Just so you know from the get-go, I’m not an impartial party to this debate. I’m all for bottles and pacifiers (bring it, La Leche). However, I know there’s disadvantages to using them (especially in certain ways), so we should cover that first. Another thing to note when it comes to bottles and pacifiers is that it depends on your baby’s personality. Some babies are going to be much more compatible with bottles and pacifiers than other babies, no matter how perfectly you use them/don’t overuse them. Anyway, on to the cons:
• “Nipple confusion” can occur if bottles are used too early (before about 3 weeks) or too often, which can make breastfeeding difficult. Baby may also decide that he or she likes the bottle better, with its even, faster flow and may go on a nursing strike.
• Weaning a baby from a pacifier can be tough, especially if your baby becomes really attached
• Babies who overuse pacifiers and bottles can have problems with teeth coming in correctly
• If you use formula (rather than pumped milk) in the bottle, baby’s diapers are stinkier
Moving right along, I opted to use both pacifiers and bottles (alongside nursing) despite these cons because of two words: options and sanity. That said, let’s take a look at the pros:
• As for pacifiers, babies LOVE to suck on things. Its hardwired into their systems. Sometimes your baby is crying simply because he or she wants something in their mouth. You could offer to nurse 20 times a day, but this will a.) wear you out, and b.) your baby isn’t hungry all 20 times, and contrary to the popular myth, babies CAN overeat when nursing.
• Contrary to a popular myth, pacifiers do NOT cause nipple confusion
• The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends letting babies sleep with a paci for the first year of life, since it decreases the risk of SIDS
• Our baby hates the car seat (shocking, but I’m sure I’m not alone), and a pacifier helps us all feel much more sane at the end of a car ride/drive more safely I’m sure too.
• As for bottles, most babies easily adapt to eating from both a bottle and the breast (nipple confusion is not the norm). This allows for someone else to take a feeding once in a while. This basically saved my life, since our baby isn’t a champion sleeper to say the least. With a bottle, my husband can take the first feeding, letting me get a couple more precious hours of sleep. It’s also nice to know that if we’re late getting back to a babysitter, our baby will take a bottle, and we aren’t stuck with visions of a screaming, starving baby until we can get home (tip: introduce a bottle by the end of the second month at the latest, or its likely baby will reject it).
As with everything, do what’s best for your particular baby. All I can say is that I’ve found that using these tools in moderation can be a real lifesaver.