Early pacifier use linked to shorter breastfeeding

NEW YORK Mon Mar 16, 2009 1:22pm EDT

A baby pacifier hangs from an umbrella in Brussels December 2, 2005. REUTERS/Francois Lenoir

A baby pacifier hangs from an umbrella in Brussels December 2, 2005.

Credit: Reuters/Francois Lenoir

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NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Mothers who want to breastfeed their baby successfully may want to hold off on giving their infant a pacifier, new research from Denmark shows.

Drs. Hanne Kronborg and Michael Vaeth of the University of Aarhus found that women who gave their infant a pacifier in the first weeks of life were less likely to continue breastfeeding their babies.

In Denmark, registered nurses visit newborns and their families soon after the baby is discharged from the hospital. To investigate whether early breastfeeding technique and pacifier use might affect breastfeeding success, the researchers had health visitors specially trained in breastfeeding counseling visit 570 mother-baby pairs.

At the visit, the nurse observed the mother breastfeeding. If the mother was not using an effective technique (for example, the baby wasn't firmly "latched on" to the breast), the nurse provided feedback, guided the mother to use a more effective technique, and then observed a second session.

At the first visit, which occurred an average of eight days after the babies left the hospital, half of the mothers were having breastfeeding difficulty, most frequently with positioning the baby or latching on. While these problems were not associated with how long the mother ultimately breastfed her child, problems with sucking and milk transfer were, according to the report in the medical journal Birth.

Correcting a mother's breastfeeding technique at the nurse visit did not have any influence on duration of breastfeeding, the researchers found.

"Prolonged guidance may be necessary if correction is needed," they say. It's also possible, they add, that "ideal or rigid" recommendations of how women should breastfeed could make women feel less confident, and thus undermine her breastfeeding success.

Nearly two-thirds of the women reported giving their baby a pacifier. Pacifier use was associated with a shorter duration of breastfeeding, independent of breastfeeding technique.

Use of the pacifier "should be avoided in the first weeks after birth by mothers who want to breastfeed," the researchers conclude.

SOURCE: Birth, March 2009.

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