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article imageResearchers study link between breastfeeding and pacifiers

By Leigh Goessl     May 7, 2012 in Health
Last week a study was shared at the Pediatric Academic Societies (PAS) medical conference in Boston that suggests pacifiers may not interfere with breastfeeding.
Pacifiers have been used for many decades as a way to soothe a baby. Over time the standard belief has evolved to determine new mothers deciding to nurse should avoid pacifiers and bottles as to not cause "nipple confusion" to an infant. This approach would allow the baby to learn how to properly suckle on mother's breast since artificial nipples require a different suckling method.
Currently, the American Association of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends breastfed babies not be introduced to a pacifier until they are at least four weeks of age.
This assumption is now being challenged, Science Daily reports. Media reports note the two doctors who did the study are said to be strong proponents of exclusive breastfeeding.
Study co-author Dr. Laura Kair, a resident in pediatrics at the university's Doernbecher Children's Hospital, along with Dr. Carrie Phillipi, the from Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) say that pacifiers may be more conducive to breastfeeding than earlier believed.
OHSU is a hospital trying to boost its breastfeeding statistics. According to Time Magazine, the medical facility currently has an 80 percent rate, but hopes to increase this number to 90 percent. Restricting pacifier use in the nursery was implemented in order to reach this goal.
OHSU, following the medical community's recommendations regarding artificial nipples and breastfed babies, had implemented a pacifier policy in the winter of 2010 that restricted nurses from giving breastfed newborns in the nursery a binky. The plastic nipples are only allowed to be used in specific instances for soothing. The policy is very restrictive, even keeping the pacifiers locked up and only accessed by code.
The two doctors decided to examine the issue a little closer. From June 2010 to Aug. 2011 Kair and Phillipi analyzed the data collected on 2,249 infants born during this time frame.
Science Daily reported, "Results showed that the rate of exclusive breastfeeding on the mother-baby unit decreased significantly after pacifiers were restricted -- from 79 percent of infants in July to November 2010 to 68 percent in January to August 2011."
Kair and Phillipi found statistics for supplemental formula given to breastfed newborns rose from 18 to 28 percent after the policy change on pacifiers. Statistics on formula fed babies did not change.
"The overarching belief persists that pacifiers interfere with breast-feeding, even though research hasn't concretely showed they cause a problem," said Kair, reported U.S. News, "We like to rely on our best evidence as physicians, so when we see these results jibe better with our own personal experience than evidence-based practice in our field, it makes us take [note]."
This recent study is not conclusive and reportedly has not yet been peer reviewed or published.
"You cannot draw conclusions to change health care practices from this type of study," said Dr. Richard Schanler, chair of the American Academy of Pediatrics' breast-feeding section, also associate chairman of the department of pediatrics at Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York, in New Hyde Park.
The doctors do admit their study has limitations, but also note the concept worth deeper exploring.
“We know what’s best for moms and babies and that’s to breast-feed,” says Phillipi. “We can’t state parents should or shouldn’t use pacifiers, but this does make you wonder. Especially early in life, we want babies on the breast a lot. But we are seeing that the issue may be more complex.”
This is likely one issue that will be examined more closely to find out whether or not pacifiers do negatively impact a baby's ability to successfully breastfeed during the first month of life
Although, veteran breastfeeding moms might perhaps feel it simply boils down to the preferences of each individual baby.
More about Study, Research, pacifiers, Breastfeeding, Infants
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