A recent study, which was presented yesterday, April 30, at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Boston, revealed that although people have long believed that pacifiers may tamper with breastfeeding, researchers determined that not giving babies binkies while in the hospital increases the amount of formula they are drinking.

Evidence has shown reduced illness, such as diarrhea and ear infections, obesity, asthma, and even some types of cancers in babies who are breast fed, and health benefits for mothers who breastfeed; the American Academy of Pediatrics advises mothers to breastfeed for the first 6 months of their child’s life. The WHO (World Health Organization) and United Children’s Fund believe that following the ‘Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding’ is important in promoting breastfeeding and recommend hospitals that are caring for babies to follow the steps. The hospitals are called ‘Baby-Friendly Hospitals’.

The ten steps every maternity service and care facility for newborns should follow are:

  • Have a written breastfeeding policy that is routinely communicated to all health care staff.
  • Train all health care staff in skills necessary to implement the policy.
  • Inform all pregnant women about the benefits and management of breastfeeding.
  • Healp mothers initiate breastfeeding within half an hour of birth.
  • Show mothers how to breastfeed, and how to maintain lactation even if they should be separated from their infants.
  • Give newborn infants no food or drink other than breast milk, unless medically indicated.
  • Practice rooming-in or allowing mothers and infants to remain together 24 hours a day.
  • Encourage breastfeeding on demand.
  • Give no artificial teats or pacifiers (also called dummies, soothers, or binkies) to breastfeeding infants.
  • Foster the establishment of breastfeeding support groups and refer mothers to them on discharge from the hospital or clinic.

For their study, Laura Kair, MD, and Carrie Phillipi, MD, PhD, from OHSU (Oregon Health & Science University) wanted to find out whether or not completely stopping the handing out of pacifiers in the birthing floors of hospitals had any effect on exclusive breastfeeding.

A policy was set in place in December 2010, which made it impossible for nurses to give pacifiers to babies being breastfed, unless they entered a special code, as well as the patient’s name, and only for certain situations, such as soothing babies who were in pain because of a procedure.

The researchers gathered data concerning the feeding habits of 2,249 babies who were born between June 2012 and August 2011. They determined that after nurses stopped giving babies pacifiers, the exclusively breastfeeding numbers declined from 79 percent between July to November 2010, and 68 percent between January to August 2011.

The researchers also found that there was an 18 to 28 percent increase in the balance of infants being breastfed also drinking supplemental formula after the policy was put into action.

Klair stated:

“There is a great deal of energy nationally as well as internationally in support of increasing the number of Baby-Friendly Hospitals. Taken together, the 10 steps improve exclusive breastfeeding rates in the hospital. However, the effect of pacifier use on initiation and duration of exclusive breastfeeding has not been well-established in the medical literature.”

She adds:

“Our goal with publicizing this data is to stimulate conversation and scientific inquiry about whether there is sufficient evidence to support the universal recommendation of not offering pacifiers to breastfeeding infants in the first few days to weeks of life. This subject poses an additional dilemma for parents and pediatric providers as pacifier use is associated with a decreased risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), and the AAP recommends using a pacifier for sleep after breastfeeding is established.”

Written By Christine Kearney