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As a mother, you will hear lots of advice about how you should breastfeed and what is, and is not, okay for you to do. Things can get pretty overwhelming, and it can be difficult to know what to do in situations like this. Comfort nursing seems to have a bad rap amongst some, but having all the information can make a huge difference because it helps you make decisions on your own with regards to your own situation.
What is Comfort Nursing?
There are many reasons why a baby nurses other than to satisfy her hunger or quench her thirst – to warm up, feel safe, calm down, to bond with mum, to fall asleep, for pain relief and simply because the sucking reflex is comforting. When babies feed for any reason other than hunger and thirst, it falls under the category of “Comfort Nursing.”
Is It Normal for Babies to Feed for Comfort?
A baby’s need for food and comfort are the two main aspects of breastfeeding. When babies feed for comfort, it is more about the need to be with mum, hearing her voice, being enveloped in her loving arms, immersed in her scent and hearing her heartbeat, than about food; these things bring a lot of comfort to little ones. Rest assured that if you are the type who enjoys nursing your child for comfort, it is extremely normal and even beneficial towards your child’s development for you to do so.
What Are the Benefits of Comfort Nursing for Babies?
For thousands of years before pacifiers and other modern inventions for nursing were invented, mothers always comforted their babies through breastfeeding. Comfort feeding is also known as non-nutritive breastfeeding and is extremely vital for the overall development of your child. A few benefits to both mother and child are:
1. Social and Emotional Development
Comfort nursing helps babies to learn to trust and interact through improved bonding with mum.
2. Meets the Baby’s Needs
It allows babies to feel comforted, reassured and secure.
3. Helps Babies Sleep
Comfort nursing slows down the baby’s heart rate, which helps her to relax and fall asleep.
4. Jaw and Mouth Development
Mouth and jaw development is improved as comfort nursing can help babies avoid developing crooked or overcrowded teeth later in life.
5. Better Speech
Children who have stronger jaws can speak more clearly due to stronger muscles, so their speech will be better.
6. Soothes Unsettled Babies
Babies who are very unsettled can be comforted through breastfeeding, providing everyone with some much needed quiet time.
7. Boosts Milk Supply
The longer your baby nurses, the more let-down reflexes you are likely to have. The let-down reflex involves the oxytocin hormone encouraging milk to be pushed into your milk ducts from the milk-producing tissue.
8. Helps Drain the Breast
Full breasts do not produce new milk fast, so the more your baby nurses, the better nutrition he or she will get as you will be able to produce fresh milk.
9. Teaches Premature Babies to Breastfeed
Breastfeeding has more benefits than bottle feeding and premature babies will be better off learning to breastfeed, something they are unable to do directly after birth. Allowing them to first nurse for comfort provides them with more comfort and positive experiences with breastfeeding.
10. No Chances of Overfeeding
As babies do not always consume as much breast milk whilst comfort nursing, they are not likely to become overweight or overfed. Your baby knows how much to feed your baby and whatever your baby does consume will be used well by the digestive system.
Can Comfort Sucking Be a Problem?
Comfort sucking provides many benefits to mother and child, so it is very rarely seen as problematic. However, some mothers tend to become overwhelmed when their children want to indulge in comfort nursing all night and at inopportune moments, and are responsible for many mothers wanting to encourage their babies to stop comfort nursing.
Are Flutter Sucking and Comfort Sucking Similar?
The slow and sleepy sucking that babies are prone to do at the end of a feeding session is flutter sucking. Here, the movement of the jaws get less pronounced, there are way fewer swallows, and your baby will fall asleep or even let go of the breast if her tummy is full.
It is a form of comfort nursing, but flutter sucking is used to describe the light sucking that does not involve any swallows and that sometimes includes the baby falling asleep at the breast.
Comfort Nursing a Toddler
Each child is different and not many babies wean at or for the same time. Comfort nursing toddlers is as normal as it is nursing infants. It isn’t just comfort that a nursing toddler receives, but also additional immunity as well as the extra benefit of fewer allergies. Even mothers who breastfeed toddlers enjoy the reduced risk from illness or disease.
How to Stop Comfort Breastfeeding
It can get pretty tiring having to breastfeed your little one all the time, and most mothers struggle with how to stop a baby from comfort nursing and go to sleep on their own. Babies usually stop breastfeeding in their own time, but if you want to help quicken the process, then try weaning your baby off by allowing your child to breastfeed until he or she is almost asleep, rather than completely asleep, and then move on to feeding until he or she is completely relaxed but still awake. The process is most likely going to take a long time, but there are times when babies get used to it faster. Sitting or lying down with your child as they drift off is a step in the right direction as you leaving them too soon can actually set them back.
When is It a Matter of Concern?
Comfort sucking provides many benefits to you and your little one, but it can also prove to be an indicator of something being amiss. So, how to tell if your baby is comfort nursing or nursing for any other reason? If your baby seems to breastfeed all the time and doesn’t gain much weight, it could be indicative of something wrong and that your baby is nursing due to hunger, not comfort. These children spend a lot of time at the breast and rarely ever seem satisfied or content after their feeding. For this, it is best to consult a lactating consultant in order to identify if there may be a problem with you producing milk and they can help you solve the problem at hand.
Comfort nursing provides something for your child that they can get nowhere else. As your child grows and becomes independent, you can be sure that the time spent at your breast taught them that it is you who brings them comfort and helps them feel safe.
Also Read: What is Tandem Nursing?