Sucking and Pacifiers

Your newborn baby has reflexes to suck on anything that gets near her mouth. Within a few days, she figures out that sucking helps her feel better. Many babies want to suck even when they aren't hungry.

I am OK with using a pacifier. But I don't recommend a pacifier in the first three weeks — until your baby has been checked at least two times by her doctor and you are sure she is gaining weight. Occasionally, a baby is so accommodating and quiet, that if they get a pacifier, they won't fuss at all, but they also won't take enough milk to gain weight.

Pacifier

If you are breast feeding, it is especially important that you wait to use a pacifier until your milk supply is established and your baby is gaining weight. This can take two or three weeks.

Some babies will want to suck 24 out of 24 hours. These babies may need a pacifier so that their parents can sleep. If you get a baby like this, you will know it by the time she is two weeks old. She will likely be a pound over her birth weight. Yes, use a pacifier.

Thumbsucking

About half of babies develop the habit of comforting themselves by sucking. If your baby learns to comfort herself with a pacifier, you can "loose" all the pacifiers when the adults decide it is time to stop. If your baby learns to comfort herself by sucking on her thumb or her fingers, she may keep her sucking habit for more years than you and all the other adults in her life are comfortable with.

Thanks to Janelle Aby MD, Stanford School Of Medicine, Newborn Nursery, and Lucille Packard Children's Hospital for the use of occasional photographs.