“He is just breastfeeding for comfort.”
“You really do not have to feed him again, he is just looking for comfort.”
“She is not really hungry, just feeding for comfort.”
Many of us have heard (or read) these words…
Almost daily I hear from women who have been told that they should not breastfeed their baby for comfort. I also frequently hear women who say that their baby is “JUST breastfeeding for comfort” or “ONLY breastfeeding for comfort” like it is a negative thing. It can be something that they brush to the side or do not see as important as breastfeeding for hunger. We would never say our baby is, “JUST breastfeeding for hunger” or “ONLY breastfeeding for thirst”. I am sure (actually I’m absolutely 100% sure) that I would have spoken these words myself as a new mum because many of us grow up believing that babies just breastfeed because they are hungry.
The word itself: “breastFEED” implies that we are just feeding our baby, which is of course what we are doing but it unfortunately leaves out the many other reasons our babies breastfeed for. I would like to argue that one of the most important, vital reasons our babies breastfeed is for comfort. It is the biological norm for our babies to search for the breast when they are in need of comfort. It is the biological norm for our toddlers to ask for a breastfeed when they are scared, upset or at the end of a tantrum and in need of comfort. Comfort comes in many forms, breastfeeding being the most basic, natural, normal one of all.
A breastfeed soothes the most tired baby.
A breastfeed calms the upset, screaming toddler who is having a tantrum.
A breastfeed cures the unsettled baby after a busy day out and about.
A breastfeed puts your overtired toddler to sleep.
A breastfeed comforts a toddler who has been scared by a loud noise.
A breastfeed brings comfort and pain relief to a baby who has just had a heal prick.
A breastfeed calms the unsettled toddler after a big day at daycare.
We would never question a hug as comfort for a baby, never question a cuddle for an unsettled baby who is exhausted and just wanting to sleep. Why do we question the comfort breastfeed? Why do we make it a point of saying that our baby is “only” breastfeeding for comfort when it is just as important as any other reason.
To bring some calm to a baby who is trying to sleep, to look into their eyes while they slowly close them and drift off…this is the true magic of breastfeeding. Our breastmilk is literally made to help them sleep, help them feel better, help them feel safe. To see my screaming, crying toddler be instantly soothed is something that still amazes me to this day, even after breastfeeding three different children.
So many of us new mums agonize over how often our baby is breastfeeding, WHY they are breastfeeding, how long they are breastfeeding. Yet there is not one reason that is more important than another. Hunger, pain relief, comfort, sleep aid…these are all valid, important, simply normal reasons to breastfeed our children.