Pacifiers and Exclusive Breastfeeding: Does Risk for Postpartum Depression Modify the Association?

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Postpartum depression is associated with lower rates of breastfeeding. Evidence describing the effect of pacifiers on breastfeeding is inconsistent, and previous research suggests that pacifiers may help vulnerable mothers breastfeed.

Research aim:

This study aimed to determine (a) how receiving a pacifier in the hospital affects exclusive breastfeeding (EBF) at 1 week and 3 months postpartum and (b) whether this association is modified by risk for postpartum depression (PPD).


Data were derived from Listening to Mothers III. We included participants (n = 1,349) who intended to breastfeed and delivered at term. Mothers were considered at high risk for PPD if they reported feeling the need to receive treatment for depression during pregnancy. We used weighted multivariable logistic regression models to adjust for covariates.


Receiving a pacifier in the hospital was not significantly associated with EBF at 1 week (odds ratio [OR] = 0.84, 95% confidence interval [CI] [0.62, 1.12]) but was significantly associated with lower odds of EBF at 3 months postpartum (OR = 0.72, 95% CI [0.54, 0.95]). Risk for PPD modified this association. Among mothers at high risk for PPD, receiving a pacifier was significantly associated with increased odds of EBF (OR = 3.31, 95% CI [1.23, 8.97] at 1 week and OR = 5.27, 95% CI [1.97, 14.12] at 3 months); however, among mothers who were at lower risk for PPD, receiving a pacifier was associated with decreased odds of EBF (OR = 0.75, 95% CI [0.56, 1.02] at 1 week and OR = 0.62, 95% CI [0.46, 0.82] at 3 months).


Pacifiers may help protect against early cessation of EBF among mothers at high risk for depression. Additional research is needed to better understand this association.

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