Effect of pacifier use on duration of breastfeeding in full-term infants

Breast milk is superior to other baby foods in providing balanced nutrition and protection against allergy and infection to newborns. Breastfeeding is recommended by the World Health Organization, exclusively in the first six months and then as a dietary supplement. Breastmilk production and supply are maintained by frequent suckling of the breast and nipple stimulation. A pacifier is a non-nutritive sucking device used to calm an infant that has become a cultural norm in many parts of the world. However there is a widespread belief that pacifiers may interfere with breast milk production and lead to discontinuation of breastfeeding.

Our review concluded that for mothers who are motivated to breastfeed their infants, pacifier use before or after breastfeeding was established did not significantly affect the prevalence or duration of exclusive and partial breastfeeding up to four months of age. The review provided moderate evidence from three randomised controlled trials (involving 1915 babies) comparing unrestricted with restricted pacifier use by healthy, full-term breastfeeding infants; two of the trials (1302 babies) were included in the analysis. However, there is a widespread belief that pacifiers may interfere with breast milk production and lead to discontinuation of breastfeeding.

Authors' conclusions: 

Pacifier use in healthy term breastfeeding infants, started from birth or after lactation is established, did not significantly affect the prevalence or duration of exclusive and partial breastfeeding up to four months of age. However, evidence to assess the short-term breastfeeding difficulties faced by mothers and long-term effect of pacifiers on infants' health is lacking.

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Background: 

To successfully initiate and maintain breastfeeding for a longer duration, the World Health Organization's Ten Steps to Successful Breastfeeding recommends total avoidance of artificial teats or pacifiers for breastfeeding infants. Offering the pacifier instead of the breast to calm the infant may lead to less frequent episodes of breastfeeding and as a consequence may reduce breast milk production and shorten duration of breastfeeding; however, this remains unclear.

Objectives: 

To assess the effect of unrestricted versus restricted pacifier use in healthy full-term newborns whose mothers have initiated breastfeeding and intend to exclusively breastfeed, on the duration of breastfeeding, other breastfeeding outcomes and infant health.

Search strategy: 

We searched the Cochrane Pregnancy and Childbirth Group's Trials Register (14 March 2012).

Selection criteria: 

Randomised and quasi-randomised controlled trials comparing unrestricted versus restricted pacifier use in healthy full-term newborns who have initiated breastfeeding regardless of whether they were born at home or in the hospital.

Data collection and analysis: 

Two authors independently assessed the studies for inclusion, assessed risk of bias and carried out data extraction. Data were checked for accuracy.

Main results: 

We found three trials (involving 1915 babies) for inclusion in the review but have included only two trials (involving 1302 healthy full-term breastfeeding infants) in the analysis. Meta-analysis of the two combined studies showed that pacifier use in healthy breastfeeding infants had no significant effect on the proportion of infants exclusively breastfed at three months (risk ratio (RR) 0.99; 95% confidence interval (CI) 0.93 to 1.05), and at four months of age (RR 0.99; 95% CI 0.92 to 1.06) and also had no effect on the proportion of infants partially breastfed at three months (RR 1.00; 95% CI 0.98 to 1.13), and at 4 months of age (RR 1.01; 95% CI 0.98 to 1.03).