 1 month old were four times more likely to stop breastfeeding by 6 months of age. They were also fed less overall than those who were not introduced to a pacifier. But the study also concluded that when a mother was confident in her ability to breastfeed then their baby was less likely to become reliant on a pacifier in the long term. This is good news!
Although I was not confident to begin with, I was determined to breastfeed as long as possible and believe that this helped me to reduce Bowie’s love affair with her binky. We have always been mindful of creating a habit and fortunately our boundaries have remained in place. Bowie has always been allowed to have her binky at naps, bedtime and in the car or aeroplane as necessary and has never even asked for it outside of these times. In the past two weeks, she appears to have given up her binky on her own free will. There was no process involved, she simply brushed it aside several times and it's now forgotten. I am actually a little bit sad. I had day dreams of us holding hands as we passed on her binky to the binky fairy and now that may never happen. RIP.
Now in case you are wondering, there is only ONE binky that I recommend. It is the Natursutten pacifier made from 100% pure natural rubber sap from the tree Hevea brasiliensis. It is moulded into a single solid piece with no nooks and crannies to trap bacteria and it is free of petrochemicals, phthalates, BPA, PVC, parabens and artificial colours and dyes. They do only last around 6 weeks as they begin to breakdown and at $10 a pop may be out of some peoples budget. I look at it as less than $2 per week for a bit of sanity!
So what is my overall opinion on dummy’s? If you need one use it. If you are breastfeeding then do try and avoid it in the first 6-8 weeks, of course, it won’t be detrimental to all infants but there is evidence to support that it can be. I also suggest having some boundaries around the use of a pacifier as the jury is still out on whether a pacifier can affect speech development. There have been studies concluding that children who use pacifiers tend to have more ear infections, as it is thought that there are more opportunities for bacteria to be trapped in the eustachian tubes (these connect the nasal passages to the ears). There are many variables in these studies such as long-term breastfeeding, environmental conditions, epigenetic changes and physiology so keeping on top of hygiene with your little one;s binky is something that can easily be done to reduce the risk.
All in all a pacifier has its place and if it works for you and your baby then I say go for it! Does your child use a binky? Have you noticed any patterns around speech, ear infections or reduced breastfeeding? Would love to hear your experience so please leave a comment below.