Today please welcome my friend Kristine Brite McCormick, an amazing newborn heart screening advocate. Kristine lost her baby Cora to a congenital heart defect, and now focuses all of her energy on saving the lives of infants so that other mothers will not have to suffer as she has. Kristine attended an important conference focused on preventing SIDS and stillbirth, and learned some promising things about the use of pacifiers. She’s sharing them here today. This post is sponsored by MAM.
When I gave birth to my daughter, I was a self-labeled “SIDS fanatic.” I was petrified of finding my baby unresponsive in her crib. I studied all of the recommendations and had a list of dos and don’ts for my entire family to follow. Little did I know that something else would kill my daughter, Cora. She died of a congenital heart defect. I’ve since become an advocate for newborn heart screenings, which can detect congenital heart defects and save lives.
I never planned on becoming an infant health advocate, but my advocacy work has connected me with other grieving mothers, health professionals and nonprofit organizations. While I focus my efforts on pulse-oximetry testing advocacy, my fear of SIDS hasn’t waned.
As a guest of MAM (the babycare experts and makers of BPA-free pacifiers, bottles and teethers) and a contributor to Postpartum Progress, I recently attended the 2012 International Conference on Stillbirth, SIDS and Infant Survival hosted by First Candle, the nation’s leading nonprofit organization dedicated to safe pregnancies and the survival of babies through the first year of life. First Candle supports research, education and advocacy in the fight to eliminate SIDS and I was honored to attend the event.
I was particularly eager to learn more about the connection between pacifier use and SIDS prevention. Over the past few years, I’ve been hearing more buzz about the topic. I’ve read that pacifiers reduced SIDS, but I’ve also read conflicting research about whether or not pacifiers interfered with breastfeeding. Like many issues related to parenting and motherhood, pacifier use is a polarizing issue. On blogs and internet forums, moms debate each other about nipple confusion and when or if to introduce a pacifier. I was interested to learn about the newest research and to hear what the panel participants had to say about this sometimes controversial topic.
In a panel discussion on pacifier use and breasfeeding, Dr. Alejandro Jenik, of the School of Medicine, Hospital Italiano de Buenos Aires, and his fellow panelists shared some interesting research that may help put to rest some of these concerns.
The panelists found that introducing a pacifier at 15 days does not decrease breastfeeding rates or the duration of breastfeeding. Since pacifier use can reduce SIDS, Dr. Jenik and his collaborators concluded that recommending a pacifier at 15 days postpartum is appropriate, stating, “The recommendation to offer a pacifier at 15 days does not modify the prevalence and duration of breastfeeding. Because pacifier use is associated with reduced incidence of sudden infant death syndrome, the recommendation to offer a pacifier appears safe and appropriate in similar populations.”
While the research on pacifier use in reducing SIDS is well-known, many moms continue to worry about when and how to use pacifiers. Many lactation consultants recommend waiting nearly a month to introduce a pacifier in order to establish breastfeeding first. I was relieved to learn that because the risk of SIDS is very low during the first month of life, according to the experts at First Candle, it is in fact safe to choose to delay introducing your baby to a pacifier until breastfeeding is established and as early as 15 days.
If you are experiencing symptoms of postpartum anxiety or depression, you may have even more concerns. It can be difficult for mothers to filter the numerous reports and new stories to determine what is scientifically-proven versus an old wives tale. For parents struggling with the pros and cons of pacifier usage to help prevent SIDS, the findings shared at the International Conference on Stillbirth, SIDS and Infant Survival may help alleviate some of their concerns.
For example, in another panel discussion, experts revealed that even limited pacifier use was enough to reduce the risk of SIDS, which is welcome news for anxious moms. Dr. Fern Hauck, Professor of Family Medicine and Public Health Sciences at the University of Virginia, presented an article which summarized several studies stating that it’s normal for babies to only use their pacifiers for a few minutes during sleep.
Well-meaning but sometimes misguided advice from friends and family as well as conflicting research and alarmist news reports can add to the stress new moms may feel. Sleepless nights and worry about SIDS and nipple confusion definitely doesn’t help.
I was really happy to hear the same recommendation over and over at the First Candle conference. If your baby doesn’t accept a pacifier, don’t freak out about it. If your baby spits out a pacifier while sleeping, you don’t need to worry — the new research shows that even brief pacifier usage helps reduce SIDS risk. And if you want to offer a pacifier to soothe your breastfed baby, the new research shows that pacifier use does not work against nursing moms when a pacifier is introduced after 15 days.
For more information about the work of First Candle, please visit: www.firstcandle.org. To learn more about MAM pacifiers, please visit: www.mambaby.com. If you’d like more information, please join the conversation on Twitter using #firstcandle, @mambaby and @kristinebrite.
Disclosure: Kristine Brite McCormick attended the First Candle International Conference as a guest of MAM (http://www.mambaby.com) on behalf of PostpartumProgress, but the observations in this post are her own. MAM Baby was a sponsor of the First Candle Conference.
Katherine Stone is an ambassador for MAM, the babycare experts and makers of BPA-free pacifiers, bottles and teethers. She is grateful for their donation to the nonprofit, Postpartum Progress Inc., to help support its work supporting moms with postpartum depression.