In order to achieve “Baby-Friendly” status many hospitals are halting the use of pacifiers in newborn units. Now however, new research out of Oregon Health & Science University Doernbecher Children’s Hospital says that removing pacifiers may decrease exclusive breastfeeding and increase use of formula. Researchers on the study analyzed feeding data on 2,249 infants born between June 2010 and August 2011 and the pediatrician-scientists found that routine removal of pacifiers during the after-birth hospitalization was associated with decreased exclusive breastfeeding and increased supplemental formula feeds. The data, which is surprising to say the least, was presented at the Pediatric Academic Societies annual meeting in Boston on April 30. Laura Kair, M.D., a resident in pediatrics at OHSU Doernbecher Children’s Hospital, notes, “There is a great deal of energy, nationally and internationally, in support of increasing the number of ‘Baby Friendly’ hospitals. Baby-Friendly hospitals and the 10 steps, when taken together, have been shown to increase exclusive breastfeeding, but the effect of pacifier use on the initiation and duration of exclusive breastfeeding has not been well-established.

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OHSU Doernbecher and many other hospitals nationwide have been working to implement The World Health Organization’s Baby-Friendly hospital initiative in order to improve exclusive breastfeeding rates during the birth hospitalization. One of the Baby Friendly “10 Steps to Successful Breastfeeding,” says “no routine use of pacifiers,” but maybe this new research will change this. The new research showed that when pacifiers were distributed, about 79% of babies were exclusively breastfed. When a no-pacifier policy was implemented at the same hospitals, exclusive breastfeeding rates dropped to 68%. Furthermore, researchers found that there was a 10% increase in supplemental formula given to breastfed babies after the no-pacifier policy started. The researchers aren’t sure why no-pacifier policies resulted in less breastfeeding, but do point out that because breastfeeding rates are so low in the United States, it’s worth paying attention to these statistics. Additionally, although Baby Friendly hospitals limit pacifier use, Kair explains that there’s evidence that pacifier use reduces the risk of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, then again, so does breastfeeding, scoring another point for at least occassional pacifier use. Kair also notes though that, “The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends delaying the introduction of pacifiers until three to four weeks when breastfeeding is established.

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