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Can a Newborn Be Addicted to a Pacifier?

by Barbie Carpenter

Many parents have a love-hate relationship with their baby's pacifier. While it soothes their little one, the pacifier might concern parents who fear their baby might become dependent on it. During the newborn stage, though, the bigger concern with pacifiers is one of nipple confusion, not pacifier addiction. Understand how to use the pacifier to soothe your newborn without inhibiting feedings or creating a dependence on it.

Purpose

Pacifiers pick up where feedings leave off, allowing newborns to continue the sucking motion, which can soothe them, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics' HealthyChildren.org site. While a breastfeeding baby might want to continue to suck on his mother's nipple after a feeding, the mother might want to get up, lay the baby down or simply take a break from nursing. In these instances, a pacifier can satisfy the desire to suck, serving as an artificial nipple to create a more peaceful baby.

Breastfeeding

During the first several weeks of life, newborns establish a healthy breastfeeding relationship with their mothers, learning to latch and suck to gain the nourishment they need to thrive. A newborn just learning to breastfeed might be confused by a pacifier, which is more rigid than the soft human nipple, according to La Leche League International. Nipple confusion, then, is a major concern for newborns who use the pacifier frequently. When they struggle with the transition from artificial to human nipple, babies might fuss, cry and nurse less effectively.

Addiction

Many babies become attached to their pacifiers, but it typically takes more than the first several weeks of life to develop an addiction to them. The AskDrSears website describes a baby's attachment to a pacifier as bonding, not addiction. When your newborn turns to the pacifier instead of you, the parent, for comfort, that might be a sign that your little one is too attached to the artificial nipple. Likewise, the pacifier should not be a substitute for parental nurturing, only a supplement for additional soothing.

Breaking the Habit

While it's unlikely your newborn has become addicted to the pacifier in a matter of weeks, you can minimize pacifier use if you're concerned. If you're nursing, you can also serve as a human pacifier rather than giving your newborn an artificial nipple. You might even allow your baby to suck on your clean finger rather than a pacifier to break the habit. If you let a newborn's pacifier bonding develop for several months or more, you might have an infant who does become addicted to the pacifier.

About the Author

Barbie Carpenter worked as a technical writer and editor in the defense industry for six years. She also served as a newspaper feature page editor and nationally syndicated columnist for the Hearst Corp. Carpenter holds a Bachelor of Science in journalism from the University of Florida and a graduate certificate in professional writing from the University of Central Florida.

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