These signs indicate your baby is crying for food:
When you touch her face, she turns her head and opens her mouth in search of the nipple.
A pacifier may initially calm her, but within minutes she’ll start fussing again.
When you offer her milk she takes it eagerly and afterwards becomes sweet and calm.
2. Does sucking on a pacifier shorten breast-feeding?
Since how a baby sucks on a pacifier differs from how she sucks on a breast, wait two to three weeks, until breast-feeding is going well, before introducing the pacifier. At that point, pacifiers can occasionally make breast-feeding more successful by lessening a baby’s crying and helping her mom get a break from nonstop sucking.
3. Can pacifiers cause ear infections?
A few studies have reported that babies using pacifiers get more ear infections. This probably happens because sucking hard on a pacifier disturbs the pressure in the ears (the same way pressure changes on airplane flights can give kids ear infections). Fortunately, young infants can’t suck a pacifier hard enough to cause much pressure to build up. So you don’t have to worry about this for the first four months.
4. Can pacifiers protect babies from SIDS?
Scientific studies consistently report a lower incidence of SIDS among infants who use pacifiers. It’s not entirely clear how bedtime pacifier use protects babies. Nevertheless, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends bedtime pacifier use (bottle-fed babies from birth; breast-fed babies over one month of age).
5. Can my baby become addicted to the pacifier if she always sleeps with one?
No! This is one old wives’ tale you can put to bed. When Hannah was five months old, it took her mother a mere three days to wean her pacifier use down from all night and several hours a day to just two minutes a day.
However, as mentioned, a baby over five to six months may begin to develop an emotional attachment to her binkie. Although you can still wean her from the pacifier after that age, it’s often more traumatic.
6. If sucking is so important, should I wrap my baby with her hands out so she can get to them?
Calm babies may do fine with their hands unwrapped, but fussy babies have a hard time sucking their fingers without accidentally whacking themselves in the face. For these kids, having their hands free is a frustrating tease. It’s much easier on agitated babies to swaddle them and give them pacifiers, because they can control their bodies and suck better when their arms are not flailing and disturbing them.
7. Will frequent feeding spoil my baby or make her tummy more colicky?
Many parents, like Valerie and David, are warned that “overfeeding” can give their baby tummy pain:
“Our baby, Christina, was screaming and would calm only on my breast. My husband said I was making her colicky by feeding her every time she cried. My friends warned me I would spoil her by feeding her so often. What should I do?”
When Valerie asked me this, I told her, first, thank goodness she had a method that worked to calm her baby. Second, it’s impossible to spoil a fetus—and all babies are “fetuses” for the first three months. Third, she needed to call her doctor to make sure her baby was getting enough milk.
I never worry about a young baby’s frequent suckling leading to spoiling or upset tummies. After all, we know from our studies of primitive cultures that babies were “originally designed” to nurse, on and off, all day and night. However, it sounded to me like Valerie was overlooking something very important. Although suckling Christina was a beautiful and satisfying way to soothe her fussiness, Valerie was not taking advantage of the other natural calming tools she possessed. So I recommended that she and David learn and practice the other 4 “S’s.” That would enable David to play a more active role and for Valerie to have a respite from breastfeeding.
Dads are especially eager to master other calming tricks, because they often feel left out when the only method that calms their baby is a milky breast. Once fathers learn how to quickly soothe their babies, they feel much more confident caring for them.
8. If I let my baby suckle on my breasts all night, I sleep well and it feels very cozy. Is there anything harmful in doing this?
Spending the night with your baby at your side is how most people have slept throughout the ages. I think one of the most blessed feelings a woman can have is the sweet sleep that she shares with her nursing child. When you are together like that, it’s natural that she may want to nibble a little on and off. However, it’s your choice. You can go along with your baby’s wishes or keep your shirt on and try to pacify her another way. There’s no right or wrong about this—the decision is yours. (See Chapter 15 for a discussion of the pros and cons about co-sleeping.)
However, if you’re sleeping with your baby, please be aware of the following:
Keep pillows and blankets away, avoid waterbeds, and make sure she can’t fall off or get stuck under the headboard or against the wall. (Swaddling will help keep her from scooting into dangerous places.)
Make sure you’re getting enough rest. You’re no good to your baby if you get sick or become a menace when you are driving.
Once your baby’s teeth begin to come in, be aware that feedings lasting more than a half hour may cause tooth decay.
9. There are a lot of thumb suckers in my family. Will giving my baby a pacifier prevent her from sucking her thumb later … or encourage it?
Some babies are just incredibly driven to suck. Their strong desire is not a sign of being overly immature, dependent, or insecure (or of your being too lax as a parent). In my experience, the vast majority of cases of prolonged thumb and pacifier sucking is simply an inherited trait, no different from eye color or dimples. Or, to put it another way, it’s one thing you really can blame on your parents!
There is little doubt that pacifiers prevent thumb sucking; it’s just too hard to get both into the mouth at the same time. But in my experience it doesn’t affect the length of time a baby demands to suck on something (finger or paci).