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When should you introduce a pacifier?

There isn't an easy decision, it's all about choosing what is best for you & your family - this is what it is really all about!

A pacifier can absolutely save your sanity & be a game-changer, but it can also present with challenges that you need to consider to make an informed decision.

If you are considering introducing a pacifier to your baby, the choice as to when to introduce is ultimately yours. They can be introduced from birth, however here are a few things to be mindful of to help minimise any potential issues with pacifier use

If you are breastfeeding, it is really important that pacifiers are avoided during the first 6 weeks of establishing breastfeeding. For starters, mother nature has designed your baby to breastfeed a minimum of 8-12 times per 24 hours as well as suckle on your breast for comfort & not have a pacifier or bottle to suckle on.

If you plan on breastfeeding, the early introduction of a pacifier can lead to decreased breastmilk production, poor baby weight gain & impede breastfeeding itself.

Sucking action on the breast is entirely different than it is with a pacifier or bottle.

Babies recruit the use of their tongue, lip and cheek, temple & jaw muscles to breastfeed. Their tongue hugs the breast & actively elevates & lowers to remove milk from the breast.

Breastmilk flow is cyclical, whereas bottle flow milk is constant unless actively paced (more about that in another blog)

With pacifier or bottle use, babies will use their temple & jaw muscles to hold the pacifier/bottle in their mouth - no active movement of all of the other muscles is involved in holding a pacifier in the baby's mouth or bottle-feeding.

This is why babies may prefer bottle-feeding over breastfeeding as it is effectively " easier" for them to do.

So if you introduce a bottle because it is easier for your baby to do, it is more likely that your baby will associate easier feeding with the bottle & then reject breastfeeding.

Pacifiers encourage babies to keep their tongue down in their mouth. This is what we call a 'low resting tongue posture' which is the complete opposite of how we want a child's airway to develop for healthy breathing & sleep

A healthy oral posture equals a healthy airway. A healthy oral posture is seen when at rest, when a baby's lips are closed & tongue is elevated towards the hard palate. Babies should always be breathing through their nose & not with their mouth open.

The tongue should always be elevated at rest, as it helps to form that shape of the hard palate by palate expansion. If your baby doesn't have a healthy oral posture, this can impact jaw, airway & dental development. Considering babies are designed to breastfeed, mum's soft breast perfectly shapes the infant's soft & developing hard palate to help shape it perfectly. The introduction of a pacifier or bottle can impact this as well.

If your baby is struggling to settle or to breastfeed & you offer a pacifier &/or bottle, this could be masking what the actual cause of your baby's issues are. Could it be that your baby has a headache or a sore head from birth? Could it be that your baby has a sore neck? Could it be that your baby has food intolerance? A lip or tongue tie? Here at Milk early parenting support, we investigate all of these issues which are often easily remedied & help to give you a much happier & healthier baby.

Introduction of a pacifier will help mould shape of the hard palate to the pacifier. This is why an orthodontic pacifier is best recommended as it encourages the tongue to elevate. It is also important to minimise pacifier use, by removing the pacifier when your baby is settled or asleep. The more often & longer your baby uses a pacifier, the more the influence it will have on your baby's airway development.

Another thing to consider is hygiene - it's really important to regularly clean, sterilise & replace your baby's pacifier, as they can harbour bacteria, viruses & fungi.

If you use a pacifier, the best that you can do is to minimise use for your baby & wean your baby off the pacifier as soon as possible (ideally by 6 months of age) to reduce the chance of your baby becoming dependent on the pacifier. You can ask your health provider for pacifer weaning strategies for further infromation.

Another thing to be mindful of is that prolonged pacifier use is known to cause speech impediment in children as well as early dental issues such as tooth decay and orthodontic issues. They can also increase the chance of recurrent ear infections due to poor ear drainage & swallowing of saliva.

On a good note, pacifiers have been demonstrated to reduce the risk of SIDS, & there are measures that you can take to reduce the above-mentioned issues related to pacifier use.

Apart from my recommendations above, I usually advise parents to introduce a comforter toy & therapeutic grade oral chew from 3-4 months of age in replacement of the pacifier.

Therapeutic grade oral chews enhance optimal oral motor development for airway, speech & feeding. This way your baby is more likely to develop a healthier association with their comfort toy & therapeutic chew rather than the pacifier.

At Milk early parenting support, we stock ARK THERAPEUTIC chews for babies which have been designed by Speech Therapist, Debbie Lowsky MS, CCC-SLP & imported from the USA


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Hi, thanks for stopping by!

At MILK early parenting support, I strive to be your go-to source for all your parenting needs – from pre-birth to post-birth. I'm a passionate and experienced International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC). I love empowering expectant and new parents with all the knowledge and support they need to make the right decisions for their family.

Whether it’s helping you find the best feeding and sleeping strategies, or ensuring that your baby is getting the nutrition they need for optimal growth, I'm here to make sure that you and your baby get the best start in life.

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