Last Update: July 25, 2019
When you see your baby crying – when you see your baby in distress – what do you feel like doing?
When a baby cries – it is every mother’s first instinct to lift the baby and suckle the baby, because she knows, that the one thing that can definitely calm a crying baby is suckling.
But most new moms don’t listen to their instincts.
New moms listen to the people around them who tell them that their baby is crying because there is no breast milk. And therefore – it is pointless to suckle the baby on the empty breast because it cannot possibly comfort the baby.
So, when new moms see their babies crying – they panic.
They wonder – “What comfort can I offer by suckling if I don’t have milk?”
What the do not realize is that comfort suckling – increases breast milk supply and prompts the breasts to make more breast milk.
Also, read What should I do when my baby cries?
What Is Comfort Nursing?
When babies suckle and their aim is not nutrition which means that they are not trying to draw out breast milk through suckling it is called comfort nursing. This means that their suckling is not resulting in breast milk filling their mouths and tummies – but they are still satisfied with what they are doing because they are finding the suckling comforting. The suck and swallow movement which is seen in the rhythmic movement of the jaw is absent in comfort sucking. These are shallow sucks and these are seen close to the end of the feed before the baby falls asleep.
How Does Comfort Nursing Comfort The Baby?
When a mother nurses to comfort her baby which can be called comfort nursing or comfort suckling – she is able to comfort the baby because she is able to provide two of the most important things that a baby needs. The first is close contact and emotional connect. And the second is food – in the form of milk.
How Does Comfort Nursing Increase Breast Milk Supply?
The production of breast milk is dependent on the hormone Prolactin.
Prolactin is responsible for the breasts ability to produce breast milk.
Prolactin is present in the breast of any mother with a newborn baby. But Prolactin is able to act on the breast and produce breast milk only when the breast does not have milk.
This means that – as soon as the baby empties the breast of milk through suckling – more milk is immediately produced by the action of Prolactin.
The intensity of suckling has nothing to do with the production of breast milk. What is important is that the breast be emptied of milk.
Also suckling generates Oxytocin – a hormone that brings down the milk to the nipples.
Suckling therefore has 2 functions –
- It helps Prolactin to act on the breast and produce more breast milk.
- It generates Oxytocin that brings down the milk to the baby.
Comfort suckling is slow periodic suckling – in contrast to actual suckling which is rapid and continuous.
However – it is important to understand that the rapid intense sucks are usually the first few sucks only. The suckling settles down into a slow relaxed pace once the milk flow has been established.
It is very important therefore to allow the baby to suckle for comfort because it is doing the required job of emptying the breast so that prolactin can produce more breast milk.
While the baby is feeding – also watch for swallowing movements. Swallowing movements mean that the baby is getting milk.
If there are no swallowing movements after the feed is over – allow suckling to continue – it is just generating milk for the next feed.
If there is no swallowing from the beginning of the feed – reach out for expert help
Also check out – Best nipple cream for breastfeeding
Is 3 Months To Late To Increase Breast Milk Production?
When the baby is born – at first his/her stomach is so small that the little milk that is produced is enough for the baby. As the baby grows – the quantity of breast milk that the baby needs increases and it is at this point the baby wants to feed more. It is also at this point that the mother begins to feel inadequate because she is not able to produce enough breast milk. And because she is dejected she stops offering her breast to suckle the baby and stops practicing comfort nursing.
It is important to understand that a mother who has been feeding her baby a few times a day – can step up the production of breast milk even at 3 months by conveying to the breasts that there is more demand. And the only way to convey this increased demand is by suckling the baby to comfort her/him when he/she is crying.
If you are a new mother. Listen to your instincts and listen to your baby. And it will be impossible for you to go wrong.
The one person who knows how to step up breast milk production is your baby. Listen to your baby. Stop listening to others.