New moms are often exposed to well-intentioned but unnecessarily dire warnings about soothers and a rumored negative impact on breastfeeding.
However, most breastfeeding moms use soothers, and even the staunchest pro-breastfeeding advocates (i.e. La Leche League and Dr. Sears) concede that soothers can be a huge help to the breastfeeding Mom rather than a detriment.
Here are 6 facts that explain how soothers and breastfeeding play well together.
1. Babies have a strong need to suckle. 'Comfort nursing' is when a baby nurses not for nourishment, but to soothe or entertain himself (also known as 'non-nutritive sucking'). In effect, when a baby comfort nurses, he uses his mother as a soother. Sometimes that’s absolutely fine and a lovely bonding experience for mother and baby. However, breastfeeding moms often need to tend to many other tasks and soothers can assume the role of 'comfort nurser' for her. Older babies may even prefer the soother for this, since they can also look around and move about while they comfort nurse.
2. Soothers keep the peace. Sometimes your baby is hungry but you are temporarily in a situation where you cannot feed him. In these instances, the soother can tide baby over for a short time until you can tend to him. This temporarily resolves the problem of a screaming infant in an already stressful situation: parents can appreciate how crucial this can be.
3. Babies know the difference. When baby is very hungry, he will no longer accept a soother as a substitute for the breast. As long as your baby is gaining well, you don’t have to worry that he is using the soother too much.
4. You can always take it away. Babies may come to depend on the soother, but unlike your child’s thumb, when you decide to wean your baby off his soother it can easily be taken away. The thumb proves more difficult in this case.
5. Soothers soothe colicky and teething babies. In these situations, the soother may be preferable to the breast. Sometimes colic is caused when babies cannot digest their food well, and teething babies are likely to bite or nurse in a manner uncomfortable to mom.
6. Soothers make sleeping safer. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends putting baby to sleep with a soother, as it decreases the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Used judiciously, soothers and breastfeeding complement each other beautifully, and make breastfeeding easier for baby and mother.