Infants who use pacifiers may be more likely than other babies to stop breast-feeding before they reach 6 months -- and thus may miss out on the medical and psychological benefits of breast-feeding, according to a new report.
The study of 600 Brazilian infants found that babies who used a pacifier when they were 1 month old were three times as likely as babies who didn't use pacifiers to stop breast-feeding by 6 months.
Babies who use pacifiers may not be able to muster enough suction for breast-feeding, suggested study author Dr. Fernando Barros of the Universidade Federal de Pelotas in Brazil.
Pacifier use also may modify how often and how long a baby breast-feeds, the study found. Many of the mothers whose babies sucked on pacifiers complained of not having enough milk, or said their babies refused to breast-feed, according to the study, published in the April issue of the journal Pediatrics.
Women who want to breast-feed their infants probably should not use pacifiers, the researchers said.
Most pediatricians recommend that mothers try to breast-feed their babies for the first year of life. "Breast-feeding is the optimal form of infant nutrition," said Leslee Williams, a spokesperson for the American Academy of Pediatrics. "The only acceptable alternative is an iron-fortified formula."
Breast-feeding is thought to promote a psychological bond between mother and child, is considered nutritionally superior to formula and protects against many infectious diseases, such as middle-ear infections, according to Dr. Cheston Berlin, a professor of pediatrics at Pennsylvania State College of Medicine.
There are several theories on why pacifiers may interfere with breast-feeding, according to Dr. Berlin.
A nursing baby draws the mother's nipple and the surrounding ring of tissue -- the areola -- all the way into the mouth, an action not duplicated when the baby sucks on a pacifier.
Thus, a baby who becomes accustomed to the sucking on a pacifier may be unable to get a sufficient amount of milk when breast-feeding, Dr. Berlin said.
Breast-feeding early on is crucial to stimulate an adequate amount of milk production from the mother, he added. By popping a pacifier into a baby's mouth -- instead of breast- feeding -- when he is crying, a mother's milk supply may be reduced, he said.
"We know that frequent application of the baby to the breast early on leads to the let-down of milk from the mother," he said.
But you don't have to throw out your baby's pacifier, said Dr. Marianne Neifert, a pediatrician at Presbyterian/St. Luke's Hospital in Denver. Instead, simply wait until you have been breast-feeding for awhile before using them, she suggested.