It’s up there with colic and non-nappers as far as new moms’ worst nightmares: nipple confusion. It can happen when newborns forget how to nurse from the breast if they’re introduced to a pacifier too soon. The answer among pediatricians is limiting the pacifier for several weeks after birth, but new findings just might turn that theory on its head. Oregon Health and Science University researchers found that restricting pacifier use resulted in decreased rates of exclusive breastfeeding by up to 75 percent.
August first to the seventh is World Breastfeeding Week, started in 1982 with the mission of making hospitals “Baby-Friendly.” Only 10 percent of hospitals in the United States have achieved this designation. In an effort to boost breastfeeding and become “Baby-Friendly,” Oregon Health and Science University restricted pacifiers for newborns, reserving them only as a soothing analgesic to get babies through a painful procedure, like a circumcision.
But their strategy seemed to backfire. They found that exclusive breastfeeding actually decreased 11 percent in just over a year. What’s more, babies who were both breastfeeding and receiving supplemental formula increased from 18 to 28 percent.
So what gives? Did the newborns outsmart the system? Although the study was based on observations, it begs the question whether nipple confusion exists and calls for further study. But physicians agree on this: Breast is still best. It’s nutritious and helps you bond with baby. Consult with your pediatrician or a lactation consultant about the best ways to introduce a bottle or pacifier. Baby should be ready for solids at four or six months, and then there’s no confusion to be had … until you try to sneak them veggies.