(Photo/Getty Images) (Baby boy laying on back with thumb in mouth)

New study says pacifiers increases babies’ thirst for formula

Whether you call it a chupete, chupón or bobo, pacifiers can be a parent’s best friend while pediatricians cautiously advise its use for infants given the belief that it may interfere with breastfeeding in the first month.

However, a new study released today challenges that belief with data showing that pacifier use actually lead to an increase in newborns’ formula intake.

Hoping to find a link between the elimination of the pacifier and the increase of exclusive breast-feeding rates, researchers from Oregon Health & Science University analyzed the feeding habits of 2,249 infants born between June 2011 and August 2011 and found that pacifiers actually increased babies’ consumption of formula. Study co-authors Laura Kair, MD and Carrie Phillipi, MD, PhD also found with pacifier restrictions, the breast feeding rate among mothers/infants actually dropped from 70 percent to 68 percent. The eating habits of infants on a formula-fed diet did not change with limited pacifier use.

The study – presented at today’s annual meeting of The Pediatric Academic Societies – didn’t control for race or ethnicity among infants, but Dr. Phillipi believes that the study provides parents with the motivation to consult with a pediatrician about pacifier use and its relation to breast feeding.

“In our hospital we have about an 80 percent exclusive breast-feeding rate and by limiting pacifier distribution we were hoping to increase it further,” says Dr. Phillipi, medical director of the university’s mother-baby unit. “After we stopped distributing the pacifiers, we were surprised and disappointed to see that there was more of a demand for supplemental formula in our hospital. For moms motivated to breastfeed, it doesn’t make a huge difference whether they offer a pacifier or not, but I hope our observation does stimulate an ongoing dialogue about the topic.”

The American Academy of Pediatrics currently recommends waiting to give your baby a pacifier until breast-feeding has been established and suggests offering a pacifier at naptime or bedtime until one year in age to reduce the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).

“I think researchers removed the pacifier from newborn without perhaps realizing the strength of the pacifier’s soothing component,” says Elizabeth Yepez, an OB/Gyn in private practice in Chicago, Illinois. “Parents are warned against incorporating the pacifier too early because so as not to cause nipple confusion, but I think the formula consumption seen in the observation is due to babies who, without the pacifier were irritable, groggy and moms may have just given up on feeding them and reverted to formula.”

Dr. Yepez says that moms shouldn’t feel guilty when it comes to using a pacifier for soothing a fussy baby. “Pacifiers are there if you do need them. I think it’s a good thing to know that it may not be such a bad thing to use them after all, especially if you’re just going to use it to relax or sooth your baby.”

“Anything that is going to encourage breast feeding is helpful – and if a pacifier helps, then that’s good news.”

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