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Your Baby Is Using You As A Pacifier

breastfeeding baby cosleep new baby new paltz

Let's take a closer look at that statement.

First, pacifiers don't have any milk. They are something to suck. Specifically, an object to suck. A firm object that is in the same category as hard candies, lollipops, popsicles, pens, spoons, and straws to name a few others. Generic, easily lost, easily replaced.

The biggest difference between you and a pacifier is that even when your baby is lazily flutter sucking, they are getting everchanging droplets of milk. Milk specially designed for your baby's age and gender, full of antibodies, hormones, nutrients, and things that we don't even know exist. That, in itself, should encourage you to let your little one suckle.

Why is suckling so important?

Suckling relieves pain.

In an adult, the need to suck is clinically, and jokingly, called an oral fixation. It's so pervasive that there are thousands and thousands of jokes and beliefs about it. It's a habit that is hard to break because it is not a habit. It is a need. Humans need to suck. It's how we survive as infants with eating as well as soothing. If we suck our thumb, a pacifier or breastfeed until we wean ourselves, the need is integrated and we grow out of it.

Here's another reason to let your baby suckle at the breast.

It's so easy. There are a hundred reasons why your baby or child may need to breastfeed. Hunger and thirst are obvious. But what about being too cold or hot? Overwhelmed? Bored? Tired?

Even when you don't know exactly why your baby is needing to suckle, nursing your baby or child will heal a multitude of woes.

Intertwined with feeding is our need for attention. It is through interacting with other humans, especially our mother that we learn everything we need to know in the early years. Breastfeeding engages all five of the baby's senses at once. There is a constant interaction between mama and baby gazing at each other, talking and listening, touching and stroking. Every single interaction fires neurons in the brain and makes connections. This is one of the reasons breastfed babies have higher IQs.

What it really means.

In its primal way, your baby is saying, "Mama, I need you. I need you, the life giver, the one who nurtures me best. I need you to comfort me. I need you to help me through this time until I feel good again. I need you to nurse me while I feel uncomfortable. Someday I will be able to tell you I'm sad, hungry, lonely, angry, hot, cold, lazy or that I just don't know what's wrong, but I can't do that yet.

"I need your milk. It's made just for me. I need your eyes looking into mine, to know that I am safe. I need to know that you are near. I need to hear your reassuring voice soothing me back into happiness. I need to taste your milk that leads me drip by drip into comfort and contentment. I need to feel your skin, your touch, your grounding presence bringing me back when I fly off into the unknown.

"Most of all, I just need to know that you are with me, human being to human being."

Why it's so hard to do.

The challenge I see in my work with moms is that parents feel overwhelmed at the duration and intensity of caring for newborns. It's easy to breastfeed for a little while, but sometimes, babies cry endlessly. A crying baby can cause you to feel all kinds of horrible feelings. When you are upset, it makes it very hard for your baby to calm down.

When you feel overwhelmed, you will try anything to stop that baby from crying. As a result, you rush through one thing after another trying to solve the unknown problem and upset the baby even more by overwhelming them with even more sensations and processes.

Learning to be still and present with an upset baby is partly instinctual but mostly it's a learned skill. The first step is to understand that humans usually only need to be listened to and comforted when they are upset. They don't always need a problem solved in order to return to happiness. 

Back to the pacifying.

If suckling at your breast works, then use it. What better way to teach your child to connect with other humans than by offering comfort and company of breastfeeding during the challenging life stage of infancy. Offering (or forcing) a baby to use a pacifier teaches them to look for comfort from objects, not humans.

When you hold your baby and let them suckle, they learn empathy and compassion. They learn how to help others in times of suffering. For what is the purpose of being human with our ability to talk and share, if we can not connect with another in our darkest, most painful hours?

My love to you and your family....


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