Nursing for comfort

Is it okay to nurse for comfort?  Nursing for comfort is an obvious yes to me in the first few months of a child’s life.  But what about month four, six, nine?  Is it okay to nurse a toddler for comfort?  I am pregnant with my first child.  I look forward to providing nourishment and comfort through breastfeeding, but I worry about the “on demand” relationship.

I am an early childhood educator.  I have been trained in child development and there is no doubt to me that children need the comfort of their parents through physical contact.  I also know that children benefit from structure and limits in their life.  It helps them to feel secure in their relationships and in themselves.  The ability to self-soothe is very important.  This is where I get confused.  If we nurse every time our child seeks comfort will they depend on the boob to feel better?  I am strictly speaking about older babies and toddlers.  I guess it is my professional experience that interferes with my maternal instinct (although to be fair, I am not a mom yet and have no idea if I’ll still be confused when I have my little one 🙂 )  I can’t even decide if this is a debate!  I can breastfeed to sleep and on demand while they are itty bitty and then I can introduce more structure and routine in our lives as we grow, can’t I?

I’d love to hear your thoughts and experiences!
~Sara @ Momzelle

Here are a some interesting articles on the subject:
Todays Parent

Kids Health

Kelly Mom

7 thoughts on “Nursing for comfort”

  1. What feels most natural to you? Better yet, when your baby comes, what will feel most natural to him/her? My 15 month old son and I nurse on demand. I definitely nursed him when he needed the extra comfort and still do. What is self soothing? “Work it out baby Mama’s not helping you”
    Over the last 15 months Carter has learned that ‘dramamics’ don’t get him attention, but genuine hurt and discomfort do. Whether that is a hug from Daddy a kiss from Mommy or a nurse.
    Trust your insticts, and love your baby with everything you have, and nursing for nourishment/ comfort/ fun will just fall into place as needed.
    Best of Luck
    ps: sometime I nurse my son because I need the comfort 😉
    (I’ve just never been so good at that whole “self soothing” thing haha)

    1. Thanks for your comment, Shannon,
      I didn’t mean to imply “mama’s not helping you”. I am a very nurturing person and I will make sure that my child seeks me (and my husband) for comfort.
      I can definitely see how it will be comforting to me as well!

  2. There is nothing wrong with comfort nursing. As parents our most important job is to provide for our children, and comforting them is a huge part of this job. Children with dependable parents aren’t clingy and needy, they are secure in the knowledge that their mother will be there when they need her. I am a breastfeeding counselor and mother of two nurslings (one who is still going strong at 17 months), and I can tell you as a fact that there is nothing wrong with comfort nursing. Instead of thinking of your nursing relationship as “on demand”, try thinking of it as “on cue”, because babies don’t really demand anything. They are not manipulative, they simply need their mamas. It’s also important to remember that what may seem like “comfort nursing” is actually baby’s way of bumping up a milk supply for an upcoming growth spurt, which can happen at any age. As a toddler gets older and can understand the concept of “later” sometimes it’s necessary to postpone a nursing session when you are in the middle of something, ie making dinner.

    This little excerpt from Kelly Mom sums it up for me:

    “Comfort nursing serves a purpose, too. Studies seem to indicate that this type of sucking overall decreases a baby’s heart rate and lets him relax. It seems to have a very positive effect on his whole physical and emotional well-being. Don’t be afraid to allow this type of nursing. Breastfeeding is more than just imparting fluids and nourishment. It’s a way to nurture your child as well.”

    1. That is great advice! It is all perspective isn’t it? I love the term “on cue”. It is so much more positive then “demand”. Thank you Chelsea.

  3. Why would it be ok in the first months and not ok after?! I breastfeed my 27 months daughter, sometimes because she’s thirsty, sometimes for comfort… When I’m not there, she never asks for it and finds other ways to feel better 😉

  4. I am 100% in favor of nursing for comfort long term. In fact, I’m in favor of extended breastfeeding, too. The World Health Organization strongly advocates that all women worldwide breastfeed their babies at least until 2 years old, and the American Academy of Pediatrics advocates 1 year or more, and nursing for comfort is an essential part of this. Nursing is about so much more than just nourishment, although that’s a wonderful advantage of breastmilk — so good for baby’s health. But nursing is also really good for baby’s emotional development, both because of the close physical bond baby forms with Mom, but also because it offers baby a healthy “home base” to return to when he is tired, fussy, or begins adventuring past Mom’s arms, getting boo-boos, etc.

    As adults, we all crave a nice hug when things are hard, or just from someone we love to show they care. Babies need physical nurturing just as much, and breastfeeding is one of the best ways to offer this. It’s a wonderful, precious bond between mother and child that is hard to duplicate in any other way. I plan to continue offering my breast for food and comfort for as long as my baby wants it, even if that’s past 2 or 3 years old (most babies self-wean by around 2 1/2). If anyone has any doubts or questions about this, or thinks it may be “weird,” visit a local La Leche League meeting, where you’ll meet all sorts of “normal” women enjoying breastfeeding their babies past one year old in all sorts of contexts.

    1. Thanks Amy,
      I plan to get to know my local la leche league before my baby is born. The more advice and knowledge I have will help me listen to my own instincts when the time comes.

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