Why do babies suckle?
To understand how a pacifier can support your baby, we first need to delve into why babies suckle. In short: they can’t help it! Babies are born with a natural need to suckle anything that’s placed in their mouth. As your little one grows, this reflex will slowly disappear.
Is all suckling the same?
Believe it or not, not all suckling is the same! There are actually two different types:
Nutritive suckling—suckling that happens as your baby feeds
Non-nutritive suckling—any suckling that doesn’t happen while feeding
A pacifier, as you probably guessed, fits into the non-nutritive camp.
So what are the benefits of suckling?
When it comes to nutritive suckling the benefits might seem obvious: your baby is able to draw out milk from a bottle or breast.
There’s also a whole lot more going on behind the scenes. These are the key benefits of both non-nutritive and nutritive suckling that you might not know about:
A content feeling
Ever noticed how your baby becomes sleepy right after a feed? Or feels calm when you offer a pacifier? This happens because suckling triggers the release of a hormone called CCK (Cholecystokinin). It makes your baby feel full, relaxed, and ready for a sleep!
The other role of CCK is it helps with your little one’s digestion. Breast milk is high in protein and fat and CCK is able to break it down.
Finally, suckling of the non-nutritive kind gives your little one some extra practise coordinating a suckle-swallow-breathe action. These three steps allow your baby to feed effectively from a breast or bottle.
Anything else I should know?
So now that you know suckling and using a pacifier supports your little one, here are a few extra tips to keep in mind as they grow.