The First Pacifier

What is the first pacifier? No, it’s not the rubber pacifiers that began to be manufactured in the early 1900’s or the use of a corncob prior to that.   Wait for it……Yes, it’s the breast.  Since the dawn of time, breasts have been used as pacifiers and they have done a magnificent job.  Always available, always soft, always smelling like mom – never lost, never being chewed on by the dog, never waiting to be cleaned.   the pacifier

I believe that almost everyone at this point is educated about the benefits of breastfeeding.  We all know that nursing is the best way to feed your baby and breast milk is a super food with immune fighting properties equal to none.  However, why don’t we tout the comforting qualities of the breast just as frequently and that it’s okay to use them for that purpose?  A doula friend of mine was at a hospital recently where the L&D nurse actually told the mom not to let the baby use her breast as a pacifier and plopped a rubber “dummy” in the baby’s mouth.   That’s what artificial pacifiers are called in England..hmmm.

I was recently working as a postpartum doula with a client when she told me the “baby can’t possibly be hungry again, should I put him back on the breast?”  I explained that the baby may want to comfort nurse and that’s absolutely fine – soothes the baby, helps the milk come in etc.  She was more than happy to oblige the baby, she just hadn’t heard of this and didn’t know that her breast could be used to comfort as well as feed.   I realized that day that many women don’t know this.

Dr. Harvey Karp discusses “suckling” as a comfort measure in his book, “The Happiest Baby on the Block.”  However, the other four comfort measures are more widely known: swaddling, swaying, shushing,  holding the baby in a side lying position. (In fact Dr. Karp says that in other cultures where there is no such word as colic, the moms put the baby to the breast as many as 100 times per day! He suggests the use of a pacifier only after breastfeeding is well established.)11924breast_feeding

 I also want to say for the record – I’m not a rubber pacifier hater.  I think they can be a fine soothing tool when used appropriately (after breastfeeding is well established) and judiciously (don’t plop it in constantly without trying other alternatives).   There are times that mom may not feel like offering up her breast one more time and that’s perfectly fine.  Try some of the other soothing techniques noted above from Dr. Karp.  A clean pinky finger can also be used to the delight of a baby that loves to suck.   Let’s just not forget the original pacifier – the wonderful multi-tasking breast.


Patti Schultz, Postpartum Doula