When you have a baby there is so much controversy surrounding what you should and should not be doing. In my experience, the most controversial topic has by far always been surrounding breastfeeding.
You shouldn’t be feeding your baby to sleep.
You shouldn’t breastfeed past 1 year of age.
You should mix feed with formula so your baby doesn’t starve.
You should have scheduled feeding patterns and all sorts!
It can be very confusing indeed, especially if you are a new mom.
The truth is that you can’t and won’t be able to satisfy everyone. No matter what you decide to do someone will always have an opinion on it. That’s just a fact of life.
You have to do what you think is right for your baby.
As there is so much controversy around breastfeeding I think it would be good to discuss a really hot topic – Comfort nursing
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What is comfort nursing?
Breastfeeding is not just about feeding for a baby there is a lot more in it than just a source of nutrition.
We all know that when a baby breastfeeds they are essentially hungry (hindmilk) or thirsty (foremilk).
There are other times that your baby will want to go onto the breast that has nothing to do with food or drink.
Sometimes your baby will want to latch onto the breast simply for comfort sucking.
This is not unusual at all. So if you do notice it don’t be overly worried about it.
Why is nursing so comforting for babies?
Sometimes your baby will want to be on the breast just to be comforted. It stands to reason as breastfeeding is your baby’s safe place since the day they were born.
They may want to comfort feed because they are not feeling well, they may be teething and therefore feeling a lot of pain. Sometimes being on the breast helps them to feel safe or it can be a place where they go to when they are feeling sleepy or tired.
Don’t be surprised if your baby enjoys nursing to sleep.
Comfort sucking or flutter sucking as some people call it is completely normal behavior for a baby.
Is it wrong to let your baby comfort feed?
You will get all sorts of answers when it comes to this question.
In my personal opinion, it comes down to what you feel comfortable with. If you are not happy about it then you shouldn’t do it.
If on the other hand, you think that you should because it is your baby’s safe haven and brings them comfort then you shouldn’t let the opinions of others discourage you from baby comfort nursing.
For me personally there have been a number of times that I was extremely glad to be able to comfort feed my baby.
The time when he was in obvious pain from teething and I didn’t want to give baby paracetamol because I felt he was too young.
The time when he came down with a cold so was upset for a few days.
The time when he fell over and couldn’t stop crying.
I was just so happy to be able to give him something that would make him happy and give him a bit of relief. I don’t see there is anything harmful in that, do you?
Most of us adults have a number of things that bring us comfort every day. Most of us have no intention of cutting it out even when it is bad for us.
What’s the difference between comfort nursing and feeding?
If you have been breastfeeding for any amount of time you will quickly be able to see the difference between comfort nursing and real feeding.
When your baby is feeding you will hear deep swallows of milk and can feel a bit of a pull as your baby sucks the milk. You may even feel your milk let down.
When your baby swallows the milk you will see by the movement of their mouth that there is deep swallowing going on. If your baby is only flutter sucking there will not be as much mouth movement. You should quickly be able to see the difference.
Comfort feeding is not about anything to do with nutrition but it just so happens that milk naturally will come out as your baby latches on to your breast.
When your baby is comfort feeding you will notice that they may go on and off the breast quite a lot. They or may not be super focused on what they are doing.
You will not feel the pulling sensation of the milk either because they are not there for the food.
If you do find that your baby is hungry but they are struggling to focus on the task at hand then a nursing necklace could help you out with that problem.
How do I know if my baby is comfort nursing?
Aside from being able to tell if your baby is deep swallowing or not you will see that your baby will probably latch and unlatch several times during the session.
Some sessions will be very short and some will be much longer depending on if they want to sleep or not.
Another way to tell if your baby is comfort feeding is if you know that they have just eaten something else so should not be hungry.
If your baby has already had some solids to eat or has had a snack the chances are that they will not be hungry and just want a bit of comfort.
If your child is younger and not quite ready for solids yet but has just had a feed and wants to feed again. It’s likely that they will be comfort nursing.
Does comfort nursing stimulate milk?
Yes, it can stimulate your milk. Whenever your baby latches onto your breast whether it is to feed or comfort nurse milk will be stimulated.
This is actually a really great way to help you increase your milk supply if you have been struggling to meet your baby’s needs.
The more you allow your baby to attach on the breast the more your milk will be stimulated.
Are breastfed babies more clingy?
Every baby is different, some will be clingy no matter if you choose to breastfeed or bottle-feed.
I have breastfed all 4 of my babies and there has been no correlation in if they are clingy or not.
Some of my children are clingy and some are not. I would say that it’s more of a character issue rather than a how they were fed issue.
I wouldn’t let the “clinginess” issue make your decision for you.
Should I stop my baby from comfort feeding?
Not if you don’t want to.
As we have already discussed there are many advantages to your baby being able to comfort feed.
The fact that it can help your baby feel better when they are hurt or feeling sad is enough reason for me.
When my 3rd born had chickenpox I was so grateful for being able to allow him to comfort nurse because there wasn’t really much else that I could do to distract him from the itching.
Believe me, there will be times when you wished you could comfort feed.
As a compromise, you may only allow your baby to comfort feed some of the time.
Just because you allow comfort nursing does not mean that the sweet shop has to be open 24 hours a day.
You may want to put some restrictions on it. The more your baby grows the more they will begin to understand when they can and can not comfort feed.
Will I be overfeeding my baby?
Not by allowing them to comfort feed, no.
When your baby is comfort sucking they are not in it for the milk so any milk that they do ingest will be minimal and is unlikely to cause them to overfeed.
Your baby will know when they want to drink the milk or not.
Don’t forget that the first part of your milk is mainly water so there won’t be many calories in the foremilk anyway.
Will I create a bad habit if my baby is feeding to sleep?
Truthfully, probably yes.
As you will notice with most babies, they tend to want milk before they sleep whether that is formula or breast milk.
Breastfeeding at night is something that most babies will do because of the size of their stomachs when they are very little.
As they feed they will be constantly in and out of sleep consciousness falling asleep on the breast quite often.
As they begin to get older they will start to learn to comfort themselves to sleep and should naturally wean themselves from needing milk before sleeping.
In the same way, a pacifier can have the same negative effect in getting your child to sleep.
Again using a pacifier is a habit that babies eventually grow out of.
Final thoughts on comfort nursing
Having your baby breastfeed for comfort is completely normal and is sometimes even a welcomed relief to some moms as it helps to calm their child if they are upset.
There is no evidence that shows that allowing your baby to comfort feed will have a negative impact on your baby.
Do what works for you that is the only thing you can do as a mother.
Remember no matter what you chose to do someone will always have an opinion so make a decision that makes YOU and your baby happy.
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