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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
This truly is an innocent question so please don't take this as offensive. When we nurse our babies to calm them, etc are we set up a bad habit? I do it all the time, but I've started wondering if this will follow her later in life. She she look to eat when she is upset? I have a feeling that this is going to be taken negatively, but I really do wonder if I'm doing the right thing for her or just teaching her to seek food to comfort her? Maybe I've had too much time to sit and think lately while I've been nursing. She's only 4 months now so I know she needs to nurse on demand and often, etc. I understand that nursing is providing for her emotional as well as physical needs. Just wondering. Thanks!
 

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Ya know, I was wondering the same thing recently, so I don't think it's an offensive question at all. I'll be curious to see what people have to say. I suppose that the comfort is from sucking (and being close to Mom), not eating per se. Eventually the child won't get much food from nursing anyway (if you nurse for years). The question is if the sucking need is replaced by something else or if it just disappears. If the child becomes an independent, self-confident person that doesn't have that need, it shouldn't be replaced by disordered eating. But I'm just speculating. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/wink1.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="wink1">
 

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I agree that the comfort comes from the sucking action and being close to mom, nursing is a time when baby feels secure and warm. I don't think it would be linked to say eating for comfort later on in life. I do think a lot of parents (and I've been guilty of it) do offer snacks or drinks when an older child is upset as a distraction and a comfort thing and that can set up problems for later on. And a nursing baby is gonna stop the effective sucking when their bellies are full, so you don't need to worry about them over-eating because they were upset.
 

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IMO, breastfeeding is SO much more than food. I do feel that we're showing by example that when you're hungry, sad, frustrated, hurt, etc. you can turn to mommy and trust that your needs will be met. It won't always be as simple and easy as nursing. And as they mature, it's not necessarily a quick fix.<br><br>
Daddy, IME, is the first person who can show baby that love comes in other shapes and sizes, not just from mommy. As the child grows, s/he naturally learns that needs can be met in other ways, not only through nursing.<br><br>
I'm sure others can make better points---I'm nak <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile"> and have laundry up to my elbows....
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Thanks for everyone's info so far. I do think it's about meeting baby's needs and in a way proving that you'll be there to whenever needed.<br><br>
Bring on more comments. Thanks!
 

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I think (and hope) that there's a real physiological need/response to sucking in babies that adults don't have. Obviously they're driven to suck so that they'll eat, but there's also pain relieving properties of sucking (according to NICU doctors).<br><br>
And since I was a thumb sucker for comfort until about four or five years old, but don't have weight/comfort eating issues, I think it's possibly a need that you grow out of.<br><br>
I also think that babies have been comfort sucking forever, and weight issues are really only recent, so how much of a bad habit can it be setting?<br><br>
I'll be interested to hear other people's thoughts.
 

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If it helps, comfort sucking is very different than nutritive sucking, and it's likely that your baby isn't really taking in much milk when s/he nurses for comfort. I've wondered the same thing before, but I honestly think it's more about sucking and cuddling than getting food.
 

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I don't think so, because she is learning to get comfort from a PERSON, not just food. Nursing is food, yes, but it is also warm arms, gentle words, close hugging, skin to skin contact, peaceful feelings to a child. Her attachment is to you, not to an object, blanket, pacifier or whatever. So my feelings are that it would encourage her to seek comfort from a person in the future, rather than something else.
 

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I really think it's the sucking and person, not the food. I could not comfort nurse - I have an oversupply and DS would get more annoyed because milk would be shooting at him. So when he falls and bumps his head, I get his binkie or my finger for him to suck and cuddle him -- which is essentially what comfort nursing is, right?
 

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DD doesn't really comfort nurse, never has, but when she does it occasionally, she sucks different than when she's hungry. For her, it's just short little suckles that never trigger my letdown. When she's hungry, she takes longer and stronger sucks that trigger my letdown.<br><br>
So yeah, there definitely is a difference between eating and comfort sucking. And that's a big difference between bottle feeding. With bottle feeding, the baby gets milk/formula no matter what. Some people are quick to give a fussy baby a bottle, even when he/she just wants to suck. Some babies won't turn it down, though, and may end up overeating. But with the breast, that won't happen. <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/smile.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="smile">
 

