If you’ve been breastfeeding for a while, you’ve no doubt heard these words uttered numerous times.
So many people seem to think there’s a problem with babies getting comfort from their mothers’ breasts.
They think it will make the babies turn into diffident and dependent individuals who will never want to stop breastfeeding.
Words like these can make you feel like you’re not doing so well at this mothering gig and like you’re ‘one of those' kind of mothers.
You may be worried about what affect your mothering style may have on your child.
So, what’s the truth? Should you change your mothering style? Or, is comforting your baby with your breast okay?
And — gasp — could it actually be beneficial?
What Does ‘Using You Like A Dummy’ Actually Mean?
At the start of feeds, a baby typically performs quick shallow sucks to help get the milk flowing. Then when it’s flowing, she does a lot of active sucking where she swallows often. Thereafter, she tends to do a combination of active and passive sucking (where she is not swallowing). Rest periods are also a normal part of breastfeeds.
Some babies like to stay on the breast at the end of their active sucking bouts and continue to passively suck. Passive sucking is also referred to as non-nutritive or comfort sucking, or ‘using you like a dummy’. This type of sucking is important for many reasons as you can read about here.
‘Using you like a dummy’ also refers to when a mother breastfeeds her baby when she doesn’t think her baby is hungry but rather breastfeeds ‘just to comfort her baby’.
Why Society Needs To Get Over It
Seriously, what's wrong with society? Babies are barely out the birth canal and already we’re getting advice on how to encourage independence.
As a society, we’re obsessed with reducing feeds, self-soothing, sleeping through the night and, generally, picking our babies up as little as possible. The question is, who pays the price for this parenting trend? Yep, you guessed it, the babies. Oh, and their mothers. Let's not forget them.
An unfortunate consequence of this is mothers are set up with unrealistic and unnatural expectations. Particularly mothers who are feeding and caring for their babies in the way nature intended, who are made to feel abnormal and unusual. But the reality is what such mothers are doing — and hence what their babies are (or are not) doing — is perfectly normal. And this should be the benchmark to which babies who are not fed and cared for as nature intended should be compared.
Breastfeeding Is So Much More Than Just Nutrition
We’ve really lost the plot. Our children are little for such a short period of time and they really do need us! Most people think of breastfeeding simply as form of nourishment. Yet, it’s actually so much more than just food. It’s also nurturing. It provides a place of comfort, protection, closeness, familiarity, warmth etc. Emotional needs of children are every bit as important as their physical needs, and having them met is crucial to your baby’s overall development.
Human babies are born the most neurologically immature primate of all, with only one quarter of an adult’s brain volume. Close human contact makes it possible for a baby’s brain to develop. And your body is the only environment to which your baby is truly adapted.
It really is no surprise that we're starting to see studies like this, which found around 40% of children lacked secure attachments. It truly is concerning. Love, touch, comfort and nourishment helps babies to thrive – and we can do all four things with our breasts.
So, when your baby shows feeding cues and you respond by breastfeeding your baby, you need not worry if your baby wants to feed because she is hungry, in pain, is tired or just wants to be close to you. Your breasts satisfy all these needs.
Babies Actually Use Dummies As Breasts!
A dummy is an artificial nipple. A synthetic, plastic comforter. It really should be “Your baby is using that dummy like your breast!”
Despite popular belief, comforting your baby with the breast will not make her a dependent, unsociable person. In fact, the opposite is true. Forming a secure attachment with our children when they are young means the more confident, independent, loyal, empathetic and sociable they become.
So next time someone tells you that your baby is using you as a dummy, remember that it’s actually the other way around – babies use dummies as breasts. Remember too that by responding to your baby’s cues, you are teaching your baby you’ll be there for her when she needs you. This is what we want as parents. We want our children to grow up knowing that no matter what life throws at our children, we will be there to support, encourage and nurture them every step of the way.