Over and over, we hear the same phrase from moms, nurses, doctors, family members, and anyone else who feels the right to make an opinion.
"Your baby is 'using' you as a pacifier."
Certainly, the phrase has a negative connotation, not to mention that it suggests you should avoid it. But I wonder how a newborn that has never seen a pacifier before, can "use" you as it? How can you mimic something you don't know yet?
Most babies indeed meet the pacifier sooner than later. But babies began that "pacifying" sucking way before that, even from the womb.
So, let's work first on that wording. Personally, I don't feel comfortable with saying "she's pacifying on your breast" to refer to the act of doing a non-nutritive sucking. That's right! There're two types of sucking (if we'd like to classify them). For me, it's just a way to teach mommy how to recognize when her baby is removing milk and when it is not.
That's basic. Moms must learn to recognize a nutritive sucking and make sure the baby does that most of the time he's on the breast. Babies have a big urge to sucking, and they could be on the breast doing non-nutritive sucking for hours. That could be exhausting for the mother.
On the other hand, we must understand that sucking is part of a baby's developmental needs. Thus, we should give some space for that "non-nutritive sucking" too. Breastfeeding is not meant only for nutrition. Babies breastfeed to soothe, sleep, have bowel movements, and look for it as a pain reliever. Yes! Your breast milk and the act of breastfeeding provide various components that help to satisfy ALL these needs.
Shall you let your baby "pacify" on your breast? Yes! Every day, and as you feel comfortable with that.
Should you leave him for hours there? No, just as you feel it's enough, and only you and your baby will know it for sure.
Should you make sure your baby does nutritive sucking on your breast on every feeding? Yes! Without a doubt, because he still needs to gain weight and have efficient feedings.
How do you do that? Usually, the baby does it on his own, but you may help him by doing some compressions at the breast when he stops sucking for a while, or he's doing frequent non-nutritive sucking. Usually, if the baby is interested in eating, he will suck vigorously; if not, he will just come off or keep on the non-nutritive path. In that case, it's your choice to let him do it for a little while or take him off. But honestly, you'll know what to do by his reaction.
I'm writing these lines from the experience of many times mothers asking, "how can I know my baby's eating?" You're right! That's an essential thing that all mothers should know about.
Breastfeeding is a delicate balance between nutrition and nurturing. How wise is Nature by giving us only this once, the power of meeting most of our baby's needs in just one act!