What Is Comfort Nursing?

At the core, Comfort Nursing is nursing for mental, emotional, or physiological needs other than nutrition.

The American Academy of Pediatrics talks about non-nutritive sucking:

Sucking is a normal baby reflex, beginning around the 29th week of gestation.

Nonnutritive Sucking: Sucking not relating to or providing nutrition.Nonnutritive sucking is a universal phenomenon, with nearly 100% of normal babies engaging in it. Babies may suck their thumb, fingers, hand, a pacifier, or other inanimate object such as a blanket or toy.

Nonnutritive sucking has several benefits.

  • It is an early step in an infant’s ability to self-regulate his or her emotions.
  • It helps the child to relax and focus his or her attention.
  • It provides comfort and security. Therefore, sucking occurs more often when the child is tired, bored, anxious, or upset.

Most children discontinue their nonnutritive sucking habit between the ages of 2 and 4 years. One study by Nowak and Warren (2000) found that 50% of children discontinued use by 28 months of age, 71% discontinued use by 36 months of age, and 90% discontinued use by 48 months of age. Therefore, more than 20% of children still engage in nonnutritive sucking at the age of 3.

According to Kellymom.com:

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.

I personally do not have much experience with comfort nursing, since I’ve been exclusively pumping since Levi was just a few weeks old. But non-nutritive sucking has its place in our house. Levi does use a pacifier – typically at night or at when we go out in the car.

I often wonder if he would have benefited from comfort nursing. I know I would have. Knowing you can build such a strong bond with your child through breastfeeding is amazing.

This post is part of the Breastfeeding Blog Hop. I hope you’ll read the other posts below about Comfort Nursing and link up your own.


  1. I don't have a post about comfort nursing, although I do post a lot about breast feeding 🙂 I wanted to stop past and say "Hello" from one BFing mom to another 🙂 I'm a mom of 7 and am currently nursing my 7 month old daughter. I've nursed all of my children and am passionate about breast feeding. I hope you'll stop by my blog and check it out. I also put up a breast feeding/ home birthing directory. I think your site would add so much value to it!

    So good to meet you!


  2. Callista says:

    Oh is that what comfort nursing means. Thanks for clearing that up. I don't mind comfort nursing sometimes, but I don't want to be my child's soother all the time so I've been trying to introduce an actual soother.

    • lifewithlevi says:

      You're not the only one who asked about it 🙂 I think it's good to figure out what works for you. Hopefully your baby has no problem taking the soother.

  3. I feel like I read somewhere (Dr. Sears maybe?) that the word "nursing" can be applied to other acts in addition to breastfeeding. Like that nursing is more than just feeding someone, but also things like cuddling (i.e. Daddy can "nurse" in a way too). So in that vein, I wonder if when you hold your son and feed him or rock him or whatever, that your bond is just as close (I'm sure you know this!) My son comfort sucks too (paci family here!) All of those physiological things- the heart rate and breathing and stuff- I see it happen 🙂 It's a miracle.

    • lifewithlevi says:

      That's so true! Thank you for the reminder. I do feel close to my son when we snuggle up and bond.

  4. lilburghers says:

    Thank you for this blog hop! Now i have fodder for a future post on my blog…and I just might have to prep ahead for your upcoming hops! Awesome. <3

    • lifewithlevi says:

      Would love you to link up! The upcoming topics are always listed on my right sidebar with the date the linky is open.

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