So many books, doctors, and advice columns warn of the problems of nipple confusion, and highly recommend that you have breastfeeding well established before offering other suckling objects. While I do agree that it is important to establish sound breastfeeding habits, I also have come to realize that it is important to expose your baby to pacifiers and bottles early enough. Case in point, my first daughter. I was so set on no pacifiers or bottles until at least 6 weeks, and one of my biggest regrets is that I didn’t introduce these habits earlier. My oldest, Allison, never learned to like the pacifier, which was good and bad. At times I feel she could have benefited from a pacifier to enable her to soothe herself. Instead, I was scared she would become a three year old with a pacifier, or I would rely on the pacifier too much as a plug. I was wrong. And as a seasoned pediatrician once told me at one of Allison’s well-checks, “nipple confusion, blah!” Sucking on a bottle or pacifier is very different from sucking on a breast. It is more that one might not want the baby to prefer a bottle over a breast, especially since it is easier to get nourishment from a bottle teat. On the other hand, if babies are never exposed to a bottle and need to receive milk from a bottle every so often, like when mom goes back to work, then what happens, as did with my daughter, is that babies may learn not to take a bottle well and will continue instead to seek nourishment only from mom.
Allison rarely took more than 3 ounces in a bottle, so on the days I worked she would wait to get her big feedings till I came home. Really, there was nothing wrong with that either, but I would have preferred her to be happy receiving a bottle. I waited till she was 6 weeks old to give her a bottle, when I wished I had maybe tried consistently around 3 weeks. So, as many people say, your first child is your guinea pig, so number two got her first bottle at just 2 weeks old! (And so far so good, she chugs down her milk and is satisfied when finished.) Another feat for Jolie that Alli didn’t really do: the pacifier. I was afraid to offer this too early to Allison and she never wanted to suck on one by the time she was 6 weeks old when I decided to offer it. We might have been able to soothe many sleepless nights if I had just allowed a pacifier earlier.
So with Jolie, I consulted both a lactation consultant and a pediatrician in the hospital, and neither objected to her having a pacifier on day 2! She was starting to want to sit and pacify on me, and I didn’t want to start that. Jolie had already, however, established good breastfeeding skills, and was latching well, otherwise we would have waited. I should also mention that many hospitals will bring the baby back from the nursery with a pacifier unless you note in your birth plan not to do this. I did want to make the decision about when my daughters would be given the pacifier for the first time, so I clearly spelled this out in the birth plan: no pacifiers please! Jolie takes one throughout the day, spits it out when she isn’t needing it, and it has been a comfort for her. Who knows, maybe she is just a calmer baby, or maybe Allison would have been a little calmer, had she had something to suck on. And that’s my two cents on nipple confusion. 🙂