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Here is an excellent article by Kathy Dettwyler, Ph.D. on 'comfort nursing', also called 'non-nutritive sucking':<br><br><a href="http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detsuck.html" target="_blank">http://www.kathydettwyler.org/detsuck.html</a><br><br><div style="margin:20px;margin-top:5px;">
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<table border="0" cellpadding="6" cellspacing="0" width="99%"><tr><td class="alt2" style="border:1px inset;">I don't like this term because it juxtaposes itself to "nutritive sucking" with the implication that "nutritive" sucking is REAL sucking, and the other is not. It also carries with it the implication that the main/only real purpose of breastfeeding is the transfer of nutrients. This is the message the infant formula companies have been pushing all along -- breastfeeding is JUST a way to feed your baby, and here's another which is better/as good/almost as good.<br><br>
I don't think breastfeeding is "just" about feeding the baby, any more than sex is "just" about creating babies. Breastfeeding the baby does provide food, and water. It also provides immunological factors, which may be what the baby is after (and why they nurse so often when sick, not just for comfort). The process of breastfeeding itself also regulates the baby's temperature and heart rate and lowers its blood pressure, and puts it to sleep. And then of course there are all those important social and emotional factors going on during the exchange. Dr. Blackburn's research on the evolution of mammary glands suggests that the original purpose of "lacteal fluids" was to kill germs in the offspring's gastro-intestinal tract and protect it from infections, and the nutritive components of breast milk only evolved later.<br><br>
As long as breastfeeding is seen as only or even primarily a way to feed the baby, then bottle-feeding will be seen as equivalent or good enough (IMHO). We need to really try to get away from this idea that if the sucking is "non-nutritive" then it is optional, or can be replaced by a pacifier. I know that's not what was said in the earlier post, but it is the way many people feel -- that baby *shouldn't* want to nurse again, how could it *possibly* be hungry already? Well, maybe this time it wants to nurse because it is cold or lonely or agitated or sleepy/cranky. All of these are *equally* legitimate needs (once again, in my ever-so-humble opinion).<br><br>
A good point was made that mothers need to be able to realize if milk transfer is not taking place, and they need to pay attention to output, and they need to listen to their babies, and they may need someone to check their latch-on, and keep track of the baby's weight, etc. I've criticized fellow anthropologists who do "stop watch" research of time baby spends at breast without considering a) how much, if any, milk transfer is taking place, and b) whether or not the mother is lactating. I'm still nursing Alex, but I'm not lactating. So is he breastfeeding? It's definitely non-nutritive, but does that make it not important?<br><br>
At the same time, we really need to start teaching people that breastfeeding is a multi-factorial, complex interaction between two people that has ramifications for the child's nutritional status, to be sure, but also its ability to deal with disease, its physiology, its emotional and cognitive development. I guess to me the phrase "non-nutritive" just smacks of "non-important" or "non-real" or "non-significant" even if it isn't meant that way.</td>
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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks so much for all the responses. Thanks eternal grace for the article too. Makes me feel a little better that I'm not setting my child up for a lifetime of gorging herself when she's upset!
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>nikandgeisel</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Thanks so much for all the responses. Thanks eternal grace for the article too. Makes me feel a little better that I'm not setting my child up for a lifetime of gorging herself when she's upset!</div>
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I believe, quite the opposite.<br><br>
People who are unbalanced in aspects of their lives (food, relationships, security, self-esteem etc.) are commonly those who did NOT have the specific need met as a child. By meeting her needs when she has them, you are helping her feel secure and fulfilled. When she matures, the sucking need will naturally dimish. By helping our children meet their needs at the different stages their occur, we help them to progress to the next level of development with a feeling of security. That's what AP is all about <img alt="" class="inlineimg" src="http://www.mothering.com/discussions/images/smilies/love.gif" style="border:0px solid;" title="love"> By meeting their needs when they occur, our children are able to mature, and leave that stage behind. If a need is not met, it's 'sticks around' in the mind, and as she gets older she will try to fulfil it in other (often more unhealthy) ways.
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>nikandgeisel</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">Thanks so much for all the responses. Thanks eternal grace for the article too. Makes me feel a little better that I'm not setting my child up for a lifetime of gorging herself when she's upset!</div>
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I was concerned about this too, being a formerly overweight person. But I concur with the others when they say that comfort-sucking is usually non-nutritive. Sara would get really really frustrated as a baby because she didn't know HOW to comfort suck and would trigger let-down and milk would be drowning her while she just wanted to suck. It's since gotten better because she finally taught herself how to do it but it was rough for a while there! She now uses really short, fast sucks when she's just wanting that closeness and to reassure herself that the milkies are always there if she needs them. When she's hungry, she uses those longer, slower sucks to trigger let-down. I too am a great believer in the pain relief of sucking in infants. The only time Sara took a binky before 3 months old(she now loves the binky to fall asleep with after nursing down) was in the NICU while getting a spinal tap. She was in immense pain and the only thing that helped was a binky, the thing she had formerly despised with a passion. She still hated the binky after she got out and it wasn't until about 3 months that she wanted it. So that convinced me. She does a lot of comfort-sucking now when she hits her head but at nearly 10 months old, she can be comforted by daddy occasionally. And she can be comforted by me without the boob too if it's not a really bad owie!<br><br>
Meg
 

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I just learned from the advocacy board that the new study which *supposedly* found that pacifie use reduces SIDs actually found that it is sucking that reduces SIDs. So comfort nursing and thumb-sucking is actually a survival instinct.<br><br>
From what I've seen on these boards, if something is bad for a baby, they won't do it. (If only that were true of toddlers, eh?)
 

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I just had someone tell me that they're baby could be comforted just by being picked up (she was justifying why she didn't nurse past 6 mo.) and how mine wouldn't know how to be comforted, yet my son can be comforted by my mom without nursing most anytime (though she did nurse him *w/o milk obviously* when he got way too sick to be away from mommy and I HAD to work) HIs nursing is only about mommy and a comfort object...I still have a teddy bear I take to bed when thing get so rough I wanna cry so whats wrong with a boob being a teddy bear until hes old enough to choose a new object. I always worry about rewarding with food to, but DS doesn't seem to see nursing as food...If it was he wouldn't nurse even when I've barely got a drop of milk left in me!!!!
 

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<div>Originally Posted by <strong>timneh_mom</strong></div>
<div style="font-style:italic;">I don't think so, because she is learning to get comfort from a PERSON, not just food. Nursing is food, yes, but it is also warm arms, gentle words, close hugging, skin to skin contact, peaceful feelings to a child. Her attachment is to you, not to an object, blanket, pacifier or whatever. So my feelings are that it would encourage her to seek comfort from a person in the future, rather than something else.</div>
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This is how I feel about it as well! I think that the comfort is much more for the sake of skin to skin contact, and closeness to Mommy. I think it gives them a sense of security to know they still have that.
 
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