NON-NUTRITIVE SUCKING: COMFORT SUCKING

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Sucking is soothing. Even in the womb, the fetus sucks his thumb. Infants suck their fist, fingers, an adult finger, a pacifier. This is called comfort sucking, or non-nutritive sucking. This is why, in addition to providing nourishment, breastfeeding is the ultimate source of comfort. As you hold the baby against you, skin-to-skin, you and the baby feel the closeness; nursing is comforting and reassuring for the baby. It helps in many different situations as the baby grows up.

Even though an infant born preterm or with health issues may not be strong enough to nurse for nourishment, she can still be put to the breast for comfort sucking. The best time to do this is right after you’ve finished expressing. The baby will get used to the taste and smell of your milk and associate them with sucking and comfort. She may even place her hands on your breast. At some point, she will notice that milk comes out if she does it right. She’ll start to show hunger by making sucking movements with her lips.

Did you know…

Comfort sucking…

  • Is also called non-nutritive sucking
  • Satisfies the need for sucking
  • Is a source of comfort, as name implies
  • Soothes babies when they need to calm down
  • Sparks development
  • Develops sucking efficiency
  • Prepares preterm babies for oral feeding
  • Encourages swallowing
  • Helps digestion by eliciting the flow of saliva
  • Helps baby gain weight through improved sucking capacity

Even a few seconds of non-nutritive sucking is a good initial experience that enables babies to associate feedings with a sense of comfort. Respect the baby’s boundaries, should he show signs of stress or withdrawal.

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