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.