Comfort Nursing

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Many new moms who are tired of feeding their babies for long hours come to me with this dilemma. “Doctor my baby feeds for so long sometimes. The feeding continues even after I know that the suckling is not producing any milk. Everyone says this is wrong and that I should not encourage this, because it will spoil my baby. But if I try to stop the suckling my baby just cries and cries. I am so confused. What should I do?”

My answer –

“Listen to your instincts.”

What does your heart say when you hear your baby cry?

I am sure if you listen carefully, you will find it asking you to pick up your baby and start suckling them.

And in most cases, you will find that it does calm your baby down and stop the crying.

Remember that breastfeeding has a purpose beyond providing your baby with nutrition.

The process of suckling reduces your baby’s stress and comforts your baby.

This is called comfort nursing.

And there is absolutely nothing wrong with allowing your baby to nurse for comfort.

What is comfort nursing?

When your baby suckles on your breast without trying to draw out milk – it is called comfort nursing.

During comfort nursing, the sucks are shallow. Babies suckle like this close to the end of the feed when they are full and want to be lulled to sleep.

What is the purpose of comfort nursing?

  • Providing comfort

As the name suggests, comfort nursing comforts your baby and offers emotional nourishment through close skin to skin contact.

  • Ensuring that the breast is emptied completely of milk

When milk is left over in the breast after a feed, it prevents the breast from producing more milk. Comfort nursing empties this left-over milk from the breast. And this serves as the signal for your breast to produce more milk.

Breastmilk supply is based on ‘supply if there is demand’. Demand is conveyed to your breasts by suckling. When your baby suckles after they have had their fill of milk, the breasts note that your baby needs more milk. And they step up their milk production.

  • Improving suckling

Babies are born knowing how to suckle, but they are also born knowing that ‘practice makes perfect’. During comfort nursing your baby practices suckling to become more efficient and effective.

Things to do when your baby is comfort nursing:

  • Relax and allow your baby to suckle. Do not unlatch forcibly. Suckling produces Oxytocin which is the hormone of love. This makes you and your baby feel relaxed and happy. Enjoy it.
  • Remember that you are not wasting time – you are investing it to produce more milk for your baby.
  • Focus on how this time spent nourishing your baby emotionally will help your baby self-regulate. And how the self-regulation will make your baby easier to manage in the toddler years.
  • Start baby wearing so that you can move around even with your baby latched.
  • Breastfeed in the lying down position so that you can get some sleep.

What can happen if you don’t allow comfort nursing?

  1. Your baby may suck on their thumb for comfort.
  2. Your baby may feel stressed and over-stimulated and cry more.
  3. You may need to rock your baby to sleep for a long time without success.

Comfort nursing is a normal and healthy thing for babies to do. Don’t try to resist it. It is good for both you and your baby.

By

Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD

Dr. Debmita Dutta MBBS, MD is a practicing doctor, a parenting consultant, and the founder of WPA whatparentsask.com She conducts online and offline workshops on parenting for schools and corporate organisations. She also conducts online and offline prenatal and infant care classes. She is a well-known thought-leader in parenting and an expert on play, learning and eating habits. She is the author of 7 books on parenting published by Juggernaut Books and her books are among their most read books. She is frequently quoted in national and international publications of repute for her empathetic and compassionate approach to parenting and her application of physiology and brain science to parenting.

